Kitchen Theatre’s production: “What I Thought I Knew.” Written & performed by Alice Eve Cohen. June 12 – 30, 2013. For information & tickets: (607) 273 4497 kitchentheatre.org
Get Thee to the Kitchen!
Ithaca has its own little Off Broadway theatre, the intimate space at the Kitchen Theatre, now in its 22nd season. The quality matches anything, anywhere: one certainly imagines they are in the theater district of New York when sitting in the ‘Kitchen.’
The last play of the season leaves you gasping, chuckling, and pondering for months to come. “What I Thought I Knew” is a solo piece evolved from a book – a memoire – by Alice Eve Cohen. It is a story so personal and so bizarre that it feels almost painful to witness, even while your thumb is glued to the remote and you continue to watch – paralyzed, spellbound – as it unfolds.
You leave the theater and days pass but this story does not fade with the passing time. It haunts and teases you towards the awareness that Cohen’s story, while bizarre in its moment, is real and actual commentary – a true documentary of our broken health care system and the nation’s dramatic controversy over reproductive rights and women’s health. Cohen herself once eerily described the work as “life imitating art imitating life”. The sentiment is appropriate to me; I continue to reflect on the hot button issues the author/actress lived and worked through day by day and hour by hour.
There are some forty characters in the piece, all played by – Alice Eve Cohen! Her ability to portray each from a place of authenticity and clear objective provides brilliant perception into the contrasting truths of the characters that must work through the dramas and arrive at a place where he/she can live with his or her choices. There is no shortage of humor either, especially with the personalities of the many health care professionals who weigh in on this particular journey.
Cohen shifts and slides among them all on a white square floor, literally framed by a white ceiling border (frame). Set design is by Tyler M. Perry. She flows between doctors’ offices, hospitals, and personal space, just as she herself moves through a litany of agonizing choices that change constantly as information arrives and evolves.
This journey is real and though I have used the word ‘bizarre’, I feel it would have felt more so a decade ago when it took place. Today, I’m not so sure. The world is becoming an ever more confusing place, and I shudder to think how this journey would play out today or a decade from now. Stuff to ponder, that much is clear. I am telling all my friends and acquaintances to run – don’t walk – to the Kitchen Theater before it closes for the summer on June 30th.
Alice Eve Cohen is a national touring author and playwright. She has written for Nickolodeon, the Children’s Television Workshop, and CBS. The memoire ‘What I Think I Knew’ won the Elle’s Lettres 2009 Grand Prix and was selected as a Best Book by Oprah Magazine. Anne Lamont called it her favorite book of 2009. It is available through most book vendors. She teaches a course in solo theater at the New School in New York City.
Longtime friend and colleague Rachel Lampert, Artistic Director of the Kitchen Theater, restaged the play for the Kitchen’s performance space. The play was originally directed by Elizabeth Margid. Sound design is by Eric Nightingale and stage manager is Jennifer Schilansky. Pre-show talks have been a feature for the run, and the next one is June 27th. Talk back night is set for on June 28th.
Photo credits: Ed Dittenhoefer