Vermont theatergoers have long buzzed about the historic Weston Playhouse, an acclaimed theater and cabaret whose in-house company consistently attracts professional thespians from around the country. One of the Playhouse's traditions has been serving food from its basement kitchen — even after the space was waterlogged by floodwaters from Tropical Storm Irene. It's a tradition that Weston native and chef Rogan Lechthaler will take over this season.
With his wife, Abby, Lechthaler runs Ludlow's Downtown Grocery, whose housemade salumi and handmade pastas continue to draw crowds five years into the business. At the Playhouse, the Lechthalers plan to offer creative takes on traditional dishes such as steak frites, seared trout with Niçoise salad, shrimp and grits, and heirloom tomato salad built on local, of-the-moment ingredients. "New ingredients are coming into season all the time," Abby Lechthaler says, adding that her husband has strong relationships with local farmers and foragers.
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Rogan and Abby Lechthaler
Abby says to expect summer dishes that won't knock theatergoers into a food coma before the show starts: "You certainly want to be eating light, bright dishes before going to sit and be attentive for a few hours."
In addition to preshow dinners served in the basement from Tuesday through Saturday, the couple will offer late-night snacks (charcuterie boards, lobster croquettes, fanciful popcorns, desserts) and 22-ounce bottled beers and wine carafes during cabaret. The larger-format pours will help cut down on trips to the bar during shows.
Abby says she's excited both to be part of a long-standing community tradition and to bring youthful energy and style into an old space. "I want that palpable energetic vibe, especially when you're going in to see theater. I'm hoping people will come down and be like, Whoa, this is so unexpected," she says.
And, she adds, "We're excited to see if we can get people as excited about the restaurant as they have always been about the theater."
The original print version of this article was headlined "Dinner Theater"