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.

Sunset Baby at the Kitchen Theater

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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.’

Currently on the boards through December 21st, Sunset Baby transports us into an intriguing world of activism, loyalties and betrayals, and the explosive dynamics of estranged family. The emotions of Dominique Morisseau’s work, while set in a unique set of circumstances, resonate in most of our lives, including grief, addiction and co-dependency, rage and resentment, hurt and forgiveness, disappointment and dreams. And although I came away with a heightened awareness of the African American experience and a fresh new perspective and appreciation for lives devoted to activism, and while these are worthy sidebars to be sure, Sunset Baby is so much more than that.

The play could have been titled “Choices”; for me it speaks to the kind of choices that lead to transformation. Nina (played byGillian Glasco) is the daughter of a recently deceased activist and drug addict, whose estranged father turns up (Alexander Thomas) after an extended prison term and is soundly shut down by her understandable rage at his past choice of the ‘cause’ over the family. Nina has some choices of her own to make, the most immediate one about what to do with her mother’s letters. The third character, Nina’s boyfriend and partner in crime (Carl Hendrick Louis), struggles with fatherhood of an estranged son as well as with Nina’s loyalties.

Lesser issues – and choices – of betrayal, grief, denial, and some obvious deception on Nina’s part are woven into the foundation of the relationships and yet this is not a depressing piece of work, but a beacon of hope. Betrayal and forgiveness dance around one another, changing places and positions on the dance floor, keeping everyone on their toes in anticipation. The true struggle – the one within, the letting go of all you know in order to be liberated – shines through. Accompanying the three characters on their journey is a worthy heart wrenching experience and as I headed out into the night from the theater, I felt transformed.

I have written much about the talent of Resident Director Margaret Perry, and with good reason. Guiding her casts to the depths of their souls and back again is a joy to witness when I step into the Kitchen. The acting never disappoints at the Kitchen, but I was particularly blown away by this cast, each one of them represented by Actor’s Equity Association. The experience is complete through the creative talents of David L. Arsenault, Scenic Design; David L. Arsenault and Andrew Scharwath, Lighting Design; Amanda Cardwell-Aiken, Costume Design; and Ryan Mutton, Sound Design. Pops Manager is Danielle Bulajewski, Technical Director is Brendan Komala, and Production Stage Manager is Jennifer Schilansky.

If you are in town this December, you can hopefully make it to Sunset Baby. If you have missed it, the next production at the Kitchen Theater is Count Me In by Rachel Lampert, January 14- 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

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.’

Currently on the boards through September 28th, The House, is so hilarious you may awaken the following morning with the urge to continue howling, or at the very least giggle your way to the breakfast table. Anyone who has ever bought or sold a house will relate. Anyone who has not will digest this experience and proceed with caution when their time comes.

Although the action borders on farce and the absurd, the emotions explored are so real, so raw, even the characters are taken by surprises at their own spontaneous reactions as they are swept along in a rhythmic current that they have no choice but to surrender to. The play takes place in the “home” of question with two couples, sellers and buyers, joining together for a celebratory cocktail after the purchase.

Although the transaction has been completed, the cordial act of sharing a drink together takes unexpected turns, revealing the diversity of life experience as regards what “home” means to the individual. The complex range between the four characters will provide at least one experience that will resonate with each viewer, but will push to new corners of unfamiliar territory within the interactions of the foursome. That is the miracle of the work. Get ready for a ride.

The brilliance of playwright Brian Parks and director Margarett Perry is matched with breathtaking performances from the cast: Dana Berger, Matthew Boston, Elizabeth Meadows Rouse, and Matthew Bretscheider, the last three of whom appear courtesy of Actors’ Equity Association. Likewise lighting and scenic design by Tyler M. Perry, costume design by Lisa Boquist, and sound design by Lesley Greene add deeply to the experience.

If you are in town this month, you can hopefully make it to the world premiere of The House. If you have missed it, the next production at the Kitchen Theater is Lonely Planet by Steven Dietz, October 15 – November 2. 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

Get Thee to the Kitchen

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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.’

Currently on the boards is an encore production that is co-produced with the Civic Ensemble, a local company committed to engaging its community in new ways. It is always exciting when theater companies collaborate and this case is no exception. In fact, I left the theater breathless, wishing there were a sequel to look forward to – a word I actually loathe. Slashes of Light accomplishes more than one theme, pushes more than one button, and satisfies myriad opportunities of reflection.

One of the themes that comes up in the play dialogue between teacher and students is “contrasts”. There are multiple contrasts directly explored through the piece – from the mundane black/white issues on the surface of the mind of a young student and black panther recruit in the early 60s to contrasts of experience, artistic expression, coping methods, parenting, addressing scandal vs attempting to understand motivation behind scandal, and various kinds of trauma. Contrasts between comfort and environment, understanding and establishment of boundaries, and individual need and identity. The list goes on but it does not overwhelm.

The characters stand alone in strength and spirit, each hopelessly intertwined with the others but emphatically struggling for independence and self-knowledge. The young female student comes of age through her relationships with a best friend, a teacher and a love interest; each of these more complicated, – yes, even damaged – than her and each needing to absorb a piece of her innocence. The teacher with a past that is not so much a shock as a continuing cause of suffering, fueling an inner struggle of her own that her charges could not begin to comprehend, and the unusual bonds she forges with her students. Two male students, of the same race but not of the same temperament, experience, nor even condition, again such contrasts, never ending parade of contrasts. The characters’ approach and reactions to these contrasts – to life as they discover it – are the stuff that moves one to tears.

The actors are stellar, better than that, actually. The depth of emotion reached within this cast is astounding and worth witnessing. They are Sarah Chalmers, Robert McKay, Judi Jackson, Jelani Pitcher, and Ryan Travis, representing a piece of ensemble work that will haunt me. Playwright Judy Tate and Director Melissa Maxwell deserve awards for their work. This is a way to end the current season but guess what! It’s not over until June 29th. I recommend making it a priority for anyone in town this month.

The Kitchen is located at 417 W. Martin Luther King, Jr. Street in Ithaca

(607) 273-4497 or www.kitchentheatre.org

Kitchen Theatre Presents: Lung by Duncan MacMillan

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 theatre district of New York when sitting in the “Kitchen”. On the boards now is a two person piece that I highly recommend if you are visiting Ithaca this April – titled ‘Lung’ by Duncan MacMillan.

Witnessing the driving dialogue of Lung is like riding in a speeding car during a chase while someone in the car narrates the scene to you in running commentary to keep you up to speed. You cant catch your breath and your adrenalin is racing – a good adrenalin, mind you. Like a good work out, eventually your heart rate slows and you ease into the pace, following on your own and come to realize that you are witnessing a most intimate moment or two in a developing relationship between two people. And it is riveting, mesmerizing.

When we enter their world, the couple is exploring the next question in their lives, quickly  becoming locked in overdrive, trying to figure out what they want – baby or not, consequentially their collective carbon footprints – analyzing every move. That is “she” questions in non-stop stream of conscious, while “he” struggles to keep up with her train of thought. It’s like an audio Kathy comic strip stuck in fast forward. But these lovers and their conscious minds grow on us into full blown nuance, coming to life in all its ever evolving, messy complexity. And the simple opening question at the start of their journey together (and apart) serves as launching pad for the bigger questions of full and long lives. Do not expect predictability. I recommend you come with an open mind and share a lifetime with them.

The bigger questions in life go beyond global climate change and whether or not to become parents. Says playwright Duncan MacMillan “I wanted to write something for two really good actors where they could tell a story unmediated by props, scene changes, costume changes, lighting or sound queues – just two bodies in space letting the audience fill in the gaps.” The play is written for a bare stage that serves up a whole lifetime.

It is also written, as MacMillan states, for excellent actors and has this in the cast of Anne Troup and Jesse Bush, whose work is quite literally breathtaking.  Brilliantly paced direction is by Michele Minnick, lighting by Tyler M. Perry, costume design by Lisa Boquist, and original music and sound design by Anthony Mattana.

Lung runs through April 13, with matinees on Sundays. Next up at the Kitchen is Seminar by Theresa Rebeck April 30-May 18, followed by Slashes of Light by Judy Tate June 11 – June 29.  To purchase tickets call 607-272-0570or online at kitchentheatre.org. the Kitchen Theatre is located at 417 West Martin Luther King Blvd/State Street in Ithaca, 14850.

Kitchen Theatre Company presents: Black Pearl Sings! By Frank Higgins

Black Pearl Sings!   By Frank Higgins

December 4 – December 22, 2013

Kitchen Theatre Company

Tickets: www.KitchenTheatre.org

417 W. State/MLK Jr. Street, Ithaca 14850

 

Lisa Gaye Dixon and Emily Dorsch in the Kitchen Theatre production of Black Pearl Sings! by Frank Higgins.

Lisa Gaye Dixon and Emily Dorsch in the Kitchen Theatre production of Black Pearl Sings! by Frank Higgins.

With a slide blues guitar placing the story during the early 1930’s, Black Pearl Sings! opens onto an office reserved at a Texas prison for ethnomusicologist Susannah (Emily Dorsch). She works for the Library of Congress and her project is to collect and record songs from prisoners who are descended from slaves who arrived in this country from Africa.  Pearl  (Lisa Gaye Dixon) is an inmate who grew up among a population of Black Americans called the Gullah on an island off the coast of South Carolina. The Gullah, brought to this remote region on slave-trade ships, trace their lineage back to tribes on the west coast of Africa near Sierra Leone.  The play is about the centrality of music as a means to keep cultural communities together by passing down their songs and to bring various cultures together through the sharing of their songs.

Pearl is slow to warm up to Susannah, to trust an unmarried White woman with her songs: spirituals of the praise houses [church]; work songs from the rice fields and songs of oppression (including communications hidden from the master overseer); songs that mean one thing to a six year girl take on an entirely different meaning as she grows into her body; love songs for family and lovers. So much can be expressed through lyrics and body language.  Susannah proves to Pearl that she’s genuinely engaged with the songs and their purpose by playing her autoharp and singing Appalachian songs she’d collected previous research trips in the Southeast. Both actresses have beautiful complementary voices that are important to the story.

Lisa Gaye Dixon and Emily Dorsch in the Kitchen Theatre production of Black Pearl Sings! by Frank Higgins.

Lisa Gaye Dixon and Emily Dorsch in the Kitchen Theatre production of Black Pearl Sings! by Frank Higgins.

In a sense, their relationship develops much as the songs themselves are structured, as a call (A) and response (B).  The two women “play” each other, tease each other, bait, argue and distrust each other.  By sharing songs and personal stories they develop trust and a strategy to get Pearl paroled from prison to help herself, to find her missing daughter, and to help Suzannah gain an academic position that had been “stolen” from her by her former white male boss.

The second act takes place in a Greenwich Village apartment where the two of them are on tour with Pearl singing her songs that Susannah recorded.  Conflicts ignite between the two of them as Suzannah falls into the trap of pursuing an academic reputation at the expense of Pearl’s growing self-respect as a performer earning a living.

Emily Dorsch and Lisa Gaye Dixon in the Kitchen Theatre production of Black Pearl Sings! by Frank Higgins.

Emily Dorsch and Lisa Gaye Dixon in the Kitchen Theatre production of Black Pearl Sings! by Frank Higgins.

This play is set in early 1930s America during the Great Depression. As part of the Federal Work Administration (WPA), the Federal Music Project and the Federal Art Project, often working with the Library of Congress, started collecting regional folksongs, works of art, and conducting audiotaped interviews of the “common man.”  These cultural collections became topics of interest in academic circles as well as the public through concert performances and exhibitions that were a double-edged sword: the broadening of people’s understanding of regional differences among American citizens sometimes led to voyeuristic and financial opportunism.

Lisa Gaye Dixon and Emily Dorsch in the Kitchen Theatre production of Black Pearl Sings! by Frank Higgins.

Lisa Gaye Dixon and Emily Dorsch in the Kitchen Theatre production of Black Pearl Sings! by Frank Higgins.

It’s really true, “Important conversations happen in the Kitchen.”  Go there and listen to some beautiful singing while learning about early 20th century America’s cultural differences that attempt to cross boundaries into understanding and acceptance.

 

Black Pearl Sings! Creative Team

The Actors

Lisa Gaye Dixon (Pearl) and Emily Dorsch (Susannah)

Production staff

Director: Sara Lampert Hoover

Lighting and Scenic Designer: David Arsenault

Costume Designer: Lisa Boquist

Sound Designer: Anthony Mattana

Production Stage Manager: Jennifer Schilansky

Kitchen Theatre Presents: “From White Plains”

From White Plains
October 16 – November 10; Kitchen Theatre
417 W. MLK Jr./State St. in Ithaca NY 14850
TIX: (607) 272 0570     www.kitchentheatre.org

From White Plains was conceived and directed by Michael Perlman, and written and developed in collaboration with the original company of actors and designers.  Sustained after-effects of high school bullying (15 years later) is at the heart of this play that asks tough questions about maturity, vengeance, anger, love, friendship and ultimately forgiveness.

Ethan checking a text message while John hovers trying to get Ethan to talk about what happened.

Ethan checking a text message while John hovers trying to get Ethan to talk about what happened.

Friends since college, Ethan (Aaron Rossini) and John (Craig Wesley Divino) are listening to filmmaker Dennis’s (Karl Gregory) Oscar acceptance speech while watching the Academy awards on television. Dennis names Ethan as the high school bully who caused his friend Mitchell to commit suicide and whose story is portrayed in his film.  At first Ethan denies the charge to John, but once he gets a drink into him his memory hazily comes back. John wants to know what he did to Mitchell. Then comes the onslaught of social media (cellphone calls that aren’t answered initially) from his friends and family who also heard it on the television.  This prompts Ethan to make a video of apology and post it on-line because he doesn’t consider himself a bully and believes this will stop the public harassment and humiliation on Facebook and elsewhere. It doesn’t. At one point, John says, “Tell me what happened in high school to make someone kill himself.”

Dennis working on a response video to Ethan.

Dennis working on a response video to Ethan.

While Dennis constructs the first of several response videos to post on the internet, his life partner Gregory (Jimmy King) tries to encourage him to tone down the harsh, angry language but with only some influence.  Dennis wants revenge for Ethan’s egregious behavior during high school. And of course this exchange grows heated as it mines yet another vein of the intertwined themes of love and respect: their relationship to each other, to their families and to their LGBT community.

    Gregory and Dennis working through their differences.

Gregory and Dennis working through their differences.

We later learn that Dennis was also a victim of Ethan’s relentless bullying of weaker boys to a get a laugh out of his friends.  Dennis still hears Ethan’s voice in his head and when he finally meets Ethan again, remembers ”the glee in your eyes when you saw us coming.”

Each of the two sets of men make several attempts to understand what’s causing certain behaviors; alliances weaken with each new piece of information that questions the nature of their respective relationships. The languages of body and spoken word shift down slowly, speed up abruptly and are constantly in motion while being interrupted (or goaded on) by the social media technology of texts, tweets, messaging, posting on laptops, that at times seem to raise the level of tension to a fever pitch.

    Separately (invisible to each other) Ethan and Dennis spar in the ether-net.

Separately (invisible to each other) Ethan and Dennis spar in the ether-net.

All four actors strongly embrace their individual characters in what must be a difficult play to perform, let alone watch.  From White Plainsaddresses several important modes of public and private behavior that our society continues to struggle with today and sheds an important light on the limits of forgiveness.  From White Plains is a “must see” play.