Tony Award-winning troupe turns to dinner theater with Rick Bayless

September 20, 2011

Lookingglass Theatre, winner of the 2011 Tony Award as Outstanding Regional Theatre, will experiment with a dinner theater policy for a limited run, next March 23-April 22.

It won’t be your suburban grandmother’s dinner theater, however. The chef de cuisine will be superstar TV Mexican cookery guru Rick Bayless. Each three-course meal will be prepared in the kitchen of his Frontera Grill before being trucked to Lookingglass to be finished and served to 150 guests nightly.

But wait, there’s more! Bayless also will co-star in the theater portion of the evening playing—what else?—a love-struck cook in a 1940’s Mexican guest house. Bayless is co-author of the work, too, along with Lookingglass Ensemble member Heidi Stillman, who will direct it.

But that’s not all! There are three wings to flap on this particular Mexican chicken (we dare not call it a pavo, which is Spanish for “a turkey”). The third co-creator is circus artist Tony Hernandez, a Lookingglass associate. That means that various circus acts will be part of the performance, too.

It’s all summed up in the title of the work: Cascabel: Dinner—Daring—Desire featuring a sumptuous feast, world-class circus acts and a love story, as the press materials describe the show. The Lookingglass theater in the Water Tower Pumping Station will be turned into the outdoor courtyard of a Mexican hacienda, where guests will be seated at long tables to enjoy the meal and, perhaps, interact just a touch with the performers.

Bayless explained that cascabel has three meanings. It’s a spicy type of Mexican pepper, also a small silver bell and, finally, the rattle of a rattle snake.

You probably can guess that this sort of dinner theater doesn’t come cheap. Tickets for hors d’oeuvres, three courses, non-alcoholic beverages and the show are $180-$205. Wine pairings are extra. Lookingglass subscribers have first crack at the tickets from now through Oct. 17. Whatever places at the table are left then will be offered to the general public, but the press announcement warns, “Prices will go up, based on demand.” Preview performances, March 20-24, are a bargain at $130-$155.

Now, who will Chicago Public Media send to review Cascabel? Food writer Louisa Chu or the Dueling Critics . . . or both?