This murder mystery is cruelty free!
A long-time devotee of the Park Slope Food Co-op has written a new musical who-done-it set somewhere between the locally sourced kale section and the organic quinoa aisle of Brooklyn’s most left-leaning grocery store. And in the famously progressive produce haven — where members feud over the ethical purity of just about every item on the shelf — everyone is a suspect, according to the author.
“There’s so much tension in the co-op that the outsider investigating the murder, Det. Dick Johnson of the 78th Precinct, feels overwhelmed,” said Windsor Terrace resident Gersh Kuntzman, a former editor of this very paper, who co-wrote the production with songwriter Marc Dinkin. “There are so many obvious suspects.”
“Murder at the Food Co-op” — opening Aug. 13 at the New York International Fringe Festival — is based on Kuntzman’s own experiences as a two-decade member-owner of the socialist answer to Costco, where subscribers work two hours and 45 minutes every month in exchange for access to the store’s cheap fare.
The play centers around the untimely death of the market’s fictional founder Doris “Chiang Kai” Shenkman — whose body is found inside the co-op’s yak-manure-powered freezer — while affectionately sending up the Union Street commune of commerce, where produce and politics are inextricably intertwined.
Kuntzman said he was inspired to pen the play by some members’ legendary attempt to ban Israeli products from the store and, to a greater extent, the notoriously bureaucratic co-op’s response — to hold a vote on whether or not to vote on the ban.
“We were debating over whether to have a debate essentially,” said the playwright. “If you’re an outsider it seems ridiculous, but as a member it makes perfect sense.”
Longtime readers will be familiar with Kuntzman’s bawdy sense of humor — during his time at this and other local papers, he documented himself posing nude for artists, using a caffeine suppository, and making a PG porno about a Dumbo condominium — and the self proclaimed “tabloid legend” says the musical is chock full of raunchy scenes.
“There’s an enormous amount of hot and steamy action — I believe at some point all the characters have or are about to have sex in the freezer,” said Kuntzman. “It’s fantastic!”
Audience members should keep an ear out for such sure-to-be-hit tunes such as “In the Freezer,” a love song between a Jewish woman and Palestinian man who keep their controversial relationship hidden in the co-op’s meat locker, and the tragic “I’ll Make a Liberal Socialist Whack Job Out of You Yet” — sung by the editor of the co-op’s paper the Weekly Composter, who finds herself torn between blossoming feelings for the Archie Bunker-like Det. Johnson and her opposition to his conservative political views.
“It’s going to break your heart,” Kuntzman said.
Kuntzman won an award for his 2005 Fringe production “SUV: The Musical” — a satirical look at America’s love of huge, gas-guzzling vehicles that he also co-wrote with Dinkin. But for his latest foray into musical theater, he is mostly hoping that his work on the play will count towards his work obligations to the co-op.
“I think that ‘Murder at the Co-op’ should get me at least two free shifts,” he said. “It’s ultimately a great recruiting tool.”
“Murder at the Park Slope Food Co-op” at the Flamboyan Theater [107 Suffolk St. between Rivington and Delancey streets in distant Manhattan]. Aug. 13–25. $18. Tickets here.