Delicious Irony | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Delicious Irony 

Redmoon's first musical lets you indulge while it attacks the culture of consumption.

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The Golden Truffle

Redmoon Theatre

What's not to like? The Golden Truffle features live music, dance, a cash bar, and a four-course tasting menu of high-end chocolates. It promises to be a self-indulgent consumer experience, and it is.

But what makes The Golden Truffle--Redmoon's ambitious first musical--a cut above your average dinner (or dessert) and a show is its thoughtfulness about consumption, competition, and the pursuit of happiness. The piece lets you have your chocolate and eat it too, easing the guilt of consuming by attacking consumer culture. Among the items spoofed are competitive reality shows, glitzy awards ceremonies, foodies' deification of all things gourmet, the cult of celebrity, and Americans' relentless optimism.

The show's conceit is that it's a competition between five egotistical performers for the Golden Truffle award, represented by a piece of reportedly divine candy. The audience is seated at tables around a stage designed to look like a tiered cake, the evening is hosted by a celebrity chef and his shy daughter, and Redmoon actors are our servers, delivering chocolates infused with olive oil, curry, honey, etc. The contestants' performances too are offered for our delectation--at the end of the show we vote on the winner.

The real stars of this event are the props and set. Redmoon has transformed its barnlike space into a plausible nightclub complete with banquettes, chandeliers, and the towering stage, equipped with many bewildering flights of stairs. Photographers bearing antique-looking cameras arrive with flashbulbs blazing, a man riding a fanciful bike delivers wine to your table, and beautiful boys and girls hand out chocolates from elaborately decorated rolling tables. There's something off-kilter about all this excess and spectacle, something Seussian about the overblown costumes and ornate but ramshackle machines: this is a world so rickety it's on the verge of collapse.

Moreover, everyone and everything is slightly antiquated. The child star who's one of the contestants resembles Shirley Temple. The torch singer seems to have come direct from Weimar Germany, the comedian from vaudeville. The emcee is very Monty Python. Drawing on the mythical figures and stories of modern entertainment, Redmoon creates its usual cockeyed sense of place, in this case a never-never land derived from Hollywood and its celebrity-crazed outposts in other cities. You're immersed in a milieu at once familiar and magical. But in a move that's unusual for Redmoon, you're also set apart from it. Composer-lyricist John Fournier's satirical novelty/ cabaret songs are crucial, cleverly distancing us from all the onstage shenanigans even as they trumpet them.

If the satire occasionally goes overboard, well, it's an overboard kind of show. In fact, at almost two and a half hours, including intermission, The Golden Truffle is a trifle long. It starts slowly--the emcee's early bouts of whimsy are pretty windy, and a razzle-dazzle setup for the evening goes on at great length. None of the characters develops much. Two of the contestants, a preening leading man and the torch singer (who are the most sexual of the five), never become very sympathetic. The others reveal a layer or two. Tom Lynch is winning as the sad-sack comedian, uncomfortably aware that his routine and singing are terrible--especially when the bandleader insists on taking over his song. As the pint-size star, Lindsey Noel Whiting is persuasively faux-innocent until she blows her cover in a bitchy patter song, "America's Sweetheart--Loves Her Puppy and Her Savior Too." And Halena Kays is brilliant as the PBS-style children's entertainer, a ventriloquist with a monkey puppet. In dialogue Kays wrote herself (Jim Lasko conceived and directed the show, but no writer is credited overall), the puppeteer has a hilarious conversation with the monkey about Kant. Later, much to his handler's chagrin, the monkey delivers the hard truths no one else will contemplate.

It's not a deep role, but as the excitable roly-poly chef, Rick Kubes has a ball. At the preview I saw, he vaulted over the banquettes and fell onto a tableful of people. I don't think that was scripted. This show is far from perfect, but its very roughness is appealing--the perfect complement to all that smooth, expensive, meretricious chocolate.

When: Through 6/18: Wed-Fri 8 PM, Sat 7 and 10:30 PM, Sun 8 PM

Where: Redmoon Central, 1463 W. Hubbard

Price: $35-$45

Info: 312-850-8440, ext. 111

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