Theresa Rebeck's brand new "Seared" takes us inside a restaurant kitchen. It's hot and loud and it smells great. San Francisco Playhouse commissioned this show three years ago and Rebeck has rewarded their faith. How can you not like a plot that includes donuts and bacon?
We love Brian Dykstra as Harry, the part-owner of the Brooklyn restaurant. He is the chef, bullheaded, but alive with ideas and a genius with food. Harry is the artist and his partner Mike (Rod Gnapp) is the money. Where it comes from we would like to know, because Mike's money is not unlimited. Due to a variety of issues familiar to all restaurant owners, the business is failing, despite a recent excellent mention in New York Magazine.
Enter Emily, played by Alex Sunderhaus. She is the food-services consultant, whom Mike has met the previous night in the restaurant. Alice's advice and contacts just might save everyone. But she herself is as unstable as a souffle.
Rebeck's dialogue is sharp, the issues real and they really are cooking bacon on stage. "There are an infinite amount of doors that can be opened with butter," says Harry, one of our favorite lines. But we think the author can add more. Our biggest problem is with the character of Emily. She is awfully young and high-heelish for a kitchen. Act One ends with a tiny sprinkle of flirtation. Is this it? Emily's motivation is unclear. It might be blind ambition. Or something else. We'd like to know.
The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division understands this is a World Premiere with many different spices available to continue to season the sauce. We give "Seared," which may turn out to be one of Rebeck's best plays, Three Stars with a BANGLE OF PRAISE. Filled with sharp dialogue and a fascinating glance into a world about which we know little, it will go higher.
As always, stories come down to people. Harry and Rodney, we get. Mike, we pretty much get. Emily, somewhat less. And what about friendship? What about loyalty? Is there a bad guy here?
THE BANGLE is for Larry Powell. His Rodney is spot on perfect, compassionate but realistic. And the man can cook. They all can.
San Francisco Playhouse
450 Post Street (second floor of Kensington Park Hotel)
Through November 12