Monday, May 19, 2008

"The Cooking Show with Karimi and Castro": ☼ ☼ 1/2 + BANG - 1/2 baub

Although they are carrying knives, Comrade Mero Cocinero Karimi ("the man who put the meat in meatless)" and his favorite leftist right-hand man Comrade Ex (not 'X' as in Malcolm, but 'Ex' as in his current dating status), do not appear to be dangerous men. Whether in back of their food prep tables or walking through the audience serving food to the audience, Robert Farid Karimi and John Manal Castro are very funny guys.

Their slogan is: "La revolución empieza en la cocina" (the revolution begins in the kitchen), and their banter is laced with political activism. When Karimi proudly announces the evening's food preparations will come from locally produced organic vegetables, Comrade Ex gently reminds him they couldn't afford the $20/lb. green leaf lettuce from the Ferry Building Farmer's Market and that the soy sauce comes from Wisconsin.

Guised as a television cooking show, there is music too: Karimi's gag song "I Want to Be Where the Iron Chefs Are" is pleasant, but could be tighter. As an evening of entertainment, the duo excels when doing their planned-out bits, but improvisations tend to drag and Comrade Karimi can become a bit overbearing, especially when he is wheedling for donations at the end.

Karimi and Castro can do more with this show (this reviewer saw it at the final performance of the United States of Asian America Festival). It's unique enough to become a true gem. The two need to put aside the public radio personae and think of themselves as stars. They can do it. The audience will always be on their side, because they're really likable guys.

And a special shout out for the The Persian (whoops, Iranian) yogurt with dill and mint: delicious. Thank you, brothers.

RATINGS: ☼ ☼ 1/2 + BANG - 1/2 Baub

The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division awards "The Cooking Show with Karimi and Castro" two and a half stars with a BANGLE of Praise (and a half-bauble of Despair). There is not enough happening on a theater level to talk about characters or lighting or staging, but the Cooking Show idea is intriguing and anyone who has ever seen Bobby Flay or Rachael Rae on TV will enjoy the references. The bit about Spam ("Spam has brought joy to Filipinos, Hawaiians and Trailer Parks across the USA") earns a hysterical BANGLE of Praise. But if Comrade Ex's Cutting Corner is going to remain in the show, and it should, he really has to learn to cut something a little more complex than a carrot into slices, and the audience needs to be able to see it.

"The Cooking Show with Karimi and Castro"
SoMarts Center, 934 Brannan Street San Francisco
Part of the 11th Annual United States of Asian America Festival, now concluded

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