Fringe Review: Burnt at the Steak
This is how it happens. You see the promotional materials for Carolann Valentino’s Burnt at the Steak. You read that it is a comedic portrayal of her experiences working in a New York steakhouse. You think to yourself that this could be fun — Hell’s Kitchen as a one-woman show, perhaps.
Mere minutes into the performance, you realize you are actually trapped in a Star Search standup routine from 1983.
Valentino stalks the stage, bowlegged and maniacal, as if she is held to it by an invisible pet fence and would otherwise leap out and assault you where you sit. Her eyes are open wider than Malcolm McDowell’s in A Clockwork Orange; they bore into yours, seeking – nay, demanding — confirmation that you are having the time of your life. Because what other reaction is possible?
She sets the context for the show by dropping some knowledge about the culinary trade and her own Italian-American heritage. The Olive Garden, she reveals, is not authentic Mediterranean cuisine. The terms of your relationship are thus established: She is an absolute dipshit who inexplicably considers you the rube.
For what seems an eternity, Valentino impersonates the cast of colorful characters who allegedly populated the beef joint where she worked. They are all equally crude, unfunny, obnoxious stereotypes, and each exists mainly so she can belabor another pun that equates her establishment’s bill of fare with a part of the human reproductive system. Many of the characters get to sing songs, some of them standards retrofitted with smutty lyrics that would strike even The Office’s Michael Scott as irredeemably puerile (although they might play reasonably well to a middle-school boy who had just been hit in the head with a brick).
Through it all, Valentino keeps on pacing, staring, periodically lunging toward you without warning or invitation – anything to keep you off-balance. It is like being violated, and by the worst sort of assailant: one who has no idea he is committing a crime, because he cannot fathom that his attentions could be anything less than pleasurable.
You want to cry out “Stop!” Or “Go home!” Or “How dare you!” Instead, like many other survivors of abuse before you, you endure it by focusing on an innocuous, tangential object – in this case, a chart Valentino has hung upstage right that identifies the edible portions of the bovine anatomy. Gazing at it, you begin to wonder what your own flesh might taste like, as you would gladly chew off your own leg to escape.
Carolann Valentino Productions (New York, NY)
Rating: G14 (Adult Language & Subject Matter)
Run Time: 60 minutes
Genre: Comedy, Musical, Solo Show, Improv
Websites – www.burntatthesteak.com
Sat, May 18 2013, 10:15 p.m.
Mon, May 20 2013, 10:15 p.m.
Wed, May 22 2013, 11:30 p.m.
Thu, May 23 2013, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, May 24 2013, 9 p.m.
Sat, May 25, 6:45 p.m.