– some random thoughts after opening night, Tuesday 14th August by Raymond Rudolph.

Let me say at the outset that this is not a formal review – how objective could I really be as a committee member of MADS (Muizenberg Dramatic Society)  which has produced the show? So it’s just a few random observations to tempt your taste buds and to let you know what you’ll be missing if you don’t come see it.

Eat Your Heart Out, a culinary comedy written by Nick Hall and presented by MADS as part of the Masque Theatre’s annual August Festival of entertainment, is a creative, supper-theatre production,  a first of its kind for the Masque.

The theatre foyer has been delightfully  transformed into a 50-seater restaurant, the patrons’ tables seamlessly blending with those which serve as the place-setting(s) for the story ….. a story which plays out in six different Manhattan restaurants (some with hilariously  satirical names) over an eight month period and which chronicles the experiences of Charlie (Rudy Gibbons) , an out-of-work actor waiting tables while he waits for the perfect acting job. I understand that in New York City and Hollywood, if you scratch your waiter, you’re more than 50%  likely to find an actor in-between gigs, just like Charlie,  ( ….. or just like Rudy himself: he writes in his programme bio that his “day job” is waiting tables at up-market restaurants, an inspired bit of casting by director Tom Byrne).

Playing what is effectively the only “main character” , Rudy certainly doesn’t disappoint in the pivotal role. He manages the difficult task of decorating (and re-decorating) all the different restaurant tables while simultaneously keeping up the non-stop patter which characterises his endearing Charlie,  sensitive yet cynical, anguished yet accepting. While continually evaluating his dreams & ambitions, Rudy conveys to us most effectively how the tiniest of things can influence a decision which can make or break an aspiring actor’s career (and life).

I won’t give away the story, save to say that the other characters circle around, in & out of  the ups & downs of  Charlie’s life, and even though some of these roles are quite small, every  one in this production is larger than life, and a delight to behold:  from the hilariously deadpan Hungry Man & Sleeping Man (Masque debutant, Paul Henman – keep an eye on the bell on his table), through the kooky, astrology nut,  the stellar Ursula Major (another Masque debutant, Rebecca Pistiner), to the enigmatic  Amontillado Man (yet another Masque debutant, Gareth Stewart)  who doubles as the Kissing Man in a funny scene with the Kissing Lady (another yet another Masque debutant, Roseanna McBain, who doubles  well as the irritating Food Lady in the opening act).

In the roles of Leslie, the over-the-top director of  TV commercials  and Thelma Rivers , his eager sidekick, Daniel Enticott and  Jana Botha respectively combine in a raucous cameo performance which will probably make you laugh over the next six months whenever you see a packet of COOKIES!!   Harry (Wayne Ronne) is a convincing, fellow wannabe actor waiting tables with Charlie at one of the restaurants – amidst the exchange of some amusing lines between the two waiters, we receive some unexpected philosophy advice from Harry, of  all people!  Wayne delivers the final curtain line with just the right amount of twinkle in his eye.

The likeable, attractive Doris Potter, portrayed by yet another yet another Masque debutant (!), Michaela O’Toole, adds some love interest to the proceedings,  while Mrs Carter (Lynda Jennings) and Mr Carter (Tobie Beele) , a mature (immature?) couple,  demonstrate another side of love. They both infuse their characters with a charming, understated naturalness which is a pleasure to watch.

My congratulations go to Tom, the director, for putting this show together  and for having the guts to cast so many newcomers in his play, and to all the newcomers for not letting him down.  To the old-timers too.

To Sue Hallinan & Clare Stableford for props and stage managing & assistant stage managing respectively, and to Jabu Hallinan for assisting them with props. To Tobie Beele for creating the projected images and again to Jabu for operating the projections while doubling as the barman at all the restaurants. (By the way, look out for an astounding “Surprise” cocktail on the rocks, in the opening act). To Masque stalwart, Gary Fargher, for creating the appropriate restaurant atmosphere in the foyer with his lighting design, and for operating lights during the production. To Clare for looking after wardrobe so effectively, particularly  Charlie’s subtly differing waiter’s outfits.

A big thank you to the caterers, The Good Bakery, of 12 Milner Street, Muizenberg, Muizenberg who are supplying the meals for the show. (You may contact them at 074-174 5554).

Eat Your Heart Out runs at the Masque Theatre every evening from Tuesday 14th August to Saturday 18th August.  Arrive 7pm for 7.30pm start. Tickets are great value at R100 per person and include the show and a 2-course meal (vegetarian option available), with tea or coffee.

Book through Aubrey (021-788 1898), weekdays from 10am to 4 pm and Saturdays from 9.30am to 12.00.   Or by e-mail to bookings@masquetheatre.co.za.

There are only 52 seats available for each show, so book really soon to avoid the disappointment of missing out.