Feature

Rick Bayless in Cascabel

For $225 a head, ticket buyers are treated to a three-course dinner prepared by celebrity chef Rick Bayless.

Lookingglass Theatre, Chicago(312) 337-0665

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To label this show “dinner theater” does it a disservice, said Steven Oxman in Variety. For $225 a head, ticket buyers are treated to a three-course dinner prepared by celebrity chef Rick Bayless. But Bayless is also a character on stage, the separate courses are knitted together by a feather-light love story, and the other performers are world-class acrobats. The conceit is that Bayless is the cook in a 1940s Mexican boarding house and that, as he tries to woo the establishment’s owner, he cooks food whose magical properties send the other residents into each other’s arms in acrobatic reveries. The story is not particularly dramatic, but then “nobody wants tragedy with a tasting menu.” Cascabel is theater à la molecular gastronomy, and the effect is a multisensory delight.

Bayless blends right in, said Chris Jones in the Chicago Tribune. Playing a Prospero-like character, the “quietly spiritual father of these food-driven proceedings,” he isn’t asked to do much but cook on stage and leave the spotlight to the pros. From aerialist Lindsay Noel Whiting to sexy clowns Anne Goldmann and Jonathan Taylor, they’re all stellar. The meal is memorable too, said food critic Phil Vettel, also in the Tribune. The maître d’ directs the audience on how and when to eat, and those who follow his directions are rewarded with a culinary journey, culminating in an “impenetrably dark” mole poblano that “curled my toes.” There’s a reason the kitchen crew gets a curtain call along with the cast.

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