Café Play Review: At the Cornelia Street Café, Overhearing Fellow Diners and Inanimate Objects

Café Play is a site-specific work of theater that’s being held at four different times of day in the back dining room at the Cornelia Street Café, with different food choices depending on whether you attend for breakfast, lunch, tea or late-night snack (all frankly paltry, though I did like my crème brulee). Put together by the endlessly innovative theater company This Is Not A Theatre Company (who’ve previously offered a play in a swimming pool, another in a private apartment, and “pod plays” to listen to on the subway and the Staten Island ferry), the conceit of the show is that we the diners are overhearing the conversations of fellow diners, and waiters, and one unwanted intruder (“Please don’t step on me!”)

click on any photograph by Maria Baranova Suzuki to see it enlarged

There is also some interpretive dancing in the narrow space between the tables and mock-spontaneous singing, which is perfectly appropriate, given that the play is taking place in a notable Greenwich Village eatery/Off-Off Broadway venue/cabaret/literary salon founded by three artists 40 years ago.
There are 21 scenes in all. The first involves two ex-lovers meeting awkwardly after a long estrangement, and their clash with another table that escalates into a viral outrage on social media. There are a series of scenes between two stewing waiters who feel mistreated, which ends with an act of revenge against a rude customer that manages to be upbeat and life-affirming. There are passionate scenes about racism and feminism and loneliness and climate change, including a rant against Matt Damon for a beer commercial that claims to do something about the global water crisis. There are conversations between a bottle and a vase, and between an apple and a peach:
Apple: What’s the worst that can happen?”
Peach: Bruising
Apple: Smash me, I become juice. Crush me, I become sauce

There is a duet between a teacup and a mug; a dance of beverages and another of crayons. For the last scene, we are handed a plate of chocolate kisses and instructed to to “let your tongue choreograph the dance of chocolate.”

The acting and writing are uneven, funny and furious, sweet and sour, unstructured in a way that a meal is never supposed to be, and that largely defines New York.

Café Play
Cornelia Street Cafe
Conceived and directed by Erin B. Mee with scenes written by Jenny Lyn Bader, Jessie Bear, Erin B. Mee, and Colin Waitt
Choreography by Jonathan Matthews.
Cast: Trinity Bobo, Caitlan Lattimer, Jonathan Matthews, Jimmy Schatz, Jessica-Brittany Smith, and Amanda Thickpenny.

Café Play runs for 11 more performances through November 15.
Check out the schedule

Author: New York Theater

Jonathan Mandell is a 3rd generation NYC journalist, who sees shows, reads plays, writes reviews and sometimes talks with people.

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