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Posted at 3:23 PM ET, 07/14/2009

A Tactile Dinner: Whimsicality To Go

By Peter Marks
Fringe Festival

During the Fringe Festival's lively, cerebral performance piece "A Tactile Dinner," a theatergoer's most vital accessory is a napkin.

When you arrive at the Fringe venue, a Ninth Street NW storefront rowhouse, silent and grimacing waiters supply you with eccentric dinner jackets and escort you to tables. Over the next hour or so, you're exposed to a banquet of both the palate and the mind. Waiters circulate with dishes of artful whimsy: the first course, for instance, is a paper cone filled with little comestibles. The cone sits on a silver stem, and at its base is a little music box. On a cue from an actor on a video screen, guests are commanded to simultaneously eat and turn the crank on the box. (What they serve - -and why -- is meant to be a surprise; suffice to say that you will not be fed in hunger-satisfying portions.)

I know it sounds a little precious. But as experiential theater goes, this effort, by the D.C.-based banished? productions and artistic director Carmen C. Wong makes for a giddy little refreshment. The point? There actually is one: "A Tactile Dinner" is a kind of homage to futurism, the early 20th-century art movement born in Italy that embraced the application of technology to all aspects of life, including gastronomy.

Wong, inspired by a futurists' cookbook, corralled a team of actors, videographers, designers and technicians to choreograph the dinner. The impressive attention to detail shows, from the surrealist influences in the waiters' movements to the customized foil coverings, punctured with elaborate holes, for the overhead lighting.

The actor on video, portraying Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, the movement's leader, is the doctrinaire host, inveighing against pasta (this was a futurist bugaboo, apparently) and issuing bizarre "mandates" for partaking in the feast.

It's hard to tell whether the masterminds of this abbreviated evening want you to take "A Tactile Dinner" as parody. Still, you leave with admiration for the dedication that the company brings to this project -- and with a curiosity about what other intriguing things it might have on the back burner.

-- Peter Marks

By Peter Marks  | July 14, 2009; 3:23 PM ET
Categories:  Theater  
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Due to popular demand, A TACTILE DINNER has been extended! 2 shows will be added on Monday, July 20 at 7:00pm and 9:00pm.

Posted by: rangmaker | July 15, 2009 9:48 PM | Report abuse

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