Saturday, September 15, 2007

Subterranean Dish Pit Blues

sidemart theatrical grocery

The brains and talent behind Sidemart Theatrical Grocery (pictured above in the bright surroundings of their fully above-ground "grocery") have teamed up with our friends at BU to create what may just be a first: truly underground dinner theater. Believe me, this here is no Tony 'n' Tina's Wedding. The play in question is Morris Panych's The Dishwashers,

the dishwashers

and although it premiered at Vancouver's Arts Club back in 2005, and had a run at Toronto's Tarragon Theatre not long afterwards, this is the very first time the play has been staged as a site-specific work in an actual subterranean dish pit, in an actual restaurant. Now, BU's real dish pit is located somewhere else in the building, but underneath the front end of the restaurant sits a large room that usually acts as the restaurant staff's lounge/rec room. At the invitation of Étienne Guérin of BU, Sidemart Theatrical Grocery annexed this space for a few weeks, installed a real dishwashing set-up, complete with industrial sink, industrial hose, and an industrial dishwasher, and turned it into the dank setting of Panych's black, existential comedy on the lost generations who stand on the "front lines" of the restaurant world. This mise-en-scène is stunning. For someone like Michelle, who spends 40 hours a week in the confines of subterranean restaurant kitchen, quite literally so. (Somehow she'd found herself in the bizarre atmosphere of yet another underground kitchen on her day off, and she wasn't quite sure how. Not only that--she was paying to be there!) Impressive as it might be in this case, setting isn't everything. Thankfully, Sidemart Theatrical Grocery fully capitalizes on the location with some inventive direction (a musical interlude sequence and a resurrection scene are worth the price of admission alone) and some inspired acting (particularly Alain Goulem as the overbearing Dressler and Chip Chuipka as the decrepit Moss). In fact, the whole combination is so good, if it were allowed to mature in BU's cave, taking on some local flavor, it could almost become this generation's Broue, the Québécois sensation about life inside a blue-collar taverne that's been going strong for almost 30 years now (so strong, in fact, that it entered the Guinness Book of World Records last year for longest-running play with the same cast). Quite coincidentally, Broue's premiere was staged on March 21, 1979 just one block from BU, at 5145 St-Laurent. There's even a plaque there to commemorate the event:

Broue plaque

One last note: the atmosphere in The Dishwashers' dish pit, while not uncomfortable and certainly not dangerous, is suitably infernal. The humidity, the temperature, and the odor all lend the play plenty of verisimilitude. This means that when you do emerge into BU's dining room after the final curtainless curtain call, the effect is nothing if not bracing. The room bustles with life and air has rarely tasted so sweet. For some of you, that high might be enough. For others, though, there'll be a table for 25 sitting there waiting for you to relax, unwind, enjoy an après-theater meal, and kibitz with the Sidemart Theatrical Grocery ensemble.

The Dishwashers continues from Sunday through Wednesday until October 3 (4 more dates! Look out, Broue!). Tickets are limited. For reservations: For more information follow this link.


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