Theater Review: “The Caro Savanti Experience” by The Magnetic Theatre

Pictured: Julianne Arnall, Kristen Aldrich, Mike Yow, Darren Marshall, Mandy Bean, Travis Kelley and Jason Williams in The Caro Savanti Experience. Photo by Rodney Smith/Tempus Fugit Design

In the world of reality TV, there is seemingly no limit to what producers are willing to broadcast. And the more chaotic and potentially disastrous, the better, even when it comes to cooking shows. It makes perfect sense that such shows would be fodder for parody — hence The Magnetic Theatre’s staging of The Caro Savanti Experience by local playwright Jim Julien.

This is not the first time local audiences have experienced Savanti. The show began as a short play as part of the Magnetic Midnight series several years ago. It was popular enough to warrant a fuller treatment, and was produced in 2013 during Magnetic’s tenure at the BeBe Theatre. The theater company’s dedication to the show has allowed it to grow and develop into its current inspired madcap comedy.

The title character, played by Darren Marshall, is a larger-than-life master chef with a flare for the bizarre and exotic. He seems to be as fragile as he is boisterous, part tortured artist and part megalomaniacal dictator of the kitchen. Marshall makes a dislikable character sympathetic with his ability to walk the delicate balance required for such a role.

A character like Savanti is only as strong as the supporting cast in his whirlwind of culinary insanity. Jenni Robinson is a Hollywood director filming the pilot episode for a proposed new show. The financial backers are played by the towering Travis Kelley and the nebbish Jason Williams. Mike Yow and Mandy Bean are the lucky diners who will be featured in the first episode. Julianne Arnall plays Zenlike sous chef Bernie.

The show’s breakout star is Kristin Aldrich as Caro’s manager, Pilar, who can play up a raw, exotic sexuality when needed. She is clearly in charge onstage, and is every bit an equal to Marshall’s boisterous Savanti. Impressively, at the top of the show, she balances conversations with two suppliers, alternately on hold on her cell phone, while Skype chatting with a third, and managing the coming chaos of the evening.

Director Elliot Weiner keeps the show at the pace required for such a high-energy endeavor. The only quibble I have is with the choice of decidedly cartoonish props in lieu of a more realistic kitchen set up. While the props work fine, I am left wondering how it would have played with a fully committed realistic approach to the cutlery and food items, which are described in a disgustingly comedic way. One nice visual comes from the exotic crustaceans that have escaped the kitchen and found their way into the building duct work. Constructed and rigged by playwright Julien, these crablike creatures fall from the ceiling at various moments throughout the show.

WHAT: The Caro Savanti Experience by Jim Julien
WHERE: The Magentic Theatre, themagnetictheatre.org
WHEN: Through Saturday, Feb. 27, Thursdays-Saturdays, at 7:30 p.m. $21

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About Jeff Messer
playwright, actor, director and producer, Jeff Messer has been most recently known as a popular radio talk show host. He has been a part of the WNC theatre scene for over 25 years, and actively works with and supports most of the theatres throughout the region. Follow me @jeffdouglasmess

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One thought on “Theater Review: “The Caro Savanti Experience” by The Magnetic Theatre

  1. Big Al

    Great show! I have been a fan of Darren Marshall for a couple of years and this was one of his funniest performances. I too was pleasantly surprised at the commanding presence of Kristen Aldrich. I had seen her at Toy Boat Theater and thought she really stood out among the mostly amateur company there, but here she rose to a new standard and I hope to see more of her.

    And here’s to garnishing my next Farm Burger with powder ground from the wingtips of Emperor Penguins!

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