My Dinner With Pirates

(Illustration by Ronald Kurniawan)

Obviously, attending the Pirate’s Dinner Adventure in Buena Park — a pirate-themed dinner theater — is a dating “do.” The name alone. Really. A name like “Pirate’s Dinner Adventure” is a date in itself, an event. Consider it this way: If your date is a disaster, you will always be able to impress friends and loved ones by saying, “I had the worst date of my life at Pirate’s Dinner Adventure.”

What is the Pirate’s Dinner Adventure? I guess you could think of it as a pirate version of Medieval Times. It’s on the Surreality Strip out there in Buena Park along with Medieval Times, the Movieland Wax Museum, Knott’s Berry Farm, etc. It is held indoors, in a theater-in-the-round setting, with a boatlike stage (the “pirate ship”) set into a moatlike thing (the “ocean”). The cast involves pirates of various “nationalities,” a pirate captain, a fake French narrator lackey and several females wearing theatrical makeup way too intense for anyone’s good. (The constant flashing of the nether regions by the acrobatic one was really weird too, although no one else seemed to think so.) The audience sits around all four sides of the stage; each section roots for a different pirate team with different colored clothes. We were assigned the red pirate. Warning: There is singing — lots of singing. Group singing, and individual singing. And those terrible loud theater guns that give me a heart attack.

Suffice it to say, Pirate’s Dinner Adventure is a theatrical form so lowbrow, it exists somewhere beneath suburban dinner theater on the cultural food chain.

But it will teach you a lot about your companion. In fact, this show is virtually a litmus test for a possible mate. That’s because it represents a lot of the same aesthetic and psychic challenges of American daily life. It’s kind of junky and overpriced and very loud; it’s overwrought and underthought and, in a weird way, overrehearsed. But if your companion can locate and appreciate the good in this show, you may have found yourself a keeper, for he or she will be able to locate the charming and good in almost any situation.

And there is something charming and compelling about Pirate’s Dinner Adventure in Buena Park. It is very much a Simpsons episode come to life, more than any experience I’ve had. I mean, you’re eating chicken and steak (I do not recommend the seafood option, alas — what was I thinking?) while watching some “pirates” on a “boat” who are wearing Madonna headset mikes that keep going all fuzzy when they get too close to their mouths. Can you say awesome?

The whole thing demands such an elaborate suspension of disbelief, it almost makes you feel like a child, in a good way. For example, you must accept the plausibility of a pair of pirate lovers (boy-girl) who perform a circuslike acrobatic duet while suspended midair over the deck of the ship. Things of this nature. There’s a trampoline on the boat, and a balance-beam plank thing, and the pirates compete on these devices for our favor. The littlest nimble pirate certainly has the best trampoline moves, but when the fat-guy pirate strikes a breakdancing pose midair — reclining on his side, head resting on his hand — he cannot be denied.

The plot is impossible to track, not only because of the headset mike issue, but because the script is at once too complicated and too boring to follow. But that’s okay, because you get the vague sense of what’s happening — some kind of mutiny situation not dissimilar to what goes on in Pirates of the Caribbean movies.

Unfortunately, my trip to the Pirate’s Dinner Theater was halfway ruined by a trip to the restroom midshow. To get to the restrooms, you have to walk about a half mile, so you best be prepared to miss quite a bit of action. When I returned to my seat, my companion had a rather impressed flush to his face, and I must admit, the vibe in the theater as a whole was different. The place felt electric. My date whispered, eyes fixed on the stage, that I had just missed something truly impressive. He was not joking.

Apparently, in the middle of the show, there is a fight scene so well choreographed and Jackie Chan-like — so truly dangerous seeming — that all else is forgiven.

I would not know this because I was in the bathroom. And I ordered the seafood. And I forgot my i.d., ?so I couldn’t even drink the beer ?that comes with the meal. That’s okay. I still had a great time. To be honest, though, I could have used a few more “arrrs.” Yeah, at least four more “arrrs.” Maybe an extra “scurvy” or two.

Pirate’s Dinner Adventure 7600 Beach Blvd., Buena Park, (866) 439-2469 or


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