By Tulis McCall
What is cooking in Caroline’s Kitchen
is not so much the food, of which there is hardly a morsel and what’s there ain’t choice, as it is the plot twists, of which there are too many to count. Torben Betts
has taken British Farce and put it a crash diet of steroids. Not a good idea for any of us involved.
The Caroline in question (Caroline Langrishe) is a television personality who produces cooking show in her very own kitchen. The first clue that this tale is on shaky ground is the kitchen itself. This being the 21st century one might expect a smattering of up to date kitchen equipment. There is none. In fact, the refrigerator that Caroline is using is a very small powder blue model that one could imagine finding inside a Jet Stream. As the play opens Caroline is rehearsing for her next show. The crew consists of one woman with a boom mic and another holding a video camera that she swings about as Caroline moves. Hmnnnn.
Caroline is in a tizzy because her only child Leo (Tom England) is coming home fresh from his Cambridge Graduation. There is a dinner planned for the three of them, including Mike (Aden Gillett) – husband and father. This big celebration has no other guests and will be served on a wooden table that is set about with mismatched chairs and benches. The champagne will be warm because it is in a plastic container with no ice. The main course is a roast, even though Leo is vegan. Hmmmnn again.
Leo’s return home provides us with the first of many requisite problems. He pesters his mother to see if she has told his father (I wonder what a young man graduation rom college could possibly have to tell his parents…) and this play could have been shortened by 10 minutes at least had Caroline answered Leo directly. But there is no time for direct questions and answers in this play. There is only time for obfuscation, repetition and delay. One wonders why the characters remain in this story because no one appears to enjoy being there. Perhaps this is why Betts threw in an insistent downpour outside (well executed by Max Pappenheim) to keep them all from fleeing.
Betts has thrown everything into this stew without discriminating. And unlike a good old farce there is no unraveling of story paths that will surprise or delight because we see everything coming a mile away, drip by drip. We have alcoholism and bi-polar disorder. Philandering. Sexual preferences. Paparazzi stalking. Catholicism, and the odd apocalypse or two. It is hard to keep track of all the plot lines because they are loaded quickly and without let-up. The cast has little chance to craft much of a performance and instead spend their time gasping and mugging from point A to point B and back again. They give it all they have got, however, especially Tom England who, as Leo, seems to have figured a way to march to a tune of his own making.
In the end, it is the ill-equipped and innocent kitchen that takes the worst beating. Caroline’s kitchen, like her life, is irrevocably damaged. We, the audience, are merely bruised, baffled and exhausted.
WITH: Jasmyn Banks, Elizabeth Boag, Tom England, Aden Gillett, Caroline Langrishe and James Sutton
Design – James Perkins; Lighting – Chris Withers; Music and Sound – Max Pappenheim.
New York, New York March 7, 2019—59E59 Theaters (Val Day, Artistic Director; Brian Beirne, Managing Director) welcomes Brits Off Broadway and CAROLINE’S KITCHEN. Produced by Original Theatre Company, Ghost Light Theatre & Eilene Davidson. Through Saturday, May 25. Tuesday – Friday at 7:00 PM; Saturday at 2:00 PM & 7:00 PM; and Sunday at 2:00 PM. Performances are at 59E59 Theaters (59 East 59th Street, between Park and Madison). Single tickets are $25 – $70 ($49 for 59E59 Members). To purchase tickets, call the 59E59 Box Office at 646-892-7999or visit www.59e59.org. Running time 95 minutes.