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.’
Recently on the boards we experienced a multi splendored plethora of talent in the Solo Play Festival running through April 12th, 2015. Here the Kitchen Theater gets to showcase individual author/actors and their solo works. These are rare treats indeed. It is challenging for venues to fund or draw audiences enough to run such deserved works, so leave it to the KTC to creatively package a run exploring four different artists over three weeks of performances. Solo performance for me a like a great novel. The solo piece tells a narrative story with (usually) multiple characters and it takes me from one place to another – sometimes through the characters’ evolving life stages, sometimes through the development of ideas and events, and occasionally it blows preconceived notions out of the water through its development. At the time of this writing, I have seen two of the festival pieces as of now and cannot wait for another evening of solo work – storytelling at its best!
First up was Miami Confessions written and performed by Lorraine Rodriguez-Reyes, which offered the opportunity to meet a number of people in Lorraine’s life – people who are real to her and now to us, the audience, most of whom I felt I have already met in my life. These Latina women felt familiar to me; perhaps because they resembled real people I have truly met, but more than likely because of Lorraine’s endearing portrayal of characters who have actually meant something along her life’s journey and in some cases contributed to her personal growth. Her Hispanic inflections, perfect Bronx -meets -Miami accents, are entertaining in their own right and her storytelling is personal, raw and endearing. The women we meet – Sara, Natalia, Evita, Dona Carmen, and Lorraine herself – deliver hope and fear surrounding motherhood, rape, dating, advising, maternity, and trying to conceive with honesty and humor.
Directed by Susan G. Reid, the piece was also enhanced beautifully with the music of guitarist/vocalist Doug Robinson providing a sound track that moved us through the scenes with clarity of intent and matching humor.
Darian Dauchan’s Black Sheep does the opposite with its characters – busts the stereo type to smithereens! His array of characters are created to challenge the natural profiling of black men (and one woman): he delivers to us full exposures of the Actor, the Republican, the DJ, two homosexual “types” – the Diva and the Queen, the Fan, the Cop, the Punk, the Bride, and the Muslim. Each of these surprises us with a non-typical side to a personality that we have come to subconsciously dress and label with certain expectation ; such as the DJ who listens to Bach. Besides taking us by surprise, they are believable, moving, and hilarious. We leave our seats wanting to know them more.
This work was created from Dauchan’s passion and research, and the support of an Individual Artist Grant from the New York State Council on the Arts through the Kitchen Theater Company. Ably directed by Nicole A. Watson, the piece also features the filmmaking of Desha Dauchan which brilliantly sets the scene and character with an overlapping film backdrop of the character that Dauchan changes into onstage and seamlessly steps into as the film fades away and character remains live before us. The effect adds to the realness of the moment and the character. Scenic design by Tyler M. Perry and lighting design Andrew Scharwath contribute to the overall magic.
There was an anticipated build-up to the festival’s last week (April 8-12) of double featured works by two artists, Ryan Hope Travis and Michelle Courtney Berry.
Ryan is a returning artist to the Kitchen stage and recently created and directed two works based on the 50th Anniversary of the march from Selma to Montgomery that premiered at Syracuse, NY – Steady and Legend. Berry, beloved performer, playwright, and second Poet Laureate of Tompkins County, brought her latest Mother Land to share the evening with Travis. Berry’s credits are too numerous to list here, but her draw for Ithaca audiences is contagious. If you were in town for any of these, you are probably grateful.
In case you were not able to experience the Solo Play Festival, despair not. Right on its heels – opening THIS WEEK – comes the return of Swimming in the Shallows by Adam Bock from April 29 through May 17th. There is always something cooking in the Kitchen – all the more reason to come to Ithaca!
The Kitchen Theater experience is one of Ithaca’s crowning jewels –affordable, cutting edge Theater that rivals anything seen in the large cities. We like it this way. Run, don’t walk, to the Kitchen!
The Kitchen is located at 417 W. Martin Luther King, Jr. Street in Ithaca
(607) 273-4497 or www.kitchentheatre.org.