Comrade Gusto (Eric "Pogi" Sumangil) assigns a table captain at ¡Viva la Soul Power!
Photo by Melissa Vang
¡Viva la Soul Power! isn't your everyday event. Part pop-up dining experience, part street theater, and part agit-prop, the show merges a multi-course meal with conversations about food and family. All the while, the politics of eating are not far behind.
The brainchild of Robert Karimi, the event transforms Intermedia Arts into an interactive experience. It starts even before being seated for dinner, as patrons are invited to make a drink mixed of various fruits and vegetables. The mixing power is provided by the customers themselves, who charge it up with pedal power on a bicycle.
Karimi plays Mero Cocinero, a revolutionary chef -- literally -- who wants to share the "good energia" of his heritage and food. The various courses feature plenty of freshly made foods that are focused on flavor. It's entirely possible to go dairy and gluten-free and enjoy some or all of each of the courses.
What do you get? The night I was at the event, there were Tia Tencha's Timely Tostadas, a pair of "revolutionary" stews (a vegetarian Gormehl Sabzi and an abgushte with red meat), and a pre Day-of-the-Dead fiambre.
Then there were the conversations. Karimi and the other performers gently guided the talk at each table. Some of that came from the tasks. Each table -- which were a random assemblage of folks -- was named for a different revolutionary, with instructions to come up with a slogan and "movement" for each one.
Beyond that, it was up the friendliness of each group. As each course was passed and each mini-scene played out, the talk remained loose, with each of us contributing as much as we wanted. The goal was to not just eat, but also actually engage with what we were eating by sharing stories of our families, and favorite dishes that played an important part in our lives.
All the while, little subplots -- some more effective than others -- played out, from Leah Horton's health inspector to Eric Sumangil's Comrade Gusto, whose Republican politics are a bit out of line with Mero and company's left-leaning beliefs.
The story does get muddled, but that's overwhelmed by the dishes and occasional trips to the kitchen to watch the magic unfold. Viva la Soul Power provides a unique experience for lovers of good, fresh, healthy food and those who think eating is about more than just consumption.
IF YOU GO
¡Viva la Soul Power!
6 p.m. doors, 7 p.m. show Thursday-Sunday
2822 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis
$25 (includes dinner). Reservations recommended.
For information and ticket reservations, call 612.871.4444 or visit online.