In a modest storefront space in Pioneer Square, a new production has been taking flight. Since opening in mid-April, Cafe Nordo’s airborne spy spoof To Savor Tomorrow has been packing ’em in and making ’em laugh. Enough that the dinner theater has extended its run an additional week, now closing the gate after its June 11 performance.
Having missed an earlier flight, Seattle Weekly failed to run a review in time for the show’s original duration, but now that there is a little more runway (sorry, last one, I swear), I’d like to take a moment to sing the praises of this delightfully ridiculous homegrown production.
Penned by Terry Podgorski, who runs the dinner theater with executive chef Erin Brindley, To Savor Tomorrow takes on an easy target: the ’60s spy thriller. The more difficult task, completed here with a deft hand, is how Podgorski weaves Seattle’s 1962 World’s Fair into the narrative.
The setting for most of the story is Pan Am flight 892 as it crosses the Pacific en route to the exposition. On board are, well, everyone in the audience that night, as well as a handful of international spies, all with their sights set on a briefcase carried by the excitable food scientist, Dr. Peter Proudhurst, played with an odd electricity by Evan Mosher. Inside is a secret weapon with the potential to destroy America.
As Proudhurst delivers painfully optimistic lectures on then-modern food science and Cold War politics—these educational portions a hallmark of Podgorski’s scripts—the spies exchange punches and patter. Both are the primary source of the production’s many laughs.
American agent Bob Trippe, a buffoon played with conviction by Mark Siano, is apt to mix his idioms. “Every dog has his 15 minutes,” he says with perverse confidence. And later, “Let’s not lay around the bush.” For the foreign agents, Podgorski’s script traverses touchy ground: Svetlana Romanova (Opal Peachey) and Jiang Ping (Sara Porkalob) are both painted with broad strokes, but the latter is at least performing her stereotype—a strategy, we are told in the opening scene, to fool the dimwitted Americans. Hearing her say “fry the friendly skies” as a laugh line, though, is still cringe-inducing. Yet, in one of the production’s deliciously over-the-top fight scenes, the idiocy of such ignorance is also entertained. “You’re no regular Chinese dragon lady,” says Trippe. “That’s right,” she replies. “I’m Filipino.” The laughs that followed that line were some of the loudest of the night I attended, a welcome relief from the tension that had built during her unsavory routine.
Is Podgorski having his cake and eating it too? Perhaps. But part of the magic of To Savor Tomorrow is the knowing way it addresses the past, whether in its sendup of postwar utopian idealism or the ugly racism that went unchecked in the wildly popular spy films it so brilliantly spoofs. Cafe Nordo, 109 S. Main St., cafenordo.com. $65–$102. Ends June 11.