Kitchen is battlefield for female feuding

by Lenise Willis

Cast, left to right, Latimer Alexander, April J’Callahan Marshall, Connie Rogers and An- thony Marino star in Kitchen Witches April 7-17. (Photo by Mary Ann Luedtke)

Soap operas are thought to be exaggerated, but anyone who has ever dealt with a woman knows that the storylines aren’t that far fetched. Women are filled with emotions, and those touchy feelings can lead to drama, judgment, revenge and sometimes a little back-stabbing. Even our so-called friendships can turn into war zones. Sometimes it’s just tough being a woman — or dealing with one. Bringing the soap-opera drama to the stage — and the kitchen — is playwright Caroline Smith who delves into the female world in her play Kitchen Witches, which tells the story of two women, TV cooks and arch nemeses, who are both cast in the same cable-access cooking show. Hilarity ensues as the competitive chefs slowly degrade to hand-slaps and hair-pulls. Bringing Smith’s play to the Triad is Open Space Café Theatre. “It’s a sweet, fun story that lets you escape from the world for a while,” says Director Sheri Masters, who was glad for the opportunity to direct a play that dips into the complicated female world. “Because it’s sort of a woman-centered play, [the relationship] is complicated in the way that many female friendships are,” Masters says. “The characters are sworn enemies now but at one point they were friends.” And although the play is centered on the complexities of females and their drama, Masters says that both men and women can relate to the characters. A lot of the storyline is also focused on the producer of the cooking show, who is the son of one of the women. Even the camera guy, who has only one line in the play, goes through an observable change. Masters says that what she enjoys about the play is watching the characters, who seem to portray caricatures in the beginning, slowly develop throughout the play and become more relatable as their past and true selves are revealed. The set is just as elaborate as a drama queen, including a fully stocked kitchen, a real refrigerator and stove. “That’s probably one of the more tricky elements is that it’s a very prop-heavy show,” Masters says. The chefs will be actually cooking onstage during their performance, although they will not be heating any elements. “Fire onstage is something I typically try to avoid,” Masters laughed. The audience won’t just be watching the characters cook but helping too, as one member of the audience will be selected for an onstage cooking challenge. “There’s a cooking challenge on one of the episodes of the show and they invite a guest from the audience to come up and help with the cooking and then judge the cooking,” Masters says. “So that’ll be fun. Every night there will be an extra cast member chosen from the audience.” Special additions to the piece are two original songs, one written by Anthony Marino, who also plays Rob the Camera Guy, and another written by Latimer Alexander, who plays the producer Stephen Biddle. The songs written are jingles that not only help to create the atmosphere of a TV cooking show set, but also help to progress the storyline. “[The jingle] actually transforms,” Masters says. “In the beginning it’s a very low budget, cable-access cooking show, so our first jingle kind of represents that. And then they become slightly more popular and sophisicated in their approach to the show. So that’s been a lot of fun to play with.” The Open Space Café Theatre also provides a much more up-close and comfortable environment for watching a performance. Resembling a café, spectators are seated at nearby tables and can even order drinks and desserts before the performance. “What I like about it is that it’s a found space,” Masters says. “I think at one point it was a grocery store and they found this building and created a theatre out of it. It wasn’t built to be a theatre, so just the challenge of taking a space and making a theatre setting out of it is really exciting to me because I really think that theatre can happen anywhere.” Now in its fifth season, Open Space Café Theatre was founded by Joe Nierle, OSCT Artistic Director, in 2006 with its first season presented in 2007.