Sidle through the swinging saloon doors for a raucous evening of dinner theater with Café Nordo, and you feel like you’ve entered a Spaghetti Western. A sheriff and a rough-hewn patron or two loiter by a long wooden bar lined with whiskey bottles, while barmaids in corsets slink about serving cocktails and chatting to the seated guests, many of whom, in flannel shirts and boots, fit right in with the actors. From the side loft, a band, complete with accordion, reels off tune after lively tune. A posted sign warns that shots will be fired. Come ready for action, and come hungry—it’s time for “SMOKED!”
Café Nordo’s latest show, inspired by Sergio Leone’s famous 1960s Spaghetti Westerns, pits the denizens of a small town against the bullying, gunslinging agents of a big Monsanto-style agribusiness. Theatrical and gastronomical elements are often intertwined in Nordo’s quirky dinner theater series, but “SMOKED!” shines the spotlight on food production itself. Given the ongoing controversies over genetically modified crops and seed patents, Nordo seems to have struck a chord; the organizers recently announced that the show will extend its run at The Kitchen at Delicatus (309 First Ave. S.) through June 23, by popular demand.
Along with the show’s timely topic, Chef Nordo Lefesczki’s clever four-course menu with craft cocktail pairings contributes the show’s success, with an intriguing mix of Italian influences and cowboy cuisine (sunflower seed risotto, anyone?). Hearty, elevated ranch grub makes this one of the most satisfying Nordo menus yet, particularly the outstanding Painted Hills oxtail chili served with a fried corn pudding and the rhubarb pandowdy (a cobbler in a cute single-serving skillet). Vegetarian cowboys can opt for a meatless chili, too.
Since 2009, Café Nordo has built up a cult following in Seattle with its eclectic musical and theatrical performances, inventive dishes and knack for blurring the lines between actors and audience, garnering four Seattle Times Footlight Awards along the way, notably as “Kookiest, Most Delicious New Dinner Theatre.” Attendees are heartily encouraged to come in costume and banter with the actors in character. After a few stiff drinks such as “The Pine Box” (concocted, fittingly enough, with Douglas fir liqueur), it’s no stretch for the “SMOKED!” audience to fall into the role of rambunctious saloon patrons.
The seventh production in the dinner theater series, “SMOKED!” is directed by Erin Brindley and written by Terry Podgorski, longtime collaborators who field questions for the famously elusive Chef Nordo. The show also stars many familiar faces from the Seattle theater scene, including Opal Peachey, Maximillian Davis, Mark Siano, Ryan Higgins, and Evan Mosher. Ray Tagavilla is pitch-perfect as the laconic, brooding “Stranger” who stirs up trouble in town, and Los Angeles-based Kate Hess plays a sociopathic agri-bully with deliciously manic glee. The original score by Nordo’s award-winning composer and bandleader Annastasia Workman is a bracing tour-de-force. (Workman’s music from past shows is also available for digital download on the Café Nordo website.)
Tickets are available for “SMOKED!” on Thursday through Sunday evenings now until June 23 through Brown Paper Tickets.