For the second time this year I went to experience an evening of strangeness and fine cuisine courtesy of the mysterious Chef Nordo. This time around, Café Nordo set up shop in the cabaret area of Theater Off Jackson (formerly Canoe Social Club).
My previous Nordo experience was in the shambling old Washington Hall, divided into acts in eclectic nooks with meticulous art installations in each space. That evening was a melange of surrealist scripting and weird science cuisine, which left me satisfied and entertained.
This time around, the Nordo crew performed an homage to David Lynch, in the style of Twin Peaks. A small town murder in four acts.
I am a Twin Peaks fan. I saw the pilot when it aired my senior year of high school, and I was hooked. I’ve watched the series – all the way through the tedious second season to the tacked on ending – at least three times. So I probably walked into this performance with unreasonably high expectations.
The room decor did a fine job of setting a Twin Peaks-y mood, with red curtains, a Northwest lodge theme, and two somewhat Buddhist lumberjacks seated on the bar for between-scene nuggets of wisdom. Unfortunately, it is incredibly difficult to “do” Lynch unless you’re Lynch.
David Lynch doesn’t do oddball, kitschy, creepy, horrific, moody films just to be strange. That’s the mistake that his mimickers often make: weirdness for the sake of weirdness. Lynch’s casserole always contains layers of human psychology, Eastern philosophy, and compassion that go way deeper than weird. And that’s not an easy casserole to make, or to eat.
In the case of Nordo’s attempt, the dialogue was cheesy, the performances hyperbolic, and the Lynchian touches… dumb. A person in a beaver costume appeared at intervals with neon red lighting, and the performers all went into a sort mock goth dance. The Lumberjacks’ voices got all reverb-y as they announced that they represent a “fixed point in time and space.” One of the characters had an invisible chihuahua.
That would have all been fine if the play itself had been suspenseful, or entertaining, or even just a little bit comprehensible. Ok, an admission here: I was somewhat drunk before I arrived, so maybe some of the comprehensibility onus is on me. But I’m still not sure who killed chef Nordo.
I do, however, think I know why they killed chef Nordo. Room temperature food. The first course was a mashed potato donut with coffee gravy (which was tasty, for sure), but the gravy was all cold and congealed. I did adore the borscht parfait, and I think it’s passable at room temperature, but the apple “hash browns” for dessert lacked texture and warmth. I wasn’t too sure about shortbread crumbles on the rim of a champagne cocktail, but I admit it came pretty close to the flavor of cherry pie.
Despite all of this, it was worth it. It’s rare to get to see artists, chefs, and performers conspire to create an experience like this, and it was captivating. Although I don’t think the homage was very well done, I still appreciated it and laughed at the in jokes. I just wish they’d done it somewhere with a kitchen.