For a show entitled Cookin’, the relative paucity of onstage food preparation qualifies as an unforgiveable abnegation of responsibility, the equivalent of hosting an Iron Chef party and then ordering out. Perhaps this kitchen-set dance and percussion revue should have been called Choppin’ since its main preoccupation is employing all species of cutlery to produce a wall-to-wall metallic beat. Or maybe Grinnin’ since its four charismatic leads, who play comically put-upon sous-chefs at a fancy Korean restaurant, seem incapable of sporting anything less than an enthusiastic mug. The more accurate titles, however, would be Borin’ (if one is charitable) and Annoyin’ (if one is honest) because the harder this plotless spectacle works to be likeable––and boy, does it work hard––the lower it sinks into theme-park grade entertainment that even the most easy-to-please tourists will find embarrassingly uninspired.
With each of its chef performers armed to the teeth with culinary utensils, Cookin’ combines Korean Samulnori, a traditional musical form involving four percussion performers, with cartoonish physical slapstick to produce a predictable lineup of Stomp-meets-Kodo banging, plate juggling, martial arts, and acrobatics. The near complete absence of dialogue makes this show eminently exportable (20 countries in over five years), but it also justifies a deluge of insufferably cheesy sound effects and highly-suspect ching-chong facial expressions. All this sweaty flailing produces not a single entrée, though the cast demands our applause anyway and then proceeds to fling brightly colored plastic balls at us. Those who bolt early will have their sanity but will have missed some of the hotter cast members stripping down to their undies, a bizarrely undermotivated but not unwelcome sight that provoked this viewer’s first and only “Yummy” of the evening.