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Theater review by Raven Snook
Theresa Rebeck's Seared takes place in the kitchen of a struggling Park Slope eatery, conjured with verisimilitude by set designer Tim Mackabee. But it’s less a realistic exploration of the restaurant business than a parable about the battle between art and commerce in any eat-or-be-eaten industry. Talented but testy chef Harry (Raúl Esparza, making a meal out of his role) initially comes off as a persnickety perfectionist, but he's actually a toxic manchild who has no qualms about exploiting his partner Mike (David Mason, a convincing milquetoast) or his waiter Rodney (a witty W. Tré Davis). When Mike, against Harry's will, hires sweet-talking consultant Emily (a luscious Krysta Rodriguez) to help keep the place afloat, it's a recipe for conflict.
There's not much food for thought in Seared. Its arguments are well-worn, although you've probably never heard people go at it over scallops so angrily or often. But Seared isn't about revelations. Comedy and comeuppance are what keep it cooking; director von Stuelpnagel smartly fires up the humor, and the actors add spice to their archetypical characters. And Esparza is especially tasty: Preparing meals on a working range onstage, he cooks with such passion and balletic precision that you understand why others have enabled Harry’s ego for so long. Even if you're not familiar with Rebeck's feminist plays, chances are you'll figure out who's going to get served in the end. But like a comfortable neighborhood joint, it’s satisfying even if it isn’t surprising.
MCC Theater (Off Broadway). By Theresa Rebeck. Directed by Moritz von Stuelpnagel. Starring Raúl Esparza. Running time: 2hrs 15mins. One intermission.