BWW Review: SMOKED! at Cafe Nordo Tames the Wild West
SMOKED! At Café Nordo is an immersion dinner theater experience into the Wild West. From smoking guns to smoked oxtail chili, this show delivers an authentic western feel. From the moment you walk into the door, you are part of the show's atmosphere. With good guys to root for, bad guys to boo and plenty of stiff drinks, Café Nordo delivers an evening of fun.
SMOKED! is a typical western story. A bad guy has come to town and has taken over. A few farmers have tried to stand up to him, but end up in a noose. The leading lady and local tavern keeper offers protest in the form of anonymous letters to the newspaper. A stranger wanders into town and stops for a drink. He observes the precarious situation of the townspeople and inevitably gets pulled into the turmoil. It's a classic showdown to see who has the quickest draw. With a nod to Deadwood, Terry Podorski's script brings us all the fun of a western without getting too serious about it.
Pulling double duty as servers and actors, the cast maintains character at all times. Ray Tagavilla as The Stranger brings his usual charm albeit in a bit rougher form. His laconic style provides some of the best moments of the show. Opal Peachey (Clara Still) is well, just peachy. Her blend of tough independence and cheeky rebel makes the perfect western woman. Ashley Bagwell as the hapless sheriff manages to be frustratingly spineless and sympathetic at the same time. Carol Louise Thompson as Madison Withers commands the room with her brash laugh and taunting snipes. If she gets close enough, you'll see her commitment to her character goes all the way to her teeth. I'm sure she's a lovely person, but if I met her in another venue I'd still feel the need to give her a wide berth.
Chef Erin Brindley has prepared a menu that accentuates the smoked theme well. The presentation of each part is well done, but a few of the courses seemed to be more about hitting the theme than about good eating. The interposition of show scenes between each course means that the main course is not served until well after 9pm, and it's the first warm food on the menu. Luckily, the oxtail chili was a nice choice. They also ended on a high note with a delectable rhubarb pandowdy.
Instead of an orchestra pit, the show features a band on a balcony. I really enjoyed being about to watch the band, and enjoyed their music even more. The show's music direction and original music is by Anastasia Workman with additional music by Dayton Alleman. The two composers are joined in the band by Evan Mosher, Matt Manges, and Troy Lund. Between the few of them, they play the entire gamut of musical instruments. Seriously, keep an eye on them, they play it all perhaps including the kitchen sink. I can't remember the last time I saw a jaw harp in a show, but it should definitely happen more often. They are not an addition to the show, but an inextricably interwoven part. They do more than add music. They set the tone, build the tension, tell stories, and add a dash of humor.
Will SMOKED! change your world view or leave you breathless? Probably not. But it's a great night out and a fun way to break out of the usual dinner spots. There is a lot of attention to detail in the show from top to bottom and every inch in between. The show deserves a full audience and hopefully the fine meal and promise of a public hanging will bring them out.
SMOKED! is playing at Café Nordo through July 1st. For tickets or more information, www.cafenordo.com