Windy City Playhouse Teaming with Chef Rick Bayless to Present New Culinary Farce
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James Beard Award-winning chef Rick Bayless (photo by Galdones Photography).
Windy City Playhouse artistic director Amy Rubenstein recently announced that the theater will be collaborating with James Beard Award-winning chef Rick Bayless on a yet-to-be-named theatrical project to be presented at Windy City Playhouse’s flagship location in the first quarter of 2021. Bayless, Rubenstein and associate artistic director Carl Menninger are teaming up to create a fully immersive theatrical, culinary farce; audiences will enjoy special tastes crafted by Bayless as the comedy unfolds. The story revolves around a special event at a well-known restaurant where everything that could possibly go wrong does, sending the restaurant staff into a tailspin. A drunk chef, a couple in crisis, a dishonest health inspector and a spy from a competing restaurant all contribute to chaos with hysterical results.
Windy City Playhouse’s production of Leslie Liautaud’s Southern Gothic will complete its Chicago run Sunday, Oct. 27, having played 20 months (originally opening Feb. 14, 2018). At the conclusion of its run, the play will have been seen by 14,000 audience members, will have employed more than 100 artists and served up more than 250 cans of Spam and 2,310 Twinkies. The theater’s production of Jonathan Caren’s The Recommendation will close Sunday, Oct. 20, having played 111 performances, and dispensing 2,400 Jello shots and the contents of 24 family-size bags of wonton chips.
Next up for the company will be an immersive production of Mart Crowley’s revolutionary play, The Boys in the Band. Menninger is set to direct. The production begins January 29, 2020. Set in 1968, the play unfolds at the birthday party of Harold, who is turning 32. Luckily, “frenemy” Michael is there with six mutual friends to help him ease into his early 30s. The party is all jokes and quips until the host proposes a playful game of Truth or Dare. What happens when you put eight complicated gay men - out, closeted, flamboyant, or "passing" - in one room with all their grudges? On the heels of the recent hit Broadway revival, this landmark play comes to Chicago for the first time in 20 years. In the signature Windy City Playhouse style, audience members will sit inches from the prototype personalities during the pre-Pride era. Reviewing the recent revival, Dave Quinn of People Magazine said “If there were ever a time to revisit The Boys in the Band, it’s now.”
Combined with the 2021 collaboration with Chef Bayless, the spate of acclaimed and signature productions marks a stride the theater company has achieved in etching a place in Chicago’s heavily populated theater landscape. “I am proud to say that Windy City Playhouse has found its stylistic groove,” said Rubenstein. “For a theater company to be successful in a city as competitive as Chicago, it must establish a unique voice. I feel that we have audiences have come to expect something truly unique when they visit our theater, an experience where they truly become involved in the action not as a passive observer, but where they are almost a participant. Our guests tell me that they know that every production will deliver something completely different but always exciting, thought-provoking and moving. Our upcoming productions will continue in that vein.”
Most people know Rick Bayless from winning the title of Bravo’s Top Chef Masters, besting the competition with his authentic Mexican cuisine. His highly rated public television series, Mexico: One Plate at a Time, is broadcast coast to coast and his nine cookbooks have earned multiple high-profile accolades. Located in Chicago, Bayless’ Frontera Grill and Topolobampo have each received the Outstanding Restaurant designation from the James Beard Foundation — an unprecedented feat for side-by-side restaurants. His wildly popular fast-casual Xoco has been around since 2009 and Tortas Frontera at Chicago’s O’Hare airport has changed the face of airport dining.
For more information about Windy City Playhouse’s new season, visit windycityplayhouse.com
Clef Notes Chicagoland Journal for the Arts