Dorset Theatre Festival brings in `Frasier' stars for `Slow Food'

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DORSET — Dorset Theatre Festival will wrap up summer with the final production of its 42nd season, its eighth under artistic director Dina Janis, and second with producing director Will Rucker on Board, the raucous comedy "Slow Food" by Wendy MacLeod.

The show will sport a Spartan cast of three, which includes reunited alums of NBC's former hit sitcom, "Frasier" (1993-2004). Peri Gilpin (NBC's "Frasier," "Native Gardens") will play Irene and Dan Butler (NBC's "Frasier," "Broadway's Travesties") will be her husband, Peter. Greg Stuhr (Broadway's "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee") will play Stephen, the waiter.

Janis said she was excited to end the season on a note of laughter, noting that it's difficult to find "a truly funny comedy these days."

"Wendy's play reminds me of Carol Burnett or Lucille Ball," Janis said. "It's so much fun, but also a really touching story that we can all relate to. I have no doubt our audiences will really take to the story."

"Frasier"'s Gilpin and Butler both exchanged emails prior to committing to "Slow Food," according to previously released publicity buildup for the show. Gilpin played Roz Doyle, the producer of Frasier's radio show, and Butler played Bob "Bulldog" Briscoe, the vexing host of the "Gonzo Sports Show."

The play will run 95 minutes with no intermission, and being so new in its production cycle, for a limited engagement of only 10 shows.

"Slow Food" is directed by Dorset returnee Jackson Gay ("Kleptocracy," "Transfers"). Gay will be joined by scenic designer Antje Ellermann ("Building the Wall," "Stuffed"), costume designer Fabian Fidel Aguilar ("In the Heights," "Romeo and Juliet"), lighting designer and former longtime Dorset producing director Michael Giannitti (Dorset's "Downstairs," Broadway's "Joe Turner's Come and Gone"), and sound designer Sinan Refik Zafar (Dorset's "Cry It Out," Broadway's "What the Constitution Means to Me").

Gay said that for him, the best part of the run-in to the play "has been all the fun we're having in the rehearsal room."

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"Peri [Gilpin], Dan [Butler], and Greg [Stuhr] are such pros at playing comedy," Gay said. "But they are equally skilled at finding the depths of these characters starving for both food and human connection. It's a play about love at the end of the day."

The plot revolves around the couple of Irene and Peter, who just want to have a nice meal out on their big anniversary in Palm Springs. But a highly anxious waiter, Stephen, will not bring them their food. As one might imagine, everything goes terribly wrong from there. This bizarre server has the couple analyze everything from their menu choices to their future together.

Gilpin agreed that the play was all about laughter.

"I read ["Slow Food"] and I was howling," Gilpin said. "It's so funny. It's fantastic, and it's so fun to read. I mean, this play is a riot."

Producing director Rucker noted a string of playwright Macleod's work and where they were performed: "The House of Yes," the play that later became the Sundance award-winning film of the same name. Other notable works of hers include "Sin and Schoolgirl Figure" (Goodman), "Juvenilia and The Water Children" (Playwrights Horizons), "Women in Jeopardy!" (Geva), and "Things Being What They Are" (Seattle Repertory, extended run at Steppenwolf).

Rucker added that DTF was "honored to be producing such an early production of `Slow Food.'"

"It's so clear that it will be a hit at theaters across the country for years to come," Rucker said. "I'm just so personally excited to have Peri [Gilpin] and Dan [Butler] here. And I'm thrilled that our audience is going to get to see a really funny play performed by really funny people."

"Slow Food" runs August 22-31 at the Dorset Playhouse on Cheney Road. Info and tickets: 802-867-2223 ext. 101, or dorsettheatrefestival.org.

Reach award-winning freelance journalist Telly Halkias at: e-mail: tchalkias@aol.com, Twitter: @TellyHalkias


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