A delicious night of theater at the Irondale Center

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This isn’t your grandparents’ dinner theater!

It’s “Conni’s Avant Garde Restaurant,” where a nihilist lounge singer, tap-dancing beauty queen and other wayward souls serve a five-course meal to the tunes of Styx, Bowie and Aerosmith.

The supper club-cum-spectacle begins on Sept. 15 at Fort Greene’s Irondale Center, where 80 guests will polish off a home-cooked meal as the story unfolds around aging diva Muffin Character Hanshake, who gets pregnant to stay relevant.

“We appeal to theater people and also the people who dread going,” said Peter Lettre, who plays a withering former child star. “They read the description and can’t think of anything they’d rather do less. We always end up wining them over.”

Other oddballs — including a no-nonsense lunch lady, Southern barkeep and acrobat — weave into the extreme dramaturgy, too.

“You may or may not see Muffin conceive her baby, you may see a ballet that involves deer hunting,” said Lettre. “It’s comfortably participat­ory.”

The participatory part starts even before the curtain rises, as ticketholders must choose a nametag during the pre-show cocktail (“Dick Tater” or “Susan B. Anthony Michael Hall,” anyone?) and play the game show, “Bus That Table.”

Connie Hall plays Sue, the sassy manager of the greasy spoon, but in reality, she sources all the victuals from farms in the Hudson River Valley. Guests will enjoy focaccia with ricotta; cucumber gazpacho; green bean salad; moussaka (meat and meatless!); and a chocolate brownie with blackberry compote.

“The food is not canned and neither are the plots — it’s all homemade story,” Hall said.

About a dozen New York actors came up with “Conni’s” during a summer performance of “As You Like It” in Maine. Back then, they saw an abandoned diner called Conni’s Restaurant and dreamed of turning it into an offbeat cafeteria — though all they bought was the rusty sign.

What started as a one-off show in Bushwick is now a kooky East Coast sideshow in its fifth year. They performed in Cleveland and Cambridge last year and will return to the former in December.

And Ohio must love “Conni’s,” if one critic is any indication.

“It is safe to presume that you’ve never before experienced anything like ‘Conni’s,’ ” said Tony Brown of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “It is a drunken (or at least buzzed) and debauched bacchanalia … Give yourself over to absolute pleasure.”

Talk about hot in Cleveland.

Conni’s Avant Garde Restaurant at the Irondale Center [85 S. Oxford St. near Lafayette Avenue in Fort Greene, (718) 488-9233], Sept. 15-25, 7 pm. Tickets, $40-$60. For info, visit

Posted 12:10 am, September 12, 2011
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