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The Last Supper
The Last Supper: Part Two by Elyse Sommer

To start with the venue. Most people assume that the Schmidt family has moved from Brooklyn to Manhattan. But while you might find the Schmidt children in town for a performance (as they were on the night I attended) and coming out of a back room during the intermission to look over the guests, this is a borrowed apartment turned into a home -- I mean church.

As for the church affiliation -- Mr. Schmidt's ministry comes courtesy of a mail order certificate -- and it's all part of the play in which he cleverly, and with a straight face, deconstructs the biblical story of the loaves and fishes and generally sends up religion. Part of the fun and appeal of this faux religious experience is Schmidt's carefully planned, discombobulated presentation -- complete with an insert in the program (oops, I mean "Today's Missile") announcing that Schmidt's role will be performed by someone else, unexpected phone calls, kitchen disasters and other detours to keep people guessing as to whether this is all a practical joke that will send them out the door sans supper or something other than the announced 4-course dinner.

About the food. Not to worry. The call for the pizzas is part of the illusion of haphazardness. There definitely will be a four course dinner! The first course -- quality wine and beer with good cheeses, crackers and olives -- is served during the intermission when Schmidt is supposedly ordering pizzas (a fellow critic who attended another night told me that two women left at this point because they didn't like pizza and Schmidt couldn't tell them since that would have spoiled his ruse for others). The other three courses consist of a fine green salad, crispy bread from a local bakery, and a tasty lamb stew (vegetarians can have a non-meat dish), more wine, and a gelato and cookie dessert. While the food is excellent, what makes everything uniquely enjoyable is the whole atmosphere of thirty people, most of them strangers, sitting down and getting acquainted with each other and the host. Since the night I was there was a special Thursday performance, the schoolboys who usually help clear the table between courses weren't on hand and, not surprisingly, most of the guests -- critics included -- were happy to chip in. Clearly the congeniality and receptiveness of the guests has a lot to do with the success of each performance. .

Does Schmidt actually do the cooking? Well, he used to, but even while still in Brooklyn, he started paying someone to prepare the stew. Such extra costs and the quality of the wine, cheeses and dinner ingredients notwithstanding, he describes The Last Supper as one of the few shows in New York "that's in the black" despite the discretionary nature of the donations (Except for several mentions of the suggested $50 to $75 there's no push to give more than you think the evening is worth). If people don't all give the suggested amount, that "in the black" would indicate that The Last Supper doesn't attract super cheapskates. -- Elyse Sommer

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