Ladies and gentlemen, I am excited to announce that THEATER IS BACK in a big way. If you aren’t familiar with Windy City Playhouse, they are the absolute authority when it comes to immersive theater, and A Recipe for Disaster is their latest creation. Their shows are by far my favorite thing to recommend to friends when looking for entertainment in Chicago, and this experience does not disappoint. Co-created by James Beard Award-winning Chef Rick Bayless, Amy Rubenstein (Artistic Director of the Playhouse), and Carl Menninger (Assoc. Artistic Director), it is an original work of art that hits different than other theater productions. The story draws from Bayless’ real-life experiences as a professional chef and restauranteur, giving the audience a peek behind the kitchen door of the dramedy that occurs when everything including the kitchen sink fails to function!
Oh, influencers. Every time I hear that word I cringe, but this performance manages to bring a cheeky and endearing bend to the Millennial and Gen Z version of socialite. Influencers play a big part in this show- it is influencer night at the “Contumacious Pig,” a popular restaurant that has recently garnered much media attention. The audience starts out mingling in the bar, where custom cocktails like “Loreen’s Last Shot” (CH Key Lime Gin, Aperol, lemon juice, simple syrup, Elderflower Tonic) and Shelley’s Ultimatum (Espolon Blanco Tequila, Mezcal Union, Fernand Dry Curacao, simple syrup, lime juice) are available for purchase, created by Lanie Bayless, progeny of Rick. It is a true family affair, with Deann Bayless as part of the writing team.
The experience opens up as the General Manager, Shelley, takes a call at the hostess stand of the restaurant, then deals with the arrival of the influencers. The incredible part of this performance is that you might not be able to tell actors from guests at first! As the restaurant kicks into gear, you are led into the main dining area to an assigned seat. Watch as a comedy of errors, covert missions, romantic possibilities, theft, sabotage and more ensue.
The show is immersive on many levels- you are involved throughout the show in small ways by sampling the menu (but PLEASE, do not touch the cast or interrupt). Remember- this is IMMERSIVE, not INTERACTIVE- you are a fly on the wall.
It is also a multi-sensory experience, with six bite-size tastings created by Bayless (my favorite: the pasta with seafood….and the soup. THE SOUP!) as well as three cocktails and wine samples. Yes, the items you savor are from the menu of the Contumacious Pig, and you can watch how skillfully (or not so skillfully) they are prepared by the cast.
If you attended Southern Gothic, you might understand the flow of this show. Conversations will happen around the room, and it is up to you to tune in and tune out as they flow. The actors skillfully modulate their voices, projecting at points, and dropping into the background noise during others to guide your focus. They give you pieces to the plot puzzle, and behaviors and comments start to click as the night goes on.
Tickets: Click here to purchase; Prices vary depending upon date/time
Dates: Current schedule runs through December 31, 2021:
- Wednesdays 7:30pm
- Thursdays 7:30pm
- Fridays 8:00pm
- Saturdays 3:30pm, 8:00pm
- Sundays 1:30pm, 6:00pm
Length: Approximately 90 minutes
Location: Petterino’s Club Level- 150 N. Dearborn, entrance around the corner on Randolph
Dietary Restrictions: Menu can be made Vegan upon request, and non-alcoholic drinks can be served; email firstname.lastname@example.org for additional dietary requests
COVID Guidelines: All guests will be asked for proof of vaccination at the door, and masks are required to be worn when not eating/drinking
After the performance, I was able to speak to Rick Bayless and Amy Rubenstein and hear a little insider scoop on the details that went into making the play.
- The original name of the restaurant wasn’t Contumacious Pig- they changed it because the carpet had the letters “CP” in the pattern, which stood for Club Petterino.
- One of the items meant to elicit a reaction wasn’t…strong enough, so Bayless added a massive kick. You’ll know what I’m talking about after you experience it!
- Audience members have been fond of getting a little too close to the cast during the show- no, they aren’t meant to be touched! C’mon people, they are performing!
- The writing/directorial staff weren’t sure if everything was going to come together until it DID, and they seem to be having the time of their lives with it.
Cheers to live theater coming back to Chicago, and kicking it off with this incredibly immersive experience!
Disclosure: I received two tickets to A Recipe for Disaster for review purposes. All opinions are honest and my own as always.