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Hope is served in ‘Empty Plate within the Café du Grand Boeuf’ at Silver Spring Stage

Earlier than An Empty Plate within the Café du Grand Boeuf started its opening efficiency, Silver Spring Stage Chairperson Invoice Hurlbut spoke to the spectators. He fortunately introduced that this was Silver Spring’s largest viewers since resuming dwell performances in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, then he shared some sadder information: the theater’s area is present process main development within the spring, and subsequently sure productions of their season have been canceled. His message, packaging excellent news and optimism along with the tough realities going through many group theaters proper now, set a tone of hope that permeated the present to observe.

Brian Lyons-Burke (Victor) and Fletcher Lowe (Antoine) in ‘An Empty Plate within the Café du Grand Boeuf.’ Picture by Harvey Levine.

The whole thing of An Empty Plate within the Cafe du Grand Boeuf takes place within the titular café, and from the primary scene, we’re greeted with the individuals who run the restaurant: Claude, the maître d’; Antoine, the waiter in coaching; Mimi, seeming sommelier and waitress; and Gaston, the established chef. We discover out that they await the arrival of their loyal buyer and benefactor, Victor, or “monsieur,” who frequents the cafe together with his love, “mademoiselle.” When Victor lastly does seem, although, he’s alone, getting back from the bullfights in Madrid, and he reveals he plans to kill himself by sitting at his desk till he starves to dying. The workers responds the one logical approach: endeavoring to dissuade him by cooking up probably the most delectable, coursed meal, which they don’t serve to Victor. As a substitute, they bring about out a collection of empty bowls and plates whereas describing every delicacy verbally. Within the interim, Victor will get to relate his life story to the workers on the empty café.

Brian Lyons-Burke (Victor) and Jenny Gleason (Miss Berger) in ‘An Empty Plate within the Café du Grand Boeuf.’ Picture by Harvey Levine.

This premise is greater than a bit questionable and made solely barely extra comprehensible by the truth that the play was written in 1994. Its dated nature reveals itself elsewhere in throwaway incidences of anti-Algerian sentiment and myopic views given to the priorities of non-cis-males. These points, although, change into extra fascinating when the present is learn as totally farcical. Because the present goes on, there may be sufficient preposterousness that it’s straightforward to begin studying issues that approach. Weapons are pulled, wives threaten to depart, melodicas are performed earnestly and loudly. Even Victor’s distress about having no household, no legacy, and nobody to hearken to him capabilities as a joke when the viewers realizes he’s paying workers at a restaurant to hearken to him. With the plot twists on the finish of the play, his plight feels much more ridiculous, meant to poke enjoyable at what appears like a very masculine approach of needing to be seen and heard. When checked out from this absurdist lens, the present feels wholly related and hysterical, so it’s straightforward to see why Silver Spring would select to characteristic it of their season.

That’s why it was stunning to see that this manufacturing appeared to take a special route. As a substitute of tapping into the absurdity, this iteration selected earnestness and hope. The ensemble forged performs their characters with dedication and diligence; they don’t play anybody within the bombastic approach they might primarily based on the script. Stephanie Yee (Mimi) performs the stressed character with sweetness and pep, and Fletcher Lowe (Antoine) does equally, portraying him with enthusiasm and touching gravitas. Brendan Murray because the chef Gaston is probably the most grounded of the bunch, with a sincerity and sense of being current together with his fellow actors that makes him all of the extra comedic. Alex Diaz-Ferguson (Claude) is pleasant to observe zooming out and in of the kitchen doorways, enjoying up the camp of the script at simply the proper moments, so we see the hilarity in Claude’s meticulousness, but additionally the center beneath. Brian Lyons-Burke has his work reduce out for him with the struggling journalist and patron, Victor, however he rises to the event with nice dedication. Lastly, Jenny Gleason is great as Miss Berger. She is extraordinarily pure and grounded, and I do want the play had extra of her in it.

The set (Invoice Dunbar) is gorgeous, minimalist with sure touches that sign nice consideration to element, just like the small writing of “sortir” and “entrer” on the swinging kitchen doorways. Sound design (Jeff Goldgeier) is comparable, with ambient noise enjoying when the café doorways open, however a lot else left to the creativeness. Costumes (Stephanie Yee) and make-up (Stephen Welsh) are good for the environment of the restaurant, a lot in order that the characters really feel of a particular interval, but additionally timeless in their very own proper. Really, all technical parts appear to attract our focus to the characters alone, to their relationships and the zest for all times the play needs to encourage, by way of problematic means or not.

Brendan Murray (Gaston), Brian Lyons-Burke (Victor), Alejandro Diaz-Ferguson (Claude), and Stephanie Yee (Mimi) in ‘An Empty Plate within the Café du Grand Boeuf.’ Picture by Harvey Levine.

In her director’s observe, Karen Fleming talks concerning the longing this play communicates. She particularly ties it to how we’ve longed for “life because it as soon as was” within the midst of a world pandemic. Although it sacrifices a lot of the absurdity, Fleming’s option to deal with that craving, that hopefulness inherent in feeling seen and heard, communicates as a lot about Silver Spring Stage itself because it does about people and longing. Collectively, she and Hurlbut make it clear that Silver Spring Stage, whether or not by way of a pandemic, cancellations, or development, will proceed to depend on that hopefulness, and persevere just like the bull.

Operating Time: 90 minutes, no intermission

An Empty Plate within the Café du Grand Boeuf performs by way of November 20, 2022, at Silver Spring Stage, 10145 Colesville Highway, Silver Spring, MD. Buy tickets ($22–$25) on-line.

COVID Security: Masks are required. See Silver Spring Stage’s compleste COVID-19 Protocols right here.

An Empty Plate within the Café du Grand Boeuf 
By Michael Hollinger
Directed by Karen Fleming
Produced by Jackie Williams

Victor – Brian Lyons-Burke
Claude – Alejandro Diaz-Ferguson
Mimi – Stephanie Yee
Gaston – Brendan Murray
Antoine – Fletcher Lowe
Miss Berger – Jenny Gleason



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