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Cafe Nordo's Love Letter to David Lynch

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As ever, Cafe Nordo shows continue to push the boundaries of conceptual food theater. With Somethin’ Burning The audience devours confections and meaty scenes while sipping fragrant liquors and wines. The actors serve the courses in character, blurring the line, making the whole performance very immersive. The stage ends at your lips; the whole of Theatre off Jackson is the scene of the crime. The show runs through November 18th with shows on Thursday Friday and Saturday nights.  Tickets are $50, or $60 + fees with the flight of drinks that you really don’t want to miss.

Somethin’ Burning is a love letter to Twin Peaks, David Lynch’s cult television show about FBI agent Dale Cooper, who arrives in Twin Peaks to investigate the murder of Laura Palmer. It’s not necessary to be a fan of the show to enjoy this latest production from Cafe Nordo, but if you are, there are lots of in-jokes and allusions you’ll enjoy. The dream sequences and evocative lighting pick up where the cherry pie and damn fine coffee references in the food stop tickling you.

There’s been a murder, Chef Nordo! The FBI has sent in Agent Eliot Penn (Evan Mosher) to investigate. The chief suspects are the man from the restaurant cooperation trying to buy the roadhouse — Michael Stern (Max Davis), The quirky/insane/possibly not insane widow — Delores Black (Keira McDonnald), and the estranged daughter who stands to inherit it all — Angelica Crew (Opal Peachy). Offering Rosencrantz and Guildenstern-esque commentary and waxes of philosophy are itinerant truckers Rocky Graves (MJ Seiber) and Ralph Berger (Noah Benezera). Penn questions each character individually, and they each recount the story in their own way, with the common theme of Joan (Sachie Mikawa) shouting from the kitchen that there’s been a murder.

Image by John Cornicello, all rights reserved

There are four courses, each paired with signature cocktails. It’s all a take on roadhouse breakfast food. My favorite drink was the Rum Old Fashioned, which was like a boozy orange peel that you inhale as much as drink. The runner up close on its heels would have to be the Cucumber Collins, which is intended to resemble cloudy tap water. It’s refreshing, and clever,  and pairs delightfully with the borscht parfait. My favorite course was the sausage and grits, which is wild King Salmon sausage and lemon dill grits with a little pat of “everything bagel cream cheese.” The Bloody Caesar it comes with holds hands with the food delightfully, made with a house clamato. The savory mashed potato with coffee gravy had the herbivores at my table reconsidering their dietary choices. For vegetarians, there are some necessary omissions in the nights offerings, but they accommodate with aplomb, and make up for what you’re missing with more of the veggie options.

The show is broken up between courses enough that if you smoke, there’s time for a cigarette here and there without missing any of the scenes. Besides the A and B stories of Nordo’s murder investigation and Rocky and Ralph’s musings on the loss of individuality in restaurants, or as one of them put it, “the creeping in of the beige.” – there is also a house band with Annastasia Workman on piano, Matt Manges on drums, and Devin Bannon (Ricky) on vocals. Agent Eliot Penn also goes up and sings. There’s some fun back and forth between them during the songs, and maybe the funniest non-sequitur line uttered during the show. If you weren’t close to the stage, you might not have heard it. “There is no price of darkness.”
This is the third Nordo show starring Keira McDonald, and this is the best role she’s yet inhabited. Delores Black (formerly Delores Lefesczki, the papers came through) is hilarious, and loud, and cunning. She’s silliness wrapped in leopard print with an invisible dog. (I like to think it’s a labradoodle.) Max Davis brings a shifty and decidedly Lynchian quality to his Michael Stern character, and Opal Peachy incorporates a bit of every Twin Peaks seductress into Angelica Crew. Evan Mosher’s Agent Eliot Penn is spot-on, and he’s as believable delivering lines about  the fifteen types of happiness as he is in the dream sequences. Plus, he has a hell of a singing voice.

Somethin’ Burning will have you wishing for another course, and feverishly committing to memory the singular experience that is Nordo. These are some of Seattle’s most ambitious and creative people with a mission to impress and inspire. It’s not cheap, but you definitely get your money’s worth. Get your tickets now.