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The Independent: The starving artist

January 26, 2012
By Cherise Fantus

He's the most interesting man in the Café du Grand Boeuf. And, well, he's the only patron.

An Empty Plate in the Café du Grand Boeuf, presented by the Star Bar Players, follows the story of Victor, an American millionaire living in Paris in 1961. He owns the café, which he keeps fully staffed to serve only himself and his mistress.

As a journalist who reveres Ernest Hemingway's work, Victor realizes he isn't where he wants to be. In fact, he realizes that "he's never going to rise to the level of life that Hemingway may have lived," says Michael Miller, who plays Victor.

So he decides to end his life by starving himself in the restaurant.

"We just live for his stories, and him — our purpose is him," says Sarah Shaver, speaking for her character, Mimi, the café's sommelier. "So him deciding to kill himself by starving himself to death is just sacrilege!"

Even though the consequences are straightforward, things are hardly simple. Shaver says the employees' stories are told in the midst of Victor's, which come in a series of monologues. And within the silences, indications of relationships emerge.

"For a show that seems like it's just a bunch of people standing around listening to his stories," says director Elizabeth Kahn-Lanning, "it's remarkably complicated."

"It's a really tough role," offers Miller, a Coloradan who was nominated for a 2011 Denver Post Ovation Award for excellence in Colorado theater. He explains that Victor's ruminations and memories soon reflect serious flaws. "Then he goes really deep inside, and all this shit happens within two sentences."

"He ultimately finds out that, other than money, which is pretty disposable, he really doesn't have anything," Miller continues. "And when he finally comes to that realization, then he starts to live. Unfortunately ...

"And that's the teaser."