Strange Invitation: Vicky and Lysander’s Storefront Dinner Party


Booze? Check. (If you BYO’ed.)
Soul food? Check. (The fried chicken is delicious.)
Entertainment? Check. (This is where it gets interesting…)

“Welcome to our home,” says redheaded Vicky, inviting people into a Norfolk Street storefront, her uppity voice complementing her sequined dress. She’s ushering guests into the event she co-hosts, Vicky and Lysander’s Dinner Party, an audience-participation performance run by the organization Grand Opening.

Vicky and Lysander–her supposed husband, who makes Ricky Martin look straight as an arrow–host 12 guests twice a night from Wednesdays through Sundays in the Lower East Side space, which is done up as a dining-room decorated with antiques. Actors Shannon Walker and Damon Cardasis play the oddball married hosts, who pretend they live in the room and chat you up like regular dinner-party hosts might–if regular dinner-party hosts openly discussed their sex lives and playfully insulted their guests. Dinner-goers, who pay $40 a piece, choose their place from the mismatched seats at a long wooden table, then the off-kilter meal begins.

A night at Vicky and Lysander’s is more about the company than the ample food, which includes crispy fried chicken, gooey mac-and-cheese, and plain collard greens (served in Tupperware) from Mama’s Kitchen, plus cupcakes with plenty of icing from Sugar Sweet Sunshine. On a recent night, the table of visitors included folks with careers in law, music, finance, film, and journalism, all of whom seemed to enjoy the faux dinner party shtick.

“You guys just be careful with the stemware, if you don’t mind. It’s vaary expensive,” Vicky warned as people poured their BYOB offerings into chintzy plastic cups. Jugs of water, disposable plates, and paper napkins adorn the table, which looks like a widened gangplank. The tablescape would offend Sandra Lee, but it doesn’t stop Vicky from dancing on top of it all as she shows off her moves like an attention-starved teen. The performance is mostly improv, which means that besides chicken and cupcakes, you never really know what’s in store.

The unlikely duo, who have played host to over 500 guests since the event’s March 5 inception, can sense discomfort, and they prod accordingly, with jabs about sex, race, politics, religion–anything, really. It’s probably not the best choice for a first date, but if you can handle the often inappropriate but menacingly funny taunts, it’s a great time.