Play With Your Food in Westport

 “Welcome to Katz Reviews. This is Ed Katz of Katnip Marketing- marketing consultant by day; theater critic by night- bringing my weekly review segment, Katz Reviews, here for you on WICC 600.

Today’s review is a bit different- because the theatrical experience I will be telling you about is different.

Play With Your Food is a fascinating concept. If you aren’t familiar with it, you pay one price for your ticket to a staged reading of a play- and you also get a catered lunch, too. Hence the name, Play… With Your Food.

And, as founder and artistic director Carole Schweid says, “And it all takes place in an hour and a half.”

Note I did say “staged reading.” That means there is no set, no costumes and the actors have the script in front of them and- though they have clearly rehearsed- they don’t have their lines fully memorized. But I have literally been to over a hundred staged readings and, as an audience member, you get past that right away when the acting talent is good. Here, the talent is top shelf!

Since starting over a decade ago in Westport, Play With Your Food has added venues in Greenwich and Fairfield, too. You purchase your ticket online at Jib (that’s J-I-B) Productions dot org (my advice is to get them early as shows frequently sell out in advance) and, when you arrive, you reserve your seat- as all seats are general admission- and then you enjoy the buffet lunch. Last week, the lunch in Westport was catered by A & S Fine Foods, which was quite good.

Then, the staff told everyone to take our seats as the performance was about to begin. Carole then introduced the first play.

“First play?” Yes- Play With Your Food consists of short plays. The show lineup currently running begins with a relatively short monologue- titled ‘Mrs. Sorken’- and written by award-winning playwright Christopher Durang. As performed by Katie Sparer it’s funny but edgy, too.

The second work was longer, a two-hander titled ‘Jack,’ written by Melissa Ross, that was superbly acted by Zack Fine and Bethany Caputo who play a recently divorced couple meeting after the death of a loved one. It’s an alternately funny and touching exploration of what happens between a couple after their relationship has ended. Many tears flowed during ‘Jack.’

But never fear! Schweid is an expert at selecting the short plays and the closer, ‘Being Olga Prozorov’ by Jennifer Rau, is a serio-comic story of an actress grappling with whether she should accept a part playing a dowdy, boring middle aged virgin- when she thought she should be cast as the more dynamic Masha.

Alison Cimmet plays the actress and she’s just great, as is Bethany Caputo- again- who, in this short work, plays the “real” Olga and tries to convince the actress that Olga has more to her than meets the eye- and is worth playing. I recently saw Alison Cimmet on Broadway in the dreadful ‘Amelie.’ She, however, was very good- in spite of being stuck in that horrid show.

Now while not everyone can free up about 2 hours- given travel time- in the middle of the work week for lunch and a show (and a brief talk back with the actors afterward) but, if you are able to do so, the rewards are well worth it.

As was discussed after the performance, food is nourishing but the art of the theater is, too. And Play With Your Food delivers tasty helpings of both. I give this Play With Your Food experience 4-1/2 stars out of 5.

The current lineup of shows has just 2 performances left- in Greenwich- tomorrow and Thursday. But a new lineup of plays returns to Fairfield, Westport and Greenwich from April 3rd to April 17th. For more info, go to Jib (that’s J-I-B) Productions dot org.

Catch my reviews right here this time each week and on my Facebook page and website, Katz Reviews dot com, where you will find all my WICC 600 reviews.This is Ed Katz talking theater for WICC 600!”