Are We Delicious?

"Are We Delicious?" is an evening of eight comic plays, composed and rehearsed in one week. Performances are March 23-24, 2012, at the Bartell Theatre. 

Are We Delicious?

Yes. Yes, we are.

Or at least, they are — Kelly, Dana, Rachel, Molly, Craig, Christian, Doug and Matt. They are very delicious. They are also funny, smart and self-referential, and performing for just one more night. 

"Are We Delicious?" performs at 10:30 p.m. tonight, Saturday, March 24, the Bartell Theatre (in the Evjue space occupied by "As Bees in Honey Drown," which you should also see). "Delicious" is a night of comic plays created by director Tony Trout and eight playwright/directors, using limited props, two light cues (on and off) and no sound effects, save scene-change music. 

I asked Trout about the origins of the name, and he said (to paraphrase) that what if when the aliens come, they're really amazing and friendly and they teach us technology and things, but then we find out — they're delicious?

And furthermore, what if cannibalism is so censured because, in fact, WE are delicious? 

Having seen the plays, I have no idea where this philosophy fits in. Maybe it's about exploring the possible, to challenge our assumptions.

Can we create a night of entertaining, worthwhile theater in less than a week? Can actors write plays? Can playwrights perform?

And can we do it all using only a small wooden box, a length of rope, an exercise ball, nunchuks, a creepy plastic horse head and a few chairs? 

Cannibalism aside, the answer to these questions is a resounding YES.

Making fun of actors is a consistent theme, in Molly Vanderlin's "Sir, No!" about a commercial actor who can't find his motivation (or the right line) and Kelly Maxwell's "Blueberry Frosting."

Playing a maniacal director in the latter, Matt Schrader describes eating an avocado cupcake as "the most truthful moment of my life" and asks a hapless auditionee, "now portray just a hint of cardamom."

Schrader and Doug Reed spoof film noir and westerns respectively, in "Hammer vs. Saw" and "Buttes."

In the former, Rachel Jenkins-Bledsoe's private eye wonders if she should have gone into a career that doesn't require constant first person narration, "like soil science." A competing detective (Craig Johnson) daydreams of Lucky Strikes and Venetian blinds that perfectly frame his profile while he sips bourbon.

Best line: "It was as simple as a sizzling sausage on a sunny Saturday." Which is to say, she knew what to do.

"Buttes" casts Maxwell as an insurance vigilante, out to restore justice to those whose claims have been delayed, pitted against Vanderlin as her corporate nemesis. Much like Reed's successful "Lamentable Tragedie" from last summer, this short comic piece lampoons something serious: the nightmare of health insurance (and to a lesser degree, the decorative use of women in westerns). 

My favorite mini-play comes from the actor/director I've seen the least:  Craig Johnson, who lists "Chad Vader" and improv in his bio. Johnson's "Terror at the Terror House" is not at all what it sounds like.

A couple (Vanderlin and Reed) have moved into a haunted house, occupied by a demon who calls himself "Argohatha, despairer of despairers" (spelling approximate). He's trapped in a box and tied with rope — two of the permitted props — and voiced by Christian Neuhaus. He's like a genie, but less friendly, and instead of granting wishes he can be silenced by smooth jazz.

The demon howls "release me!" and threatens his captors, but "Argos" also has a fatherly soft spot for their daughter, Chloe. "Terror House" is funny and surprising, a fine piece of writing. 

"Are We Delicious?" will inevitably be compared with Blitz, Mercury Players Theatre's 24-hour theater festival (next set for June 23). "Delicious" has fewer inside jokes, less raunchiness, fewer moments of pure insanity. But this show is equally fun, if not more so.

It offers the chance to see Reed playing a sex object AND a potential serial killer, Neuhaus playing a cupcake "with a little too much muffin," and Dana Pellebon as a crafty "Needful Things"-style shop owner, smooth with a touch of Lara Croft. These are all good things. 

Now if only there had been avocado cupcakes during intermission ... next time, Mr. Trout, what would you say to "Delicious" dinner theater?

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Since 2008, Lindsay Christians has been writing about fine arts and food for The Capital Times. She loves eating at the bar, going to the theater, fine wine and good stories. She lives on the east side with her husband, two cats and too many cookbooks.