Elevator Thoughts (aka Tweet): Brandon Healy’s Hotdish play by Pony World Theatre at 12th Ave Arts. Directed by Charlotte Peters. Midwest repression/escapism that felt universal. Funny caricatures from Jessica Robin’s. Good acting delivery from James Hyun Lee (returning from an 8-year hiatus). Novel live video component and nice stage.
Synopsis from the Theatre: For this world premiere play, simply combine 3 “hotdishes” (casseroles for you non-Minnesotans), one dysfunctional family, one reality TV show, tater tots, black pepper, your grandmother’s rose water perfume, a few dashes of joy, and a pinch of heartache. Kayla Liggett has taken in her unemployed brother, Toby, while he looks for work. But Toby thinks the answer to all his troubles is winning his favorite reality TV cooking show, Champion Chef. As Toby falls deeper into this enticing fantasy, their mother Evelyn faces her own financial crisis. It falls to Kayla to save them both, but she can barely keep her own life together. Guided by a magical being who happens to be the glamorous host of Champion Chef, the family must face what fractured their lives in the first place. Hotdish tells a story about family, food, and fixing the cracks in all our hearts.
Attended Performance Date: 11/9/23 – See my previous preview posts here.
World Premiere: Yes
Several or Few Scenes: Several
Several or Few Settings/Locations: Several
Static (Stationary) Set: Yes
Prior Exposure/Knowledge Required: You’d probably appreciate the script more if you’re familiar with Midwest themes. For example, the hotdish concept is traditionally from the Midwest, which I didn’t know until after the play.
Defined Plot/Storyline: Mostly yes
Equity Actors: Zero
Total Number of Actors: 5
Perceived Pace of the Show: Slow to medium speed
Length (Including Any Intermission): 2.25 hours
Was there an intermission? Yes
Was This the First Time I Attended a Production of this Show? Yes
Would I See It Again 3 Years from Now? No
Other Rave(s) Not Mentioned in Elevator Thoughts
- Scenic Design: The home kitchen reminded me of Village Theatre’s Book Club stage. The fridge remarkably occasionally doubled as an entrance/exit and an actual fridge.
- Novel Live Videography: Some scenes were portrayed like a reality TV cooking show competition where a stagehand recorded the actors and the video replayed on the audience like a TV show in real time. Occasionally they combined the live video with pre-recorded clips. They’re definitely working double time in A/V room during this production! The live video component reminded me of the basketball player in Village Theatre’s Songs for a New World. This novel videography was very effective for the non-speaking parts. However, there was a noticeable slight delay in the live video while the actor was speaking to the camera. I also observed this delay at Village Theatre. And if I’m not mistaken, I also noticed this delay at the Blue Man Group national tour. So, I’m not sure that there is any good solution. Maybe transmit the video via a cable instead wirelessly for better latency?
- Reveal (Slight Spoiler): There was a reveal in the second act that reminded me of Gabe’s birthday scene in Next to Normal. I’m now second guessing the scenes I saw previous to this reveal!
- Universal Themes: The script seemed to focus on Midwest repression and hopelessness, but it felt universal. The need for fantasy/escape was similar to the theme in She Kills Monsters. I empathized with Toby Ligget (played by James Hyun Lee) as he described his alienation, depression, and failure. And I felt Kayla Liggett’s (played by Sydney Kaser) yearning as she described the need for familiar safe physical company as she copes with being the strong one in the family. The white noise during Toby’s longing made the pressure in his mind all the more tangible.
- Caricatures: Jessica Robins portrayed a plethora of caricatures like a rough tap-dancing Irish bartender, a phone operator, and a grisly seasoned tow-trucker. Her reality TV show host persona reminded me of Tessa from Dream Hou$e, which was also produced at 12th Ave Arts. My absolute favorite personality was the bank officer with a delightful Midwest accent especially during her funny mini monologues on doughnuts and coffee (pronounced “cawfee”). Kudos for the several the costume changes behind the bar/counter, which were probably uncomfortable!
Other Musing(s) and Observation(s)
- Reality TV Exploitation: The reality TV cooking show theme of this play reminded me of a Matteo Lane comedy bit (see segment between 2:00 to 3:30) where he noted that American reality TV shows exploit contestants’ backstories while the British shows ignore them.
Theatre Company: Pony World Theatre
Venue: 12th Avenue Arts
Venue Physical Address: 1620 12th Ave #203, Seattle, WA 98122
Dates: November 3 to December 2, 2023
Seating: General Admission
Parking: Paid lot or paid street parking. Street parking is extremely limited since it’s Capitol Hill. Your best luck would be East of Cal Anderson Park on 11th or 12th Ave. The cheapest paid lot close by is at 1300 E Olive St with the entrance on 14th Ave. I highly suggest parking far away or taking the bus since the lots are expensive in Capitol Hill.
Buy a Ticket or Learn More:
Other Video +/- Pictures: See pictures in video and under video
Cast and Production Team: See after pictures and/or video below
@showsiveseen "#Hotdish" #play by Pony World Theatre at 12th Ave Arts. Directed by @charlotte. #Midwest repression/escapism that felt universal. Funny caricatures from @jrobartist. Good acting delivery from @DogtorJames (returning from an 8-year hiatus). Nice stage & novel live video component. Photos: Tanya Izadora & Ken Holmes. Review: showsiveseen.com/7259 #theatre #showsiveseen #Minnesota #realityTV #cooking ♬ Keeping Everything Inside – Sophie Pecora
|Toby Liggett||James Hyun Lee|
|Kayla Liggett||Sydney Kaser|
|Evelyn Liggett||Rebecca Goldberg|
|Kevin||Van Lang Pham|
|Stage Manager||Kristin Brown|
|Assistant Stage Manager||Michael Latham|
|Scenic Designer||Sann Hall|
|Lighting Designer||Chih-Hung Shao|
|Props Designer||Andrea Spraycar|
|Sound Designer||Justin Johnson|
|Projections Designer||Brendan Mack|
|Costume Designer||Luna McMeen|
|Video And Additional Assets||Peter Antoniou & Charlotte Peters|
|Technical Director||Justin Duffiance|
|Scenic Charge Artist||Annie Duffiance|
|Production Manager||Ellie Hughes|
|Artist Liaison||Lisa Viertel|