Set in a fictitious multi star Carla Hall restaurant in New York City, where a “surprise” tasting menu of southern cuisine is served and reservations are hard to come by, we meet eleven people, who expect that this restaurant, on this night, will cure what ails them; As the night unfolds, we recognize that these expectations have tangled, trapped, strangled, and drained them – it is only once their expectations are released, that they can begin to find what they came here looking for - understanding and connection. Each play is rooted in naturalism and unfolds in real time, at four different tables in the dining room and within the staff working at the restaurant, while exposing five different stories that highlight the cultural, racial, socio-economic, and gender conflicts that co-exist within the walls of this restaurant on this one night. With five plays woven into one cohesive three act narrative, the audience is submerged in a multi-sensory, symphonic, theatrical experience, witnessing stories unfold around them, while dining on a four course meal prepared by Chef Carla Hall.
We have been developing this piece since 2015, which began with workshops that generated Carla’s first draft menu, early pages, themes and characters by Daniel Pearle, and an overall sense of the length of the evening, which informed the structure to support this unique immersive experience. Over the past year, the piece has unfolded organically, often feeling like it is telling us what it needs to come to life. We have discovered that the playwrights are best served with multiple workshops where they can work with one another, Marlo, Sasha, Carla, and our dramaturg, along with an ensemble of actors, who are available to cold read new pages or drafts every couple of days. These intensive workshops have helped the playwrights swiftly understand one another’s processes and voices, the essence of the piece they are building, how their characters may or may not connect, and where to rhythmically weave each scene into one cohesive narrative – the outline of this puzzle is a unique challenge to assemble, as the rhythm, tone and structure of each individual play impacts one another’s arc, as well as the experience of the overall piece. Our ten to seven day work sessions with one another have also allowed for a collective focus on the material, providing time for all of us to dive in to this material without outside distractions, and develop trust, respect and a needed shorthand so we can brainstorm, grow and take risks with one another