Foregoing dinner at a dinner theater is a mistake. Especially when the dinner is made by Abraham Risho from Missoula's Silk Road artisan restaurant. This week's Salep & Silk, a dinner theater collaboration at the Crystal Theatre between the Montana Actors' Theatre (MAT) and The Silk Road, incorporated menus from the East and West (guests got to choose which road to take) into the drama of the night. It included aromatic dishes like Turpan oasis stir-fried lamb inspired by food from China (East), and grilled snapper with walnut-coriander dressing inspired by southern Turkey (West). And it ended with Salep orchid-infused ice cream.
All salivating aside, the play itself is pretty rich. Local writer Josh Wagner is best known for his work on comic book series Fiction Clemens, a 2009 short film called Adam Funn and his recent novel Deadwind Sea. Salep & Silk is his debut play, and it showcases Wagner's natural storytelling talents. The story is about two traders traveling along the Silk Road, one from the East and one from the West, who meet up with eachother once a year to eat food together and philosophize. It spans centuries, too, which gives it an epic feeling.
Wagner has an ear for engaging dialog and a knack for creating his own folklore based on historical facts with sprinkles of pop culture, strange creatures and stories within stories. I would get thrown under a Subaru if I compared Wagner to Shakespeare, but all I'm suggesting is that, in Missoula, Wagner's a writer who fits that role: creating stage magic for the masses—there were "oohs!" and "aahs!," gasps and chuckles galore, plus crying, during a recent performance—and he has that nuanced sensibility for weaving low-brow humor with very original wit. Keep him on your radar.
In the meantime, check out this selection from Salep & Silk:
(Regulator points to someone and shushes them)
(as Regulator continues W ENTERS stage West. He stares at Regulator with curiosity.)
That's better. Now, we’ve had several complaints regarding your performance so let’s all try to make this next act go over a bit smoother. I’ve put a list together of do's and don'ts to keep in mind. Ahem. Do not break your glasses against he skulls of your companions (you know who you are). Do not choke on or gargle with your beverages, nor cause others to likewise choke on or gargle with theirs. Do not scream at the top of your lungs when something horrible happens. Come on, people; try to remember that this is all make-believe.