Saturday, December 14, 2019

"The Great Strike Theater Improvised Bake Off" at Strike Theater

#TCTheater friends, I think I have a new favorite holiday* comedy tradition. Cooking and baking shows are hugely popular; in particular, people love The Great British Baking Show almost to a point of obsession. The Great Strike Theater Improvised Bake-Off plays on all of that to bring us a truly delightful, hilarious, and fabulous-smelling show. Not only do they pay loving homage to all of the delightful quirks of these shows (the tent! the showstopper! the awkward/funny host banter!), but there is actual baking happening on stage with a finished product that the judges actually eat. And it's all improvised! Well except for the baking, hopefully they have a recipe they're following. This installment features two rounds of semi-finals (one of which I attended), and the winner of each compete tonight (Saturday) in the finals.

The Bake Off is hosted by Nimsy and Pippa (aka Rita Boersma and Shanan Custer, a comedy/improv dream team). Nimsy can't resist tasting anything and everything (she was gnawing on a purple sweet potato throughout the show), and Pippa is just surprised and delighted by everything she sees. They're joined by cookbook author (her latest book is titled Baking through a Divorce) and baking expert Liza, who offers lots of technical tips on things. Most of the show is the three of them riffing on the baking show concept and generally being hilarious. And British.

Each Bake Off features two contestants. I attended Pie Week in the tent. An artist named & (who doesn't speak, and is accompanied by interpreter M Dash) made something called an "existential pie-cis" which was half cheesecake and half caramel apple pie. She competed against Michael, who chose to go with a savory pie (because there's no time to chill a sweet one) - sweet potatoes and leeks in a pastry make of pesto, pumpkin seeds, and Parmesan. The baking began sometime before the show started; when we arrived things were already in full swing, with ingredients spread out over the two baking stations. During the show, the bakers completed preparations and put their pies in the toaster overs, and by Act II we could smell all sorts of wonderful smells.

The bakers also brought in a signature bake, a gingerbread creation, that the judges tasted and critiqued. The judges also had a chance to talk each baker's family member from the audience. But it all came down to the showstopper, which the judges ate warm right out of the oven! While the judges conferred, the bakers said their tearful goodbyes in a touching moment. The winner was announced, and on we go to the finale!

I recently admitted my fascination with watching people eat on stage. Watching people cook, AND eat what they've cooked, is even better. The Great Strike Theater Improvised Bake Off (created and directed by Mike Fotis and Shea Roberts Gyllen) is a very clever idea, one that is endlessly entertaining, especially for those of us who watch and love all of those baking shows. The hosts are truly delightful, and the bakers very serious about their baking. Part actual baking competition, part spoof of a venerable franchise, part improvised hilarity, and all fun.

The finale of this installment of The Great Strike Theater Improvised Bake Off happens TONIGHT at Strike Theater, your Northeast home for sketch comedy, improv, and storytelling. Follow them on Facebook and watch their website for the next installment, and to see their full scheduled of shows and classes.

*Click here to read about all of the holiday shows I've seen this year.