Celebrity chef Rick Bayless reprises his role as culinary charmer in Lookingglass Theatre’s ‘Cascabel’.
Like any chef worth his salt today, Rick Bayless has had to master the medium: television. And while he’s not as bouncy as Giada De Laurentiis, nor as in-your-face as Gordon Ramsay, he certainly has a knack for educating and entertaining at the same time. Two years ago, he took the stage as the star of Lookingglass Theatre’s “Cascabel,” and now, he’s back for seconds. The show, which Bayless co-wrote with ensemble member Heidi Stillman, returns this week for a limited run at the Goodman Theatre.
Set in a Mexican rooming house, where a less-than-happy lady learns to live again with the arrival of a chef who’s seen some sadness of his own, the show features a tightrope-walking sous chef, a wise-cracking maître d’ and, best of all for fans of the Top Chef Master’s cuisine, an actual spread to savor. “The culinary component has evolved a little, but in a way that will bring it into the story in an even more seamlessly integrated way,” Bayless says. “The play is still the story of a meal in which a cook communicates dramatically through his food and all the characters find themselves changed in some way because they’ve paid attention to the food.”
The highly acrobatic action of the show was created by Tony Hernandez, long-time Lookingglass member and current circus artistic director for the Broadway musical “Pippin.” He grew up in the true “sawdust in your veins” kind of circus, and always manages to meld gusty, breathtaking routines with a keen eye for imagery. With “Cascabel,” he often took his cue from the food. “We had a tasting before rehearsals, and the ceviche had this tropical, lifting feeling in it, like spinning and dancing in the air,” says Hernandez. “So, the table dance begins with the actors around a table and it moves them onto the chairs and table, and eventually the two end up flying away together on the chandelier.”
While re-playing a role might seem as appetizing to an actor as leftovers are for a chef, Bayless is delighted to be back on the boards. “I love this character. Anyone that’s worked as a chef — or loves cooking and sharing what you’ve made — knows the longing of pouring your heart and soul into a dish and wanting it to rock someone’s world. The further our culture gets into processed foods, the harder it is for us cooks to fulfill our dreams. Thank goodness there’s a strong, burgeoning movement toward an appreciation for food and all it can offer.”
‘Cascabel’: $240-$325, includes hors d’oeuvres, three-course dinner, non-alcoholic beverage and beer and wine selected by chef Bayless. July 30-Aug. 24, Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn, (312) 337-0665; Lookingglasstheatre.org.