Anyone who eats should enjoy “The Dish,” regardless of his or her stance on Anthony Bourdain. The premise: Two of the four kitchen stars on a local cable-access show will have a chance to rise to a legitimate spot on the Food Network. The competitors: Paula Deen knockoff Rhonda Lee (Catherine Deadman), grandiose old aesthete Roger (Kevin Boggs), brittle food blogger Nadia (Anika Harden) and bitter chef Phillip (Jonathan Wong). Deciding their fates is Gwen (Kristy Simmons), a cringing executive producer suddenly thrust into power.
The real drama is between Rhonda Lee and Phillip, who have a tortured romantic and business history. The best move of “The Dish” is to make Rhonda Lee an exploiter of Asian men who butchers Chinese cuisine to further her empire, calls her staffers “ramen boys” and engages Phillip in what she describes as “racist yet fully consensual sex acts.”
Roger, Gwen and Rhonda Lee are enjoyable, familiar types played with all the over-the-top silliness they deserve. Nadia is more original, a character pasted together out of disdain for the current obsession with all things local, homemade and beautifully photographed, and some of the many jokes at her expense are strained. So are the numerous cracks about cupcakes, which are so two years ago.
Each show is slightly different, featuring its own “special guest stars” and audience participation in a cook-off between Nadia and Rhonda Lee. Sunday’s performance brought in Mykl Wu, who used to cook at his mother’s Chinese restaurant in Kensington, Md., and the audience-voted ingredient of sriracha. Unlike many Fringe plays, “The Dish” is never stalled by the improvisation. And although dozens of shows at this year’s festival use video projection, this play actually makes the most of the prop with clever juxtapositions between characters and screen.
“The Dish” is gentle satire, done well. It never strains too far or tries too much, but what you get is pretty tasty.
At 7:45 p.m. Thursday , 8:30 p.m. Friday and 2:45 p.m. Sunday. All performances are at the Goethe Institut, 812 Seventh St. NW, except Thursday’s, which is at the Warehouse, 645 New York Ave. NW. Call 866-811-4111 or visit www.capitalfringe.org. $17 plus the one-time purchase of a $7 button.
70 minutes. but Sunday’s performance clocked in at slightly under 60