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 show of the 2014-15 season has opened and will run until June 28th. Thin Walls is written and performed by solo artist Alice Eve Cohen and is truly worth a night at the Kitchen during your Ithaca stay. It is set in a New York City residential hotel between 1980 and 1990 and spans the lives of twelve residents who are as different from one another as they are colorful, portrayed in fast paced character switches, 38 in all. This set-up is actually a true depiction of city policy of that decade when homeless persons were systematically moved into residential hotels that had seen better days.
Cohen’s time and place resonates with me, as do her characters. The piece offers a snapshot into a time and place that cannot be duplicated – New York as the raw, gritty city of the 1980s that I remember, its citizens having learned to adapt in unexpected ways. For me the time and place was tolerant, respectful and inclusive, when even the manner in which the occupants of a subway car avoid eye contact felt like an act of respect for privacy and personal space rather than oblivious unconcern. The characters of the building are familiar, too. Rather than stereotypical, each is truly authentic. We “know” these people, yet they are unique and endearing.
Cohen’s talent is astonishing – a historian, author and actress she is both creator and depictor of Thin Walls, which surpasses her first memoir we experienced on the Kitchen stage in 2013 (What I Thought I Knew.) Witnessing her genius here once again is a pleasure tripled by the creativity of Director Rachel Lampert and the mesmerizing museum quality set by Scenic and Lighting Designer Tyler M. Perry.
The set itself begs extra time to explore after the curtain falls. Individual apartments are presented as cut-out boxes, seen through glass windows and lit individually to correspond with matching scenes. I loved the set as much as the script and am pinching myself that I got to experience Thin Walls. I hope you get to as well.
The Kitchen Theater is located at 417 W. Martin Luther King Jr/State Street Ithaca, NY 14850. www.kitchentheatre.org. 607-272-0403