Theater Spotlight: The Poetry of Pizza

Ann Marsden

at Mixed Blood Theatre through February 10

One might figure that a show with this title wouldn't regard itself with utmost seriousness, and one would be right. The action takes place in Copenhagen, where visiting poetry scholar Sarah (Stacia Rice) wanders into a pizza parlor and falls for Kurdish refugee Soran (Ron Menzel). Soran's not the only one who falls for Sarah's charms; the oily Danish prof Heino (Sean Michael Dooley) and old coot Ule (Patrick O'Brien) also succumb. It's a night of broad, silly moments, such as one with Menzel and his boss Rebar (Omar Koury) weeping at memories of their native land's pistachios and figs, and O'Brien hurling himself into his character's delusion that he stands a chance with the comely Sarah. Deborah Brevoort's script hinges on enough misunderstandings and improbabilities (Sarah inexplicably stores scores of Soran's culinary creations in her apartment, prompting romantic rapture rather than a raid by the health department) to make a sitcom hack blush with shame, and her attempts to inject a little postmodern academe jive into the proceedings grate on the ear like a dime running down a windowpane. Still, director John Miller-Stephany draws out lively performances from each member of his cast, with Jayne Taini consistently funny as a love-starved landlord, and Barbara Kingsley bittersweet and pained as Ule's long-suffering, agoraphobic wife. It would probably be downright missing the point to pick too many nits with a show that plays harp-string sound effects whenever two lovers-to-be match gazes, and which wraps everything up in a tidy bow at the end. Suffice it to say that Rice and Menzel produce real star wattage and legitimate romance, with a downright sexy seduction scene that says more about the poetry of Mediterranean food than the transcendence of Italian cuisine. We get a couple of dark notes about Soran's horrible past, and Menzel handles them with appropriate gravity without trying to steer things into deeper waters where this craft would surely sink. The Poetry of Pizza is the stage equivalent of a decent date movie, for which there is often a time and a place.

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