Get Thee to the Kitchen!
Ithaca has its own little Off Broadway theatre, the intimate space at the Kitchen Theatre. The quality matches anything, anywhere: one certainly imagines they are in the theater district of New York when sitting in the ‘Kitchen.’ Artistic Director Rachel Lampert has chosen this, the 26th year of the theater, to be her last year and she will be sorely missed. But she kicks off the season delivering direction with a gem of a piece, Hand to God by Robert Askins and with the puppetry of Scott Hitz.
Puppets? You ask. What adult themes might be presented through puppets? Irreverent puppets at that! Well, hold onto your seats and you shall see.
Somewhere I saw the term ‘Dramedy’ in reference to this piece, and it is an apt word to describe the ride we almost surreptitiously witness. The emotionally charged drama unfolds in varying degrees of pace: it begins by gradually speeding up and suddenly lurches forward towards no return – much like a carnival ride. The puppetry, direction, tech, and breathtaking performance by an entire cast sets up our experience from mildly curious to ridiculously hilarious to frighteningly moving; yep, a very thrilling carnival ride. Set in a Christian church puppet class…well, I am not going to spoil the ride. Take it yourselves.
Special kudos to this very even cast led by the genius of Karl Gregory. Ithaca is so blessed to experience Gregory in regular Kitchen runs in an amazing array of roles, always guaranteed to surprise yet even more. The Jekyll/Hyde character of a repressed good Mama’s boy and his devil possessed puppet especially delivers. Erica Steinhagen, another Kitchen favorite, is luminous, refreshingly vulnerable, exuding every kind of quality that attracts the remaining characters to her as a mother, lover, partner, teacher, grieving widow. Hilarious Aundre Seals, irresistible Michael Patrick Trimm, and the very solid Montana Lampert Hoover make a magical team.
Set design by Kent Goetz, Lighting by Erik Herskowitz, Costumes by Lisa Boquist, Sound by Lesley Greene, with Puppet builder Katie McGeorge, Scenic Charge by Tim Borden and additional tech crew pull off a theater offering not to be missed.
Hand to God runs through September 25th. Run, don’t walk to the Kitchen for this one!
The Kitchen Theater is located at 417 W. Martin Luther King Jr/State Street Ithaca, NY 14850. www.kitchentheatre.org. 607-272-0403
by Denice Karamardian