Arts & Culture Blog
Saltshaker Theater's Revival Dinner-Theater from the POV of a Host Restaurant
October 30, 2012
Gino's Fine Italian Food, owned by the Bozzo family of Cosenza, Italy, has served Salinas (primarily) Southern and "California" Italian fare—like their proprietary spice blend of blackened chicken, and warm strawberry soup with creme fraiche—for 37 years, winning the Weekly's 2012 Reader's Poll for Best Restaurant in Salinas.
On Oct. 24, they were the first restaurant to serve up the second iteration of Saltshaker Theater's 2012 run of murder-mystery play Murder Me Always. All Saints Episcopal Church was the first venue to offer their space for the wacky dinner theater offering, in service to Marina's Epiphany Lutheran & Episcopal Church and its broad range of social services. The atmosphere for that shindig was convivial, staffed as it was with young people from CSUMB's LGBT Out & About Club, led by benevolent priests and attended by parishioners and supporters. So the room was primed with good will. But what of a pure cash exchange dinner-theater experience?
Maria Lavorato, co-owner of Gino's, maybe not surprisingly, reported that their night to host the venue-hopping theater troupe was all-around entertaining. Set on their patio, with family style seating for the 40 attendees, the courses were served in between acts of the play.
"At the first intermission, [we served] pasta," she said. "Second intermission, everything else. When play was over, we served dessert and coffee."
She reported that the audience was made up primarily of regulars—about 40 of them, at $60 per, all inclusive—which suggested that the crowd was, itself, already groomed to go to Gino's, with the added incentive of a show to accompany their meal.
"We sold our own tickets to the people we know. It's easy to sell to regulars."
Lavorato said that there was much laughing and that the pace was "energetic." Was she able to guess who the murder was?
"I was too busy making sure my guests were having a good time to guess the murder," she said. "[Saltshaker] did a good job. It's not easy to please me and they did. We sold out."
She said they would host the dinner-theater format again, though not until next year as they're heading into their busy season. But audiences who want to experience the silly antics and self-effacing wisecracks of this throwback entertainment may be able to get in on the final installments: Oct. 30 at Grower's Pub Steakhouse (754-1488), or the Rotary Club of Carmel Valley's Rancho Canada performance on Nov. 1. Call each for reservations; seats for the slapstick stuff have been selling out regularly.