Arts, On Campus

BC Contemporary Theatre Creates a Post-Apocalyptic Culinary World with Comedy Play ‘Beat Bobby Flay’

A fast cut compilation of clips from the TV culinary competition show Beat Bobby Flay projected in the Vanderslice Cabaret Room. Each clip had the same end result—a winning Bobby Flay. 

Boston College Contemporary Theatre put on evening performances of E.J. Meehan’s play Beat Bobby Flay from Feb. 16 to 18 in the Vanderslice Cabaret Room. Tyler Dean, MCAS ’25, directed the play which starred members of the student theatre group.

In a drab bunker’s living room, set in a fallout world, a mother and daughter spend their quarantined weeks watching Beat Bobby Flay episodes. In the dystopian world, Flay—an Iron Chef—is the sole person that prevails from each of his cooking competitions, as he kills off his rivals once they’ve lost to his culinary prowess.

The audience is dropped into this world as the mother, Melissa (Chloe Frabotta, MCAS ’24), is determined to go on the show and put an end to his winning streak. 

In this absurdist comedy, surprising the audience is its currency. Dynamic and archetypal characters enter and exit the stage, weaving through the audience and using stage plants in the seats to startle viewers. 

Beat Bobby Flay’s central conflict arises when Melissa tells her daughter Bianca (Chase Kerman, MCAS ’26) that she had signed a contract to go on the show against her wishes. Even as an inexperienced competitor, Melissa determinately begins TV interviews in preparation to defeat Flay. She is encouraged by the main antagonist and competition producer (Ryan Kruft, CSOM ’23).

BC Contemporary Theatre used sound effects at opportune moments to garner a laugh from the audience and modulated stage lights to set a tone that contrasted scenes from one another. 

The production worked within the physical limitations of the play. Since set props couldn’t be changed, the acting and ambience of the stage distinguished between the mother and daughter’s living room, the atomic wasteland outside, and the set of the Beat Bobby Flay show.  

The absurd and strange transitions between scenes, equipped with loud one-liners and ironic plot twists, left some audience members chuckling and others squinting with mouths agape. 

Whereas Melissa is solely set on taking down Chef Bobby Flay, her daughter Bianca has her sights on finding her estranged father, all while corralling a disorderly chef Ina Garten (Courtney Driscoll, LSEHD ’26) as she finds her signature ingredient. 

Set with recurring jokes about the national ranking of food television programs, an abundance of word puns—such as the difference between wear, where, and ware—and the troubling idea of a boy trapped working in a basement furnace, the play’s comedy relies on surprising the audience in its utter farcical imagination. Characters routinely repeat themselves and burst into unsettling monologues, eliciting a combination of groans and laughter from the audience. 

“I’m thinking about my broth and my perfect crust, and my Bianca, and I’m so nervous,” Melissa said. “I start chewing at my lip, not like actually gnawing, but there’s this piece of giant skin that I like ripping off with my teeth and swallowing. … I finally pull it off with my teeth and swallow it, and it tastes like how it usually tastes, except it’s warm and I feel this warm rush of iron and I keep chewing.” 

The play parses out several side storylines, with all roads that lead back to the central mission to defeat Bobby Flay. Through the primary perspective of Bianca, she encounters many cooking-world cameos, such as those of chefs Alex Guarnaschelli (Alison MacDonald, MCAS ’24) and Cat Cora (Brooke Flanders, LSEHD ’23). These characters give her advice on how to cope with the hardships she faces in the apocalyptic world and attempt to steer her future. 

Beat Bobby Flay cleverly pokes fun at the overuse of dystopian plot settings in media and the reality that TV competitions are often scripted, and the pretentiousness of the culinary world. The play is often self-referential toward play writing itself, adding in cliche character lines and hyperbolizing personality traits. Scenes that broach serious and emotional topics are quickly cut with jokes at quick rates per minute. 

Nonetheless, in its rather short runtime of 60 minutes, Beat Bobby Flay tackles familial conflicts, exhausted miscommunication, the search for a better life, and the expense of fame and fortune. 

“You don’t know anything that you’re talking about, Bianca,” Melissa said. “It’s not like I abandoned you to go frolicking around the wasteland like your father. I got you what you wanted, I cared for you, and I took a risk to try to get you a better life.” 

Beat Bobby Flay’s cast hammered the satirical nature of the plot by fully committing to their characters, from speech patterns to costume design, and never breaking character even at the most ridiculous moments in the play. 

In a world where everything has nearly gone extinct, the play reveals the continued importance of entertainment in human society. 

“We are now the No. 1 rated television program, and that’s thanks in part to the atomic nightmare death event,” the voice of Bobby Flay (Ryan Kitz, MCAS ’23) said. “So, maybe it wasn’t all bad. Fundamentally, I guess, it’s about eliminating loneliness—that’s what entertainment does.” 

February 22, 2023