The word “cheesy” isn’t the most flattering description; it’s pretty much synonymous with bad pick-up lines, corny jokes and about the entire dialogue uttered between Renee Zellweger and Tom Cruise in the movie “Jerry Maguire.”
Despite that connotation, local playwright Tore Ingersoll-Thorp intentionally set out to deliver a super-sized helping of the stuff in his latest work, “Deep Fried Cheese.”
The aptly titled production from Sleepwalkers Theatre — a new company for budding playwrights that was founded by Ingersoll-Thorp and pals Damian Kalish and John Rosenberg — examines what it means to become an adult while looking at the world of competitive eating.
The comedy, which opens tonight and runs through Aug. 18 at the Climate Theatre in San Francisco, revolves around up-and-coming professional eater Peter, played by Kalish. Peter’s promising future in the competitive eating circuit is thrown into chaos when his girlfriend decides to go vegan because of a personal morality crisis. Next to meat, Peter loves nothing more than his main squeeze, so he’s faced with quite a predicament.
“John Hughes definitely served as this sort of benchmark for the tone and vibe,” says Ingersoll-Thorp, 28. “I was really caught up on having the characters believe in something and be romantic and sincere about their feelings even if it came off sounding cliché or cheesy.”
Placing the characters against the backdrop of competitive eating was inspired in part by Ingersoll-Thorp’s interest in Joey Chestnut; the San Jose resident is the hot-dog-eating world champ.
“I started off reading this article about Joey Chestnut and was fascinated by him,” says the “Deep Fried Cheese” creator. “He’s like this regular, normal guy who found this exceptional skill that happens to be eating.”
While Ingersoll-Thorp says he wants nothing more than to have folks grab a beer and have a good time at the performance, part of him hopes audiences realize it’s OK to let go and be a little, well, cheesy.
“If anything, I guess I want to get across this idea that it’s OK, and it’s important to say what we mean and not feel bad or apologize for it if it sounds cheesy or too over the top,” he says. “It’s a hard thing to do, but I don’t think we tell each other how we feel enough and we lose out when we don’t say what we really mean.”
Deep Fried Cheese
When: 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday; closes Aug. 18
Where: Climate Theatre, 285 Ninth St., San Francisco
Info: (415) 567-5618, www.sleepwalkerstheatre.com