An Empty Plate in the Cafe du Grand Boeuf | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

An Empty Plate in the Cafe du Grand Boeuf 

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An Empty Plate in the Cafe du Grand Boeuf, Frump Tucker Theatre Company, at the Athenaeum Theatre. Michael Hollinger's intelligent comedy benefits from its soupcon of tragedy. The hilarity is set in motion when Monsieur Victor arrives at the Cafe du Grand Boeuf, the chic Parisian cafe he owns and keeps open at all hours with a full staff waiting to satisfy his whims. But it turns out Victor has decided to starve himself to death, forsaking the luxurious life he's modeled after that of his idol, Ernest Hemingway. Victor's planned suicide throws his loyal employees into chaos, as they abandon protocol and confront their own looming loss of purpose.

Witty philosophy and genuine heartache temper this light, funny 90-minute work. Laura Wells's subtly farcical staging competently brings the show's drama to a boil and brings out the cafe's rich cast of characters. Chuck Quinn makes us see that Victor is truly "one absinthe shy of a really bad night," carefully balancing proud authority and the longing and loss that have made Victor lose his appetite. Thom Goodwin is entertaining as a stammering, stumbling new busboy with a blank face and good heart. And Kelly Hogan, playing a waitress fawning over Victor and his romantic lifestyle while feuding with her officious headwaiter husband, ably portrays a zealous woman whose dreams have been frustrated.

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