Fringe 2011: Tactile Dinner Car

John Hibey as Chef in banished? productions Tactile Dinner Car. Photo credit: Kristian Whipple.

I’m reviewing seven plays over the course of the 2011 Capital Fringe Festival, in collaboration with DC Theatre Scene. Get your Fringe button and join me!

For a crash course on what to expect from Fringe, you can’t do better than banished? productions mad avant-garde experience, Tactile Dinner Car. It’s a crazy sociological experiment playing by its own rules, smack dab in the middle of the Baldacchino Gypsy Tent. Learning what those rules are is part of the fun, as is the surreal discovery of the “a la car(te) menu” you’ll nibble your way through.

Parts of the world have caught up with these ideas, first presented in Italian Futurist F.T. Marinetti’s 1932 book of culinary mayhem La Cucina Futurista (The Futurist Cookbook), but some have surpassed it. Minibar this isn’t. Don’t go expecting amazing displays of molecular gastronomy, but you and your fellow “diners” will definitely be challenged and delighted by becoming part of the performance. I wouldn’t want to spoil the fun of discovery by describing anything in too much detail, however, so consider this just an amuse bouche.

Served up by “chef” John Hibey and “servertron” Keira Hart, their complete zany dedication pulls you in quickly as you gather round the dinner car (and yes, it’s a car, polished gleaming white). Within minutes, though you may be doing the ordering, they are the ones in command. The initial anarchy then settles down into pop-art clockwork.You can reserve slots during performance times in varying increments, so you’ll easily be able to fit in a few “dishes” during your Fringing. Most of the items focus more on the theater of playful presentation than of taste, though most strive to engage as many of the five senses as possible. Out of the four that I tried, two were actually quite deliciously provocative in taste. All tickled my surrealism bone.

Not only are you experiencing strangely delightful tidbits of food, expect to be part of the performance. The dinner car’s location in the center of the tent puts the audience on display as Hibey and Hart’s antics draw the attention of nearby bar-goers – the anarchic weaving of actors, audience and others as order after order is taken and served becomes a merry-go-round of sensory overload. It really does become a sociological experiment as well – watch as your fellow diners grapple with conflicting emotions about what they are eating, and whether they are comfortable following the actors’ lead into surreal dialogue. It might just be the best Fringe date ever – you’ll know within minutes if your potential mate is an adventurous keeper or a squeamish clinger by their reaction to such dishes as Anosmia Stix or The Sushi Injecture.

Just let go of preconceptions and ego, and enjoy!

As one of the founding editors of We Love DC, Jenn’s passions are theater and cocktails. After two decades in the city, she’s loved every quirky, mundane, elegant, rude minute of her DC life. A proud advocate for DC’s talented drinks scene, she’s judged the Corcoran Gallery of Art’s ARTINI contest, the DC Rickey Month contest, the Jefferson Hotel’s Quill Cocktail competition, and is a founding member of LUPEC DC. A graduate of Catholic University’s drama program, she toured the country as a member of National Players, and has been both an actor and a costume designer before jumping the aisle to theater criticism. Send your suggestions to jenn (at) welovedc (dot) com and follow her on Twitter.

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2 thoughts on “Fringe 2011: Tactile Dinner Car

  1. Pingback: TACTILE DINNER CAR « Banished? Productions

  2. Pingback: Futurist Food: Art, Not Nutrition « Evocatus: Guides