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Michele Marchetti: Lots to Digest in 'Play by Play' -- All of It Good

by on October 05, 2011 1:00 AM

How’s this for a locally inspired tailgating menu?

Roasted pork and beans with sautéed fall vegetables, corn and chili chicken salad, veggie rolls filled with baba ghanoush spread and marinated vegetables, German potato salad, and vegan- and gluten-free stuffed butternut squash.

This isn’t a football tailgate. It’s a dinner theatre tailgate.

If I’ve lost you, come back. This isn’t your grandmother’s version of the dinner theatre — unless, that is, your grandmother is from central Pennsylvania, appreciates locally inspired delicious food, and has a slightly offbeat sense of humor.

The aforementioned menu was created especially for a new play that recently debuted at the University Club on West College Avenue. “Play-by-Play: A Romantic Comedy for Football Fans (In Six Quarters)” continues with the second quarter on Oct. 17. Each play is unique, picking up where the previous one left off.

This is a family affair, with Andrew Monk cooking the food and his mother, Pam Monk, writing and directing the show. Both names probably sound familiar.

Pam Monk may be best known for her popular annual comedy revue, “Forbidden Valley.” A Penn State writing instructor whose plays have been performed in New York City, she also serves as adviser for Penn State’s humor and satire magazine, "Phroth."

Lucky for us, her son Andrew happens to be a fabulous cook. Andrew is the owner of the Sustainable Kitchen food truck that’s turned the Saturday North Atherton Farmer’s Market and the Tuesday Boalsburg Farmer’s Market into two of the best “restaurants” in State College. Chef Monk uses local, fresh ingredients from area farmers, proving that simple meals (think BLTs, burgers, roasted chicken, and egg sandwiches) can be the most inspiring.

(The day of the earthquake, my daughter and I stopped by the Sustainable Kitchen food truck. While everyone around me was texting “Did you feel it?” I was taking pictures of Chef Monk’s BLT and sending them to my husband. My daughter didn’t eat her grilled cheese, so I unabashedly ate that, too.)

Chef Monk’s tailgating food pairs well with his mother’s spoof on the relationship between school and sports.

THE PLAY'S PLAY IS THE THING

A play within a play, the interactive show involves the audience and cast in an old-fashioned radio theater. The multigenerational cast of actors includes professors, a teacher, students, a realtor, a former midwife, a WPSU producer and a pair of siblings, among others.

The setting is Universe City, a lively college town that’s home to Confidence United Central University — affectionately known as CUCU by its “rabidly dedicated” students and alums — and the school’s scrappy football team, the Cuckoos. (The mascot is pictured above.)

Universe City happens to be obsessed with our own Blue and White. “They have a stalker relationship with Penn State,” Pam explains.

Can the geeky son of legendary Coach Hiram (HiWay) Waylons and the athletic daughter of CUCU's long-time president, Reilly Smart, possibly find true love? I don’t know, but I’d definitely spend $25 to eat that butternut squash dessert and see whether this match-up ends with a wedding.

“Play by Play” progresses in the form of a sporting event — complete with a pre-game pep rally, tailgating games led by a character with an “expertise in pre-Internet childhood interaction,” a halftime show and a panel of relationship commentators.

If that’s not enough to draw you in, I just learned that the show on Oct. 17 will be a blackout. “Bring your black T-shirt and we’ll supply the duct tape,” read the e-mail from Pam, “because NOTHING says school spirit like duct tape!”

Pam isn’t being snarky; she truly loves Happy Valley. But she says sports is a “big fat target,” and laughing at our relationship with it is just plain fun. Not to mention harmless. As she puts it, “Sports’ feelings won’t get hurt.”

Play by Play is scheduled Oct. 17, Nov. 17, Feb. 17, March 17 and April 17. For more about the play and Pam Monk, check out her website.



Michele Marchetti is a freelance writer and the former managing editor of StateCollege.com. Prior to moving to State College, she spent more than 10 years writing for national magazines. Her work has appeared in a wide variety of publications, including Fortune, Fortune Small Business, Glamour, U.S. News & World Report, Runner's World, Good Housekeeping, Working Mother, Yoga Life and The Philadelphia Inquirer. Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MMStateCollege or contact her at [email protected]
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