It’s been fifteen months since local audiences could set foot inside a theatre. Pandemic-necessitated closures and restrictions have limited performing arts organizations to streaming their shows to remain active and connected to their patrons. Try as they might, though, that “style” of production is simply not a replacement for live, in-person theatre.
With the availability of vaccines and the loosening of state and county-mandated restrictions came the possibility of a return to live, indoor performances. The question has been “Who’s gonna take the first leap?”
The answer in the Bay Area is Santa Rosa’s Left Edge Theatre. Improved conditions led the company to make the decision to open their doors and invite audiences back inside. Originally planned as a filmed production, Wendy MacLeod’s Slow Food closes out their 2020/2021 season and marks the long-awaited return of some semblance of normalcy for the theatre-going community.
There are still restrictions. You must buy your ticket in advance; you must bring proof of full vaccination to the box office before you will be admitted (and they are enforcing this as two parties were asked to return to a future performance after they failed to bring their vax cards); you must remain masked through the entire performance.
The 72-seat theatre is limiting capacity to 50% and encouraging distance between parties. The theatre has upgraded its HVAC system, implemented strict cleaning and disinfecting protocols, and eliminated concession sales. The entire company’s staff has been vaccinated, as have been the crew and cast (who perform unmasked but remain at least six feet from the audience.)
With all that in mind, 22 theatre-starved people joined me on opening night to witness a three-dimensional performance. They were rewarded with laughs and perhaps the opportunity to see the footlight at the end of the tunnel.
Slow Food is a simple show. A middle-aged couple (Argo Thompson & director Denise Elia-Yen) are starting an Anniversary trip to Palm Springs. They arrive late, the only car available at the rental agency is basically a tank, the hot tub at their swanky resort is broken, and the only place open to eat late on a Sunday night is a Greek restaurant staffed by Stephen, the world’s worst waiter (David L. Yen).
Based on a real-life experience, playwright MacLeod (The House of Yes) takes what is in-essence an SNL sketch and expands it into a 90-minute, intermission-less play. There are laughs to be had amongst the conversations of spanakopita, salads, Sam Adams beer, and a dead cat along with a smidgeon of family drama as the two vacationers face a new stage in life as empty-nesters, all as the couple wait endlessly for their food to arrive.
The cast was obviously having fun with the material as was the audience. It’s basically a silly show that takes a silly premise and it makes it sillier with silly accents, silly flirtations, and silly situations.
Slow Food just may be the appetizer to hold us until main-course theatrical meals are served. Let’s just hope Stephen isn’t assigned to our table.
‘Slow Food’ runs live through June 13 at Left Edge Theatre. 50 Mark West Springs Rd., Santa Rosa. Fri–Sun, 7pm; Sun., 2pm. $45. Available for streaming through June 20 for $15. 707.546.3600. leftedgetheatre.com
This review appeared in an edited version in the North Bay Bohemian