by Caroline Smith
Gateway Theatre Mainstage
April 7-23

Artistic director Simon Johnston of Richmond’s Gateway Theatre has chosen to program his mainstage in a mainstream, populist fashion. Going Arts Club Lite might pay big dividends in terms of building a loyal audience that knows it can always expect inoffensive, G-rated entertainment. But the danger is that it will result in a product so watered down that the prospective audience will choose to keep its bums in their seats on the living room couch rather than trundle down to the theatre to see what they can already see for free on TV.

The Kitchen Witches is in fact about reality TV: duelling female chefs on a local cable station. It’s formulaic, silly and superficial. The only thing distinguishing it from an actual TV reality show is that it’s live, featuring some audience participation—a celebrity judge—which, the night I saw it, was the funniest thing in the show, and we get to learn the soap opera-ish story behind the chefs’ cat fights and the real parentage of the young male producer. But wait a minute, we DO see and learn those kinds of things on so-called reality television, which are also, in theory, live and feature audience participation.

So what’s left? The quality of the acting, in the case of the two women, is pretty good. Beverley Elliott is lively, energetic and funny as Dolly, who at first pretends to be Ukrainian and offers perogy recipes. Christine Lomax also does a nice job as Isobel, affecting a British accent. In fact they’re both local girls who went to high school together many moons ago and shared the same guy. Their history makes the paternity of Dolly’s son Stephen suspect. Naturally, things work out ideally in the end, but not before sparks and various foodstuffs fly. Unfortunately, Peter Grier’s performance as nervous, cringing Stephen is as forced as most of the writing.

Be aware that there is a certain kind of comedy that I find insipid and really dislike, but which audiences, bless their hearts, turn into huge box office hits. Exhibit A: the Arts Club’s Sexy Laundry. Hey, there’s no accounting for taste, inside the kitchen or out.

Jerry Wasserman

last updated: Monday, April 11, 2005 3:45 PM
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