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A Tactile Dinner
The Arthur Flemming Center (1426 9th St. NW @ P St.)

Remaining performances
July 13 at 7:30pm; July 19 at 4:00pm; July 19 at 7:30pm

They say: You are cordially invited to celebrate the passé-ist glory of Futurist degustation: a tactile seven-course meal of gastronomic revolution. Those without suitable tactilist garb will be loaned one upon entry. Suggested $5 gratuity. R.S.V.P. or food-related concerns to info@banishedproductions.org

Sheffy says: You think you’ve seen “the Fringiest” show? A Tactile Dinner is off the map (actually, it’s literally off the Fringe map, and there are no signs outside to help identify the building, so make sure you write down the address). This is no show, it is an experience, and one I exhort you not to miss.

Dinner guests are greeted by the maître d’ and provided with appropriate dining attire (my “pjamas” were fashioned from tyvec and cork, the tactile sensation of the material being the key ingredient). According to a seating chart that is not immediately obvious, guests are led one-by-one into the dining hall where TV monitors display interwar era clips from fascist Italy (including an animation of goosestepping pasta). What follows is not only hard to describe, but any attempt to do so would dilute the experience. Let me just say that the seven course meal you are served adheres to the Futurist ideology, replete with “gustatory foreplay”.

The performers qua servers are virtually silent, but they preserve a retro sci-fi ambiance. Their original choreography enhanced the menu (or was part of the menu, I’m not exactly sure). If your behavior is inappropriate for the banquet, they will scold you, but they also serve as your guides to fully appreciating the meal with all five of your senses. The polyrhythmic salad, for example, is intended to be enjoyed by using one hand for feeding, and the other to crank the music box that is affixed to your salad “bowl”.

Although this was great fun, it’s the product of serious research on the part of director Carmen Wong. The menu (as well as the formal dinner attire) was actually based on The Futurist Cookbook, published in Italy in 1932. The movement sought to separate eating for nourishment from feasting for multisensory enjoyment. According to the program notes, diners often ate in a darkened room; they buried their faces in their food to activate the skin on their cheeks and lips. One recipe calls for roasting a chicken stuffed with ball bearings to bring out the steel flavor. While the Futurist Movement died with the Fascists, you can now experience their highest cuisine.

And, oh, go easy on the magically-flavored balls…

See it if: You’ve run out of interesting ideas for dinner parties and need a little inspiration.

Skip it if: You skipped lunch to save room in your stomach for your only meal of the day (according to futurist ideology the full stomach is the enemy because it attenuates one’s gastronomic attention).