Pittsburgh Public Theater streams Wendy MacLeod’s Slow Food, a hangry experience.

Reviewed by George Hoover

Imagine you and your spouse have just taken a long flight to Palm Springs for an anniversary getaway. The kids are away at college, a cool car has been rented, and a room with a hot tub has been secured at a lovely hotel.

And then reality and the associated stress sets in. The flight is late getting into Palm Springs, the cool rental car isn’t available, just a work van, and the hot tub in the room is out of order. 

So Peter and Irene decide to go out for dinner and a drink before turning in. Since it is late, most of the restaurants have closed, but there is a Greek joint that looks promising. 

And action….

As soon as the Greek place has been spotted, Irene (Daina Michelle Griffith) develops an instant craving for freshly baked spanakopita. Peter (Daniel Krell) really just wants a Sam Adams or two. Once seated, the wait staff looks pretty intent on ignoring them both. 

Finally, their assigned waiter, Stephen (Jason Shavers) appears, he is simply the waiter from hell. Customer service doesn’t take a back seat with Stephen. It is in the trunk, along with his overly chatty demeanor, territorial instincts, and neurotic tendencies.

While Peter and Irene’s objectives are getting a drink and a good meal, Stephen seems totally clueless about their dining needs. To the point of being an obstructionist. This guy makes you itch. It is a wonder our couple just doesn’t get up and walk out. You may be tempted to check out too, but don’t. There are some really excellent performances from the three actors ahead.

Slow Food is a multi-dimensional story. You already know the storyline that carries the plot forward- will Peter and Irene ever get their food? Then there is the “what’s the deal” with Stephen’s unique approach to wait service. Wait is the essence; service is the optional part.

But the storyline that makes Slow Food compelling is the relationship between Maureen and Peter and the commentary on their and marriage as they wait, and wait. Over the hour and a half wait, we learn their married life’s ups and downs and the slight personality irritants that creep into every years-long relationship. We learn of the shared adventures, the early flirting, and the love that develops and strengthens between two people over time.

For most of the performance, the actors playing Maureen and Peter are seated as you would expect. Facial expressions, looks, and glances are essential to the portrayal of their characters. Here the video capture closeups offer us a deeper insight into Peter and Irene relationship.

On the other hand, Shavers’ Stephen mainly stands and lurks, occasionally leers, and always delays, leaving you to wonder how he survives as a waiter.

Krell has a fantastic bit when Peter finally gets and drinks his first beer in one long swig.

When the food finally arrives Maureen is so hangry that Peter feeds her. Their ensuing expressions as they enjoy the food let us know all is right in their world.

Slow Food is probably better viewed in a darkened theater with others who bring out the laughter and humor as we observe the couple’s plight. Streaming solo at home, leaving for the local McDonald’s, seems a viable alternative. Griffith, Krell, and Shavers’ performances make sticking around worth your time.

From the published credits, we know Marya Sea Kaminski directed the “stage” production and had a major role in directing the video capture. It can be easy to dismiss the director’s role and efforts in a show with a small cast. In reality, small casts allow the director to really work with the actors on character development, delivery, body language, and facial expressions. The joy of watching Slow Food is seeing the personal interactions of the three characters as portrayed by the actors and expertly guided by Kaminski.

There was some nice use of traditional Greek music to underscore, particularly during Peter and Irene’s time alone on stage/screen. Kudo’s here, I believe to Scott Geibel, who is credited for sound.

As Pittsburgh Public’s first streaming effort, Cinematographer Dustin Wickett‘s production capture is very well executed. Editing is tight and well-paced. Camera angles generally work well, although some closeups of Krell seemed to overpower the frame. The decision to shoot at Con Alma, the new restaurant next to the O’Rilley Theater, was an excellent choice. The overall image and sound quality were good, not National Theatre good. Still, the best we have seen from any of our local companies’ streaming efforts.

Slow Food, streaming now through October 17th, Details at https://ppt.org/event/21262-2021/slow-food

Categories: Reviews

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