Death Boogie at the Kitchen through December 4

by Ed Cohn

This was my first visit to Kitchen Theater, having moved to the area within the last year. I am always excited about a new (to me) theater space. Theaters are places of magic, where worlds are unfolded and exposed, bringing to life the imagination of playwrights, performers, directors, technicians, costumers, make-up artists, and all the other supporting roles behind the scenes. Anything is possible, even the impossible.

Death Boogie, written, composed and performed as a one man show by the veteran talent of Darian Dauchan brings to life on the stage what is, if not the impossible, certainly the unexpected and often amazing. And he does so with a tour de force performance of non-stop energy lasting over an hour.

The stage in this intimate black box theater is set minimally. Downstage on the floor we see an assortment of costumery and a row of “stomp boxes” – those electronic effects foot pedals used by performing musicians that can manipulate the sound of their instrument, in this case the human voice, in a myriad of ways. The stage is open. Flanking left and right in the rear corners are two musicians, double bassist Desmond Bratton, and violinist Matthew Silvera. On the rear wall of the stage hangs a large projection screen. That’s it.

A musical, compositional technique called “looping” is employed as a major element of the musical landscape. This technique is not new and has been in development in its current incarnation since the mid 1990s and has become a genre unto itself. The general idea is that a phrase, usually fairly short, is recorded in real time into the device and can be played back in a loop. Loops can be layered, one upon the other, and each loop can be altered in pitch, tone, ambiance and more while being edited in and out – all on the fly. One needs a technical mastery of the device to use it to its full extent, and Dauchan does an admirable job, setting the beat using vocal percussion (beat box) technique, then layering in sung and spoken elements, morphing them and affecting them, bringing them in and out to musical and dramatic effect, all the while accompanied by the bass fiddle and violin which accompany fairly non-stop throughout the course of the show. Dauchan raps and sometimes sings over this thick brew. It gets very – I couldn’t come up with a better word – intense! The tempo can be relentless, and Dauchon’s vocal dexterity is an assault on the senses. But in a good way! It’s no surprise that he has been crowned the 2007 Urbana Grand Slam Champion for the Bowery Poetry Club among other poetry slam competitions. And his singing, though not refined in this setting, is in tune, solid, and works well in this context.

But, thankfully, there is a good balance of the frenetic rapping with slower, calmer sections, bringing a diversity to the drama and flow that allows the audience to relax just enough until the next exciting onslaught.

The show is comprised of 24 scenes that segue from one to the next. The theme is a look at worrisome elements of our society and world from the perspective of the main character, Victor, who is caught on the treadmill of American life: waking, eating, working, eating, breaking, working, going home, “consuming”, watching TV, masturbating, sleeping, and then doing it all over again. Disturbing dreams are represented in a number of scenes, which deal with war, politics, family, racial issues, out of control law enforcement and more. Heavy subjects all, but Dauchan peppers the script with ironic humor, a wise choice, for without it the show would be bleak.

Dauchan’s lyrics, poetry, and script are deep and rich. The raps are at times so rapid-fire that they are difficult to keep up with. I would greatly enjoy reading the book for this show so as to fully appreciate it because I believe it’s masterful. What I did catch was a witty and eagle-eyed view of modern life delivered with musical precision and emotional intensity. Dauchan easily slipped from one distinct character to the next, donning single costume elements to elicit the essence of the characters, all with great physical energy. Under the direction of Jennifer McGrath, he used the stage fully, enhancing the drama.

The interactive projections featured the bold, monochromatic, comic book styled graphic artwork of David Ayllon. They were simple and effective, often synchronized with the music and dialog. I use the term “dialog” because at times Dauchan’s characters converse with prerecorded voices, all presumably done by Dauchan himself.

The show was musically diverse, employing elements of hip-hop, blues, jazz, and classical. Using string bass and violin was an interesting choice considering all the possibilities. The two instrumentalists played from memory, at times as accompaniment in the musical numbers, but also imparting incidental sections that directly reflected the text. Almost all of the accompaniment was austere, not resorting to flashiness or pyrotechnical flamboyance. Each player did have some spotlight moments, but they were minimal. Occasionally Dauchon’s character would interact directly with them, and they were an integral element of the show.

Little was left wanting. I was frustrated at times, however, with the sound quality, which was thin and not as clear as I would have hoped. And Dauchan’s choice of microphone could have been better both in quality and placement. There are many choices these days, and he opted for a headset model with a flexible “boom” that places the mic right near the mouth. It was white, taped to his face, and had a white wind screen on the end. To me this was visually distracting, and made worse when about halfway through the show his perspiration was causing the tape to detach. I feel that the sound is a very important element that needs as much care and attention as any other. A fix in this department would be well worth the expense.

Death Boogie is an experience well worth having. Even the all-white, mostly over-50 crowd apparently felt that way by expressing their satisfaction with a standing ovation. Dauchan is a force of nature, a quintuple threat as writer, composer, actor, singer and rapper. Maybe he can dance too! We will be hearing and seeing much more of this talented artist.

The Kitchen Theatre is located at 417 W. State/MLK, Jr Street. Phone 607-272-0570 or online tickets at www.KitchenTheatre.org. Death Boogie runs November 15 through December 4th with matinees on Sundays at 4pm and on Thursday November 27th at 2pm. Get thee to the Kitchen!

Catch Precious Nonsense at the Kitchen Theatre

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.’ The Kitchen is now offering a breath of fresh air for the October “pre-election day” season, bringing back a favorite by playwright and Artistic Director Rachel Lampert with a specific mission: to give us all the break we might need from a contentious election cycle. She was correct in that assumption and I, for one, appreciated this sigh of relief – this blast of humor that had me falling out of my chair laughing.

Many of us can recall the first time we were exposed to Gilbert and Sullivan style theater. For me it was playing Pirates of Penzance and H.M.S. Pinafore with the Harvard Hasty Pudding Players while a young music student in Boston. Once you have sung those tunes they are forever emblazoned in the recesses of your subconscious and can come bounding out at any given G&S five note phrase and haunt for days. (I’m still humming as I write this). Precious Nonsense delivers a thrill and antidote all at once. It is brilliantly crafted to poke fun while paying tribute, mock while glorying both the melodrama style and plot twists, music and operetta dialogue, and lifestyle of the 1930s comedy thespian.

Solidly set in the familiar “play within a play” theme, a thespian family along with an entourage of accompanist, heroine, and stage manager navigate the intricacies of their respective futures, both individually and as a company, complete with cross purposes that sets the stage quite literally for surprises. In this case the company arrives at a venue (a privately owned theater/barn) prepared with their G&S review only to learn that they are expected to produce a full rendition of Pirates of Penzance, which naturally requires more characters and sets up the inevitable making of new stars and performers out of all involved. The plot twists tumble over one another with abandon and delight, leaving never a dull moment. Heroes and heroines trade places and the unexpected will satisfy even the jaded theatergoer. Credit for this is due the playwright who could easily have succumbed to the temptation of dusty script and typical spoof shenanigans. Instead, she lays out a hilarious farce that I did not want to end. Equally impressive is the intricate handling of the body of G&S music, lyrically and musically delivering something new within a very specific tradition. It was much like watching a fresh take on a ballroom dance piece of choreography that maintains the elements that define it while becoming something new and different.

The family connection of the Precious Nonsense team begs attention. Lampert’s sister, Sara Lampert Hoover, returns to direct, after having directed the original 2004 production. The love of working together and artistic respect between the powerhouse Lampert women is evident. And, as usual on the Kitchen stage, the cast is unanimously stellar. It requires almost a triple threat quality of actor to navigate this fast paced humorous dialogue along with a staging of flourishing footwork and constant flow of movement, not to mention some of the most challenging vocal passages in musical theater. Operetta is no joke and while often presented as spoof, it can be vocally as challenging as opera. All of the cast ably pull off the vocals, while heroine actress Jillian Gottlieb delivers the strength of the production with her stunning soprano. Two of the actors are blessed with hilarious roles: Weston Allen Kemp and Patrick Halley, who I especially enjoyed as the ‘stage manager turned actor’ Pete, reminding me of a farcical Captain Hook on steroids as he milked every line and miniature step in high heels. Erik Brooks, Lydia Gaston, Coleman Hemsath, Emily Jackson, and Thomas Conroy as Music Director/Herbie complete a team that cannot disappoint. The remaining creative team of Sarah Frank (Scenic Design), Erik Herskowitz (Lighting Design), Lisa Boquist (Costume Design), Lesley Lisa Greene (Sound Design), Jennifer Schilansky (Production Stage Manager), Brendan Komala (Technical Director), and Evie Hammer-Lester (Assistant Director) coordinate the details that complement the brilliant work of the Lampert sisters.

Precious Nonsense runs through November 6th, with 4pm matinees on Sundays. The theater is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays for the remainder of this run. Speaking of run, please Run, don’t walk to the Kitchen for deliverance from angst before Election Day! To purchase tickets call 607-272-0570 or online at kitchentheatre.org. The Kitchen Theater is located at 417 W. Martin Luther King Jr/State Street Ithaca, NY 14850. www.kitchentheatre.org. 607-272-0403

Hand to God – Breathtaking Theater thru Sept 25

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

Dancing Lessons at the Kitchen Theater

Get Thee to the Kitchen!

Ithaca has its own little Off Broadway theatre, the intimate space at the Kitchen Theatre, has just entered its 25th season. This is indeed a landmark anniversary for any theater. Let alone a small, cutting edge, non-profit such as the Kitchen. The quality matches anything, anywhere: one certainly imagines they are in the theater district of New York when sitting in the ‘Kitchen.’
The Kitchen creative staff never fails to “deliver”, but I must state that the current offering may well be my favorite to date piece of theater. (Note: It easy to feel that way with the track record here.) Viewers have the opportunity to catch this work through April 3rd, so get your tickets now for Dancing Lessons by Mark St. Germain.
Its premise is not new: two unlikely characters, living in the same building, are brought together circumstantially and lives are changed forever. A story we’ve heard before, but it is in the telling that we are transported. In this case the characters presented offer us new dimensions; an injured dancer and an autistic professor whose inevitable transformations through their collision will deliver the unexpected. We are not disappointed, and yet still taken by surprise. Better yet, we the audience take in a whole lot of new information and perspective in the telling: more about autism, control issues, fear and compromise. I came away deeply moved.
A brilliant cast, direction, and set design meld perfectly to accomplish the effect. Zack Calhoun regales playing Ever – giving us a sincere man who knows his limitations and pushes against his boundaries, straining to surpass his comfort zone, expressed in a frank, appropriate way to reveal a nature few have glimpsed. Equally powerful Rachel Burttram as Senda produces a woman, though not autistic, surprises as the more rigid of the two. The struggle to overcome her limitations in many ways feels harder than those of Ever. Her boundaries, while less physical, have been more deeply embraced and clung to.
Director Sarah Lampert Hoover returns to the Kitchen Theater to ably guide the two person powerhouse cast. And a magical set by David L. Arsenault enhanced with lighting by Kitchen regular Tyler M. Perry places us in a very real New York apartment with clear landing at the front door where much of the relationship is explored, not to mention special lighting effects that provide lecture hall and doctors’ office on the peripherals. I urge anyone to catch Dancing Lessons.
Remaining performances are:
Wednesday, March 30th at 7:30 – with pre-show talk at 6:30pm (come back and join us for this – free to all)
Thursday, March 31 at 2pm -matinee
Thursday, March 31 at 7:30pm
Friday, April 1 at 8pm – with post show talk with the actors (come back and join us for this at 9:30pm)
Saturday, April 2 at 8pm
Sunday, April 3 at 4pm
The Kitchen Theater is located at 417 W. Martin Luther King Jr/State Street Ithaca, NY 14850. www.kitchentheatre.org. 607-272-0403

Don’t Miss the Mountaintop this weekend

Get Thee to the Kitchen!

Ithaca has its own little Off Broadway theatre, the intimate space at the Kitchen Theatre, has just entered its 25th season. This is indeed a landmark anniversary for any theater. Let alone a small, cutting edge, non-profit such as the Kitchen. The quality matches anything, anywhere: one certainly imagines they are in the theater district of New York when sitting in the ‘Kitchen.’
Following up the season opener, Buyer & Cellar, the 25th anniversary season has continued with a powerhouse – The Mountaintop. My, oh my, what a powerhouse. Imagine if you will a fantasy rendition of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s last night in a room at the Lorraine Motel before his assignation the following morning in Memphis. Playwright Katori Hall has said that she wanted to make the myth a bit more real than her memory of a statue. She felt that by taking King off his pedestal, people “will realize he is for regular people”. In my humble opinion, that is an understatement of what she accomplished in this two character drama.
Using the historical facts as they are known, she offers up the mythical man in his flesh, powerfully portrayed by Landon G. Woodson, immersed in a range of emotions. We witness recurring fears and suspicion, cynicism, temptation, sentimentality, pragmatism, flirtation, humor, appreciation, extreme nervousness and stress, even hints of addiction (to cigarettes). The initial range of human reactions that we experience of the man is triggered by events and known dangers.
The genius of the play, however, is in the form of the second character – a hotel maid named Camae who provides us with insight to the nature of the population in the year 1968. She is alternately downright hilarious and judgmental, calling King on various misconceptions and hinting at hypocrisy, though never self-righteous. She flirts and liberates, serving as a temptress and truth teller. The best surprise of the plot will be withheld in this piece, since I do not want to destroy its essence for the next viewer. Camae, played by Angel Moore, is riveting, almost magical in stark contrast to this human version of King. The interaction between the two is powerful and the evening left me breathless.
The Mountaintop runs through October 25. Direction is by Nicole A. Watson, Scenic Design by Frank Oliva, Lighting by Nik Robalino, Costume Design by Lisa Boquist, and Sound Design by Lesley Greene. Many other talented staff contributed to this production. Give yourself the gift of experiencing the Kitchen while in town. It is one of Ithaca’s precious commodities.
The Kitchen Theater is located at 417 W. Martin Luther King Jr/State Street Ithaca, NY 14850. www.kitchentheatre.org. 607-272-0403

Kitchen Theater Kicks off 25th Anniversary Season

Get Thee to the Kitchen!

Ithaca has its own little Off Broadway theatre, the intimate space at the Kitchen Theatre, has just entered its 25th season. This is indeed a landmark anniversary for any theater. Let alone a small, cutting edge, non-profit such as the Kitchen. The quality matches anything, anywhere: one certainly imagines they are in the theater district of New York when sitting in the ‘Kitchen.’

The anniversary season has opened with a powerhouse kick-off. Buyer & Cellar brings together talented playwright Jonathan Tolins with my favorite director, Wendy Dann, and Ithaca audience favorite actor, Karl Gregory, in a one-man show. The title is obviously a play on words and I entered the theater knowing nothing about it, curious to see what would be revealed – what the joke might be, let alone the theme. I love going to theater this way – walking into a blank canvas and surrendering to a surprise, and in this case I was not disappointed.

I am tempted not to give anything away, so that the reader may experience what I did. But I cannot expect one to run to the Kitchen because I said “Trust me!” And run you should for an evening of wit, hilarity, and pure joy. So I will drop a hint or two.

Imagine a stereotypical obsession with a female diva persona from a gay man’s perspective. At least start there and let yourself think, Ah..so this is where this is going! We begin with a book- a real, true life book published by a true life icon about her home in Malibu – Barbra Streisand’s Passion for Design. The book itself is testimony to another obsession, Barbra’s passion for details, and provides the scenario of her cellar for a creative, imaginative foray into numerous personalities.

Yet these personalities leave the stereo types far behind, as they peel layers, weave relationships, and reveal the stuff of raw life through Gregory’s ability to glide seamlessly between characters. All the while the humor never stops or wavers.

The genius of the writing, acting, and directing is supplemented by a perfect set from Scenic & Lighting Designer Steve Teneyck. Buyer & Cellar runs through September 27th and is followed by The Mountaintop October 11-25. Give yourself the gift of experiencing the Kitchen while in town. It is one of Ithaca’s precious commodities.
The Kitchen Theater is located at 417 W. Martin Luther King Jr/State Street Ithaca, NY 14850. www.kitchentheatre.org. 607-272-0403

Must See ‘Thin Walls’ by Alice Eve Cohen

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

Swimming in the Shallows at the Kitchen Theater

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.

Kitchen Theater Solo Play Festival

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.

 

 

 

 

Count Me In at The Kitchen Theatre

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 newest piece on stage is lighter than the typical Kitchen fare and worth an evening of your time for some fun and humor on a bleak winter’s night. Artistic Director Rachel Lampert is known for her autobiographical pieces and here is one that anyone over the age of 30 will fall completely into resonance with. Its major theme revolves around an upcoming 50th high school reunion and the indecision and angst attached to that, yet the play also reaches into that uncomfortable space where we must confront the last “act’ of our life and figure out what that means.
In order to do that, of course, we must first review the first two chapters and therein lays the content of Count Me In. Rachel’s professional life was fully realized in the dance world even before she moved onto theater. While reflecting about high school, Rachel embarks on an annual reconnection with two persons integral to the “second act” of her life – dance company members with whom she shared countless hours of rehearsal, performance, travel, hotel rooms, dialogue tragedy and, of course, personal intrigue. And an interesting interaction with a dead colleague provides an edge of the seat moment when we get to those questions answered from beyond – well, sort of, anyway.
The play has it all – dance, ghosts, humor, music, and nostalgia – and even features at least two cast members who are the real thing – playing themselves! Get ready for a break from the heavy and profound and delve into those ideas instead from a lighthearted, enjoyable perspective – that’s entertainment!
As usual, playwright Rachel Lampert delivers. Kudos to all involved in this production, especially direction by Emily Jackson and the choreography of Tucker Davis: Scenic and lighting design, Tyler M. Perry; Costumes, Hunter Kaczorowski; Sound design, Lesley Lisa Greene; Technical Direction, Brendan Komala; Stage Manager, Jennifer Schilansky. The cast includes Tucker Davis, Lydia Gaston, Rachel Lampert, Keith Pillow, Avery Sobczak, and David Squires.
If you are in town this winter, try to make it to the theater. Count Me In by Rachel Lampert, runs through February 1. 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.