By Caroline Smith
Directed by George Robert Bailey
Review by Keith Waits
Entire contents copyright © 2014 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.
Kitchen Witches plays so much like an American comedy, at least in this production from Little Colonel, that it’s hard to believe it hails from Canada, the winner of the 2005 Samuel French Canadian Play Competition.
Two bitter rivals compete for attention as cooking show hosts on low-budget cable access shows. Dolly Bidwell has been starring in “Baking with Babcha!” masquerading as a Slavic chef, but her popularity is waning and the show is ending. Isobel Lomax is a high-toned graduate of Cordon Bleu, although she is much closer to Dolly than she would like her audience to imagine. So when producer Stephen Biddle (Dolly’s son) pairs the two together on a show called Kitchen Witches to make ratings hay out of the conflict, the sparks fly as expected.
Caroline Smith’s dialogue is razor-sharp and fast-paced, with too many barbed one-liners to count. The premise feels a tad dated by now (is cable access even a “thing” anymore?), a notion the production seems to recognize with details such as a rotary dial studio phone that suggests period feeling, even if the text references the Kardashians in one of the countless jokes.
What makes it so prototypically American is that Taura Tressler Schmitz makes Dolly a ribald parody of Paula Deen. Both she and Shelly Marquart Reid as Isobel deliver star turns full of outrageous ego and deliciously vicious one-upsmanship. Together they deliver a duel of hilarious proportions that kept the audience in stitches opening night. Josh Miller as Stephen also earns his fair share of laughs, wisely underplaying in contrast to the two broader, diva turns he must play against. He also did occasionally swallow some of his dialogue by speaking too fast, but I don’t believe he missed a punch line. Bill Stover, Sr. does well in the nearly silent role of Rob, the camera guy, and has a few choice moments, while the script gives Roberta, the studio assistant played by Ann Marshall Anderson little to do except function as a stage hand.
The story mostly stays on a superficial comic level; think of a really superior Carol Burnett sketch, but does dip slightly into deeper waters with some surprising revelations about the characters’ past. But Kitchen Witches is one of the funniest productions from Little Colonel Players in recent years; tightly scripted and tidily staged by director George Robert Bailey with a good eye for verbal and physical humor.
June 12, 13, 14, 20, 21, 2014 @ 8:00pm
June 15, 22, 2014 @ 2:30pm
Adult tickets are $15; Senior Citizen (60+) and Student tickets are $12, cash or check only. www.littlecolonel.org
Little Colonel Playhouse
302 Mt. Mercy Drive
Pewee Valley, KY 40o56