At Thursday night’s preview performance at the Lobero Theatre of Food Confessions, a new original play by Nancy Nufer, producer Rod Lathim opened by greeting the audience. “This is the world premiere of this show,” he said. “So, please, don’t hold back. If you feel like laughing, laugh loudly.”
If the cast and crew were worried about how the show would go over, their concern was shortlived. The audience ate it up, pun fully intended. Within the first minute or two, a hearty burst of laughter erupted from the nearly full house, to continue throughout the evening.
Directed by Jenny Sullivan, the show consists of mostly monologues by the ensemble of two women and three men, each portraying several recurring characters who explore the varying facets of food: passion, pickiness, pretension and pangs of nostalgia. This blend results in an evening that is uproariously funny, with an occasional bittersweet moment.
Nufer, in addition to being a brilliant writer, is a sparkling comic actress, portraying a homemaker concerned about salad-bar safety, a jaded Hollywood actress reminiscing over cocktails, and in a tender turn, a wife pondering her husband’s penchant for feeding animals in the absence of children.
Devin Scott is a hip youngster in a hoodie elaborating on his disdain for breakfast, a nebbish who composes a poem about his girlfriend’s diets, and a sweet Southern boy confused by girls’ view on food. His versatility is impressive, as he embraces each of these with complete commitment, displaying deft comic timing and touching vulnerability as well. As do all who excel at such things, he makes it look easy.
Kara Revel, in turns earnest, sophisticated and ditzy, shares intimate details of her feelings about the ultimate comfort food — macaroni and cheese — describes dating an otherwise boring man with good taste in restaurants, and rants about raisins. When bubbly, she is captivating, and when smooth and sultry, perhaps even more so.
Dan Gunther is an everyman outraged by non-traditional holiday meals, the husband who can’t resist feeding critters who show up in his yard, and in another of the sweetest moments, a son whose experiments with a family recipe yield pleasing results. His underlying gentle manner shows in his characters and makes him irresistibly likeable.
Robert Lesser, as a guy who grumbles about culinary pretension, cultural divides in snacking and the noises people make when they eat, is snappy and cynical. But as a man retired from a stressful career who finds reading cookbooks soothing to his troubled mind, he elicits empathy.
Eating is an intimate act we perform in public, to paraphrase one of the characters, so it’s not surprising we all have a lot to say about it. In this production, the variety of voices creates a compelling view of the ways in which we experience food and how intertwined it is with our cultural and social dynamics.
VIP “Supper Club” tickets are available at each show, with lunch or dinner served beforehand on the Lobero’s gracious back patio. Local restaurants will provide the food, including Aldo’s on Friday night, Fresco on Saturday afternoon, Olio e Limone on Saturday night and Sojourner Café on Sunday afternoon. Thursday’s preview show was a benefit for the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County, with several delicious variations of macaroni-and-cheese, along with Caesar salad and brownies, prepared by Chef Brenda Simon of The Secret Ingredient.
Lathim also asked the audience to spread the word. “There are only four shows after tonight,” he said. “So if you like it, tell your friends!”
Just as it is a pleasure to clue friends into a great new restaurant you’ve found, it is a joy to recommend this tasty offering, with a rating of five stars!
Food Confessions will be performed again at 8 p.m. Friday, at 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, and at 2 p.m. Sunday.
— Justine Sutton of Santa Barbara is a freelance writer and frequent Noozhawk reviewer.