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.’
Happening right now at the Kitchen is a promise of hilarity, an evening that leaves you laughing all night with a vague awareness that you are witnessing brilliance. I cannot decide if the brilliance evolves more from the writing or the direction, but either way, both seem equally matched for this dance of wit. And the cast! Oh, be ready.
Two couples, a single gay guy, and a shark! Sound like a farce? Well, maybe on the surface, but the challenges faced are also deeply moving and authentically conveyed by the talented cast. The relationships are intricately interwoven among lovers and friends and….well, sharks and the characters progress along personal journeys without missing a beat. Humor and poignancy meet via staging that flows and dances with punctuation points, allowing the audience breathing space to stay in the moment with the characters. Again, brilliance is the only word I can summon for this piece.
Obviously Swimming in the Shallows by Adam Bock was and is a favorite, with timeless themes. Returning to this stage after a debut at the Kitchen Theater in the 2002-03 season poses some interesting contrasts. At that time, the themes would have been slightly more cutting edge, especially regarding the decision for a lesbian couple to marry or – at that time -commit. Today the choice of marriage exists in many states. The traditional couple presents an unusual dilemma that today may feel a bit more empathetic than twelve years ago; one of them is suffocating from the overwhelming presence of material things in their life and the other just doesn’t “get it”. Yet the age old communication gap syndrome is painfully clear and endearingly resonant with these spouses. Meanwhile, close friends bear witness to changes in one another with sincere commitment and concern. Interwoven relationships are non-typical, yet solid.
The stellar cast members appear courtesy of Actors Equity Association and include Karina Arroyave, Karl Gregory, Lesley Gurule, Lena Kaminsky, Dean Robinson, and Peter Townsend. The artful direction is by the Kitchen’s Artistic Director, Rachel Lambert. Lambert’s double career in dance and theater contribute magnificently to the seamless flow of the staging, resulting in a feeling of watching a dance piece choreographed expertly to the cadence of the dialogue in a realistic sense. Scenic and Lighting Designer David Arsenault, Costume Designer Lisa Boquist and Sound Designer and Composer Scott O’Brien add nuance to the dynamic performance.
Swimming in the Shallows runs through May 17th and is followed by Thin Walls June 10-28, a solo piece written and performed by Alice Eve Cohen. The Kitchen Theater experience is one of Ithaca’s crowning jewels, rivaling any small theater seen in larger 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.