Lost Falls’ Lopes Through Weird, Familiar Territory

Photo by Bruce Clayton Tom

As you may have heard, Twin Peaks, the trippy 1990 TV show that launched a million David Lynch obsessives and almost as many trips to Snoqualmie Falls, is getting a Showtime reboot next month. In honor of our imminent return to this cloud-covered, fir-green PNW bizarro world, Café Nordo is remounting Lost Falls (called Somethin’ Burning when it premiered in 2012), their take on a “Lynchian fever dream” in the Cascades.

In a wood-paneled, donut box-filled roadhouse off Highway 2 (fantastic design by Terry Podgorski) Special Agent Eliot Penn (Evan Mosher) investigates a murder. Two, actually: Stan Crew, former owner of the roadhouse, who died in a suspicious fire, and Nordo Lefesczki, the chef who took over the diner and ended up with a knife in his back.  

The suspects: Delores Black (Opal Peachey), Nordo’s ex-wife and a general cuckoo with an imaginary dog; Michael Stern (Ryan Higgins), an oily get-rich-quick-schemer; and Angelica Crew (Ayo Tushinde), estranged daughter of Stan Crew. The trio tried to strike a business deal with Nordo the morning he died, and each remembers the sequence of events a bit differently. Penn’s investigation soon becomes a Clue-style murder mystery, told and re-told from the various players’ points of view.

In between, Penn falls asleep a lot despite his coffee habit (chiefly enabled by the local sheriff, played by Ronnie Hill), and when he does, an inner character comes out to play. Apparently named Rocky Graves (Carol Thompson), Penn’s anthropomorphized id is much darker and more poetic than his generally upbeat persona. “There’s a hole in my heart. Change is everywhere. The rivers, the roads, the people, they are sad, looking back for something that was never there.” A dancing beaver sometimes enters this hazy, repeated dream sequence.

Does it make sense? Sure, sometimes. But whatever, it’s Twin Peaks-inspired, and that show is all about making no sense. Don’t expect a log lady or a giant though; Terry Podgorski’s script is original, riffing on themes and moments from the show.

As each scene wraps up food comes out, and as each course wraps up the music rises—a fantastic band fronted by power chanteur Devin Bannon, with tunes penned by talented Nordo fixture Annastasia Workman—and a jazzy number leads us into the next scene.  

The food, designed as always by executive chef Erin Brindley, who also directs this show, is some of the best in recent Nordo memory. Everything is crafted to look like breakfast (“because nothing is what it seems,” as we are repeatedly reminded): savory oatmeal with poached chicken and parmesan cream, a donut-and-coffee combo that is really mashed potatoes and dipping gravy. Not a dud in the bunch.

As is often the case with Nordo, Lost Falls is too long, and too many meal breaks siphon the dramatic tension—a major problem for a murder mystery. Mosher radiates a cheery, eccentric aura, and not all the actors take their ridiculous roles seriously, which is the only way to pull off a script this absurd.

There’s a sweet spot, a tipping point of engagement that Café Nordo never quite hits for me. It’s like the walking bass line that lilts under much of Lost Falls: a simple, loping framework, lovely on its own but a repetitive cliché if not properly built on. I’m tired of shows that don’t reach beyond moody cleverness. The novelty of spotting the differences between the characters’ retellings can’t offset the tedium of seeing essentially the same scene over and over again. Being stuck in a repeating loop feels very Lynchian, but at the end of the night, who killed Nordo? What was the real business deal the three suspects were trying to pull off? Who cares?