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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Invisible Theatre closes season with comedic serving of wordplay






    It’s a typical night in Paris’ Café du Grand Boeuf. Claude the maître d’ is dreaming of exotic locations he’ll never visit, his wife Mimi is pining for romantic gestures she’ll never be shown, the new bus boy Antoine is feverishly taking notes behind his conspicuous speech impediment and chef Gaston is arraying his arsenal of dead woodland creatures in preparation for the dinner rush. This is normal.

    What’s unusual about the Café du Grand Boeuf, though, is that the dinner rush is composed of one man—the freewheeling, world traveling ex-newspaperman, Monsieur. Even more unusual, perhaps, is Monsieur’s declaration that, in lieu of trying the fricasseed platypus tonight, he will instead starve himself to death. Sacrebleu!

    “”An Empty Plate in the Café du Grand Boeuf”” is the newest production from Tucson’s own Invisible Theatre, and the final show of their 39th anniversary season. The production fits comfortably into the theatre’s long tradition of telling poignant stories on minimalist sets, this time utilizing a single Parisian café to capture one man’s lifelong longing, beginning with the American newspaper racket of the early 20th century and ending with a climactic bullfight in 1961 Madrid, Spain.

    Though Monsieur is not given a real name until a good 20 minutes into the play, he serves as its central tragicomic figure. Monsieur is reticent to explain his decision to starve himself in the restaurant he helped open — or why his longtime dining companion, Mademoiselle, is absent from the meal — but it is not long before his life story takes over the café, and the stage. Roberto Guajardo, a recurring Invisible Theatre favorite, incants the tortured man’s history with passion and charm, ranging from dreamy Hemingway soliloquies to absinthe-fueled rampages depending on how intently his audience of restaurateurs is listening.

    Monsieur’s reactions are only one example of the powerful role that words play in “”An Empty Plate.”” Double entendres are peppered liberally throughout the course of Monsieur’s last meal — having a case of the mumps “”under your napkin,”” for example — and practically every line is radiant with detail.

    While Monsieur relives his life one word at a time, Claude, played by a perfectly supercilious Sean William Dupont, attempts to dissuade the man from starvation by describing the lavish seven-course-meal that awaits him in the kitchen.  Over a succession of empty plates Claude offers “”a feast of adjectives and adverbs”” delivered in such articulate excess that you might find your mouth watering along with Monsieur’s.

    Antoine, played by UA theatre production junior Brad Kula, is another interesting case of wordplay at the Grand Boeuf. Plagued with a comic stutter, his delivery of the simplest words becomes a game of charades for the impatient café staff. Despite his impediment, it is his cry of Monsieur’s real name, “”Victor!”” that prevents the depressed man from carting his woes to a rival café.

    Given the static stage dressing, it is partially out of necessity that the characters’ words come charged with such a vivid, illustrative quality. Thanks to pitch-perfect delivery and a hilarious, sometimes oddly philosophical script, this wordplay is only another attraction to a story that’s already enticing in subject matter.

    The Invisible Theatre has long catered to an older crowd — I was the youngest person at the show by a good 20 years — but there is nothing about “”An Empty Plate in the Café du Grand Boeuf”” to make it any less appealing to a college audience. The occasional reference to H.L. Mencken or Rudolph Valentino may not register with the average freshman, but the dated specifics of the play are greatly outshined by the universal themes of love and longing.

    Ultimately, “”An Empty Plate in the Café du Grand Boeuf”” is superbly written and acted, and it doesn’t take a gourmand to appreciate its exquisite flavor.

    IF YOU GO

    “”An Empty Plate in the Café du Grand Boeuf””

    Wednesday – Thursday 7:30 p.m.

    Friday – Saturday 8 p.m., Sunday 3 p.m.

    Invisible Theatre, 1400 N. First Ave.

    Plays through May 16

    General admission $22

    www.invisibletheatre.com

    882-97128

    (-9721 882-97882-972121

     

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