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Return of the Absurd 

“Wrong Chopped” at Firehouse roasts conventional theater.

click to enlarge Dante Piro in “Wrong Chopped”

Jon Lamp

Dante Piro in “Wrong Chopped”

For aficionados of televised food competitions, elements of "Wrong Chopped," the new show taking form at Firehouse Theatre, may seem familiar at first.

After all, the play involves a televised cooking show called "Chopped" where competitors receive a set of mystery ingredients with which they must devise a meal. Soon though, audience members likely will begin questioning elements of the show's premise.

Why, for instance, does TV host Ted Allen suddenly seem to have a sinister streak? Why are the only ingredients given to the cooking contestants "bones, bones, bones and bones"? And why exactly is James Bond actor Daniel Craig one of the judges?

It's these kinds of questions that the members of theater company Dog Stuff want people to ask with "Wrong Chopped," an absurdist, dada interpretation of the TV show "Chopped." Produced by theater company Dog Stuff at the Firehouse, the show's creators are hoping to fashion a one-of-a-kind experience.

"'Wrong Chopped' is an extremely dumb play," says Connor Scully, the show's director. "I don't want to call it anti-theater, but we make theater that is very aware of itself. In many ways, 'Wrong Chopped' [is] more of a parody of theater than a parody of 'Chopped.'"

Crafted by the same creative team that staged a chaotic interpretation of "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" three years ago at the Firehouse and premiered the original work "One in Four" in 2017 at Washington's Capital Fringe Festival, "Wrong Chopped" is intended as a sort of roast of conventional theater.

Since it appeared in a workshop at the Firehouse in November, the show has undergone massive changes. The dessert course that originally took place during the latter third of the show, for example, has been replaced by a time-travel and location-travel sequence.

"We made some pretty massive changes, especially to the back half of the play," Scully says. "I don't want to spoil too much, because I think it's good it it's a total surprise."

As it's a TV show, the play will feature both prerecorded footage and a live camera that's filming and projecting the proceedings as they happen. Though absurdist and made to look spontaneous, everything that happens in the show is premeditated.

"It's very much that style of controlled chaos where it seems like we're flying by the seat of our pants," says Levi Meerovich, who co-wrote the show with Dixon Cashwell. "Connor's very good at making things look unplanned when in reality they're very meticulously planned and blocked."

Actor Chandler Matkins, who plays Chef Bolton Kane in the show, says "Wrong Chopped" is definitely unique in its execution.

"[It's] entirely its own thing," Matkins says. "It is probably one of the hardest things to explain without giving it away, other than be prepared to be confused when you leave the theater."

Having recently seen Taylor Mac's "Gary: a Sequel to Titus Andronicus" on Broadway, Matkins says he believes that mainstream audiences have a newfound appreciation for the ludicrous.

"'Gary' was very, very eclectic and odd and unlike anything that I had seen on Broadway," Matkins says. "I think we're starting to get into a place where people are comfortable with shows being absurdist."

More than anything else, the members of Dog Stuff hope they've created an evening to remember.

"If people hate theater, if they just always go to theater and feel really bored, come see this," Scully says. "Come have a couple drinks and see something really dumb."

Dog Stuff's "Wrong Chopped" plays May 17 to June 8 at the Firehouse Theatre, 1609 W. Broad St. For information, visit firehousetheatre.org or call 355-2001.

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