January 16, 2008 | Sarasota, FL
By HEIDI KURPIELA
To Larry Barrett, cooking is an extension of theater. Food is a prop. The kitchen is a stage, and the people seated at your table are an audience.
The philosophy explains a lot about the former soap-opera actor�s current vocation � owner and chef of Simply Gourmet, a Sarasota catering business with a flair for drama.
In the 1980s, Barrett appeared on several daytime soap operas, including �All My Children,� �Another World� and �Days of Our Lives.� Although he claims to have �bailed on acting,� he still dabbles in live theater.
He�s an entertainer at heart, which explains why he�s hung a red velvet curtain in his catering shop.
�It�s all about truthfulness,� Barrett says. �With acting and cooking, you should never have to question what�s real.�
His latest project, �Nick Danger: Third Eye,� is taking truthfulness to a whole new level.
Barrett describes the production as a play within a play.
A parody of a classic 1940s radio detective program, �Nick Danger� is the brainchild of Firesign Theatre, a comedy troupe that got its start on Los Angeles radio in the 1960s.
The group, which still performs today, has released several comedy albums centered on the misadventures of this protagonist. For years, Barrett, 57, has been itching to perform the 1969 LP, �How Can You Be in Two Places at Once When You�re Not Anywhere at All?�
�In terms of comedy, it�s a work of genius,� he says of the album. �It�s something you rarely listen to by yourself. For me, it meant sitting around with a group of people, laughing our butts off listening to this album � an actual record. Remember those?�
So, Barrett contacted Firesign member David Ossman to see if the troupe would be willing to let a small Sarasota cast perform the show.
Ossman was thrilled with the idea. No one had ever presented the sketch without the troupe before.
Two days later, Barrett received the script in the mail with full artistic license to make changes. Ossman even gave his blessing to take the show on the road.
In October, he put out a casting call, and the turnout took him by surprise.
�They crawled out of the woodwork to audition,� he says. �There are so many people who loved Firesign Theatre. There�s a vintage quality to it that I hope will appeal to a more � how do I put it? �Mature audience.��
IF YOU GO
�Nick Danger: Third Eye� runs now through March 1, at the Powel Crosley Estate. Performances are scheduled for 7 p.m. Feb. 9, Feb. 15, Feb. 16, Feb. 22, Feb. 23, Feb. 29 and March 1. The cast includes Keith Chrismon, Joelle Davis, Marty Fugate and John Forsyth. The show includes a dinner with a menu inspired by Delmonico�s, the country�s first fine-dining restaurant, which opened in 1837 in New York City. Tickets are $45. For more information, call 225-9122.
DID YOU KNOW?
Larry Barrett loves to re-create presidential dinners. A voracious researcher, he has spent hours mastering the menus of former White House chefs so that he can serve similar meals at presidential-themed dinners. His Kennedy dinners have become a hit at private parties up and down the Gulf Coast. According to Barrett, JFK�s beloved New England clam chowder puts Bill Clinton�s onion rings and George W. Bush�s grilled cheese sandwich to shame.