By Kendra Jones
“Will you be my witness?” Orietta Crispino invites guests to plunge into a sensual experience guided by reminiscences, food, and Italian silks. There’s nobody before her, nobody will come after.
Let Me Cook for You | Trilogy begins when we file into an all-white room at Theaterlab. Orietta lays in fetal position on a kitchen-island table—long white rolled paper beneath her—like at a doctor’s office—an examination room.
It’s a very intimate performance with eight witnesses.
She guides us through the story of her upbringing, the pursuit of finding her father, the death of her mother.
Orietta makes us food: fresh vegetables from the farmer’s market. Now it’s her voice and a knife striking plastic cutting boards. The aroma of garlic tossed into oil: it fills the room so suddenly, so strongly, that I realize it is the only thing I’ve smelled in an hour. Orietta plates our food and pulls over a chair, facing us; we consume her home-cooked meal together.
We move into another bleached room. Versace haute couture hangs on racks. Boxes of nighties and silk robes and camisoles and dresses and suit sets…skirts and dresses. Purple heels, purple fox fur scarf, purple flowing pajamas and robes and blazers and blouses. Pieces and sets inherited and gifted. She tries them on. She notes how beautiful they are, how beautiful she feels. “Beauty is a second skin,” she says as she enthusiastically scurries from one box to the next, piecing together outfits, recollections.
We rub rich Italian silks through our fingers, watch her slip stockings and garters and a black-lace corset over her clothing. I want to touch the beaded Swarovski crystals on her handbag. I want to run my fingers over their edges.
The performance returns to the original room, now dark, pitch-black. Our senses are heightened. We’re led to seats and her voice comes from somewhere. I feel its echo beneath my feet, which now rest on turf flooring. We are in a church, a catholic church: a rotunda built with geometric obsession; she takes us to the altar. I gape at the white room I embrace in my mind, no paintings, no stained glass, she says. I stare up, towards the ceiling. my mouth is agape, like I imagine hers. I don’t realize when the lights are turned on and dimmed, and I wonder how long I have been in this position—head resting back, mouth ajar, eyes closed.
Orietta may had submerged us into her world for just an evening, but her energy and pure delight in memory association will be what I recall when I’m recreating a family dish, recounting my own wardrobe, or choosing to share my truths with those who choose to bear witness.
As the performance concludes, we gather at the altar, communing over wine, Pandoro, and a Polaroid photo captured of us together.
LET ME COOK FOR YOU |TRILOGY By Orietta Crispino, Directed and Co-Created by Liza Cassidy.
Produced by Molly Shayna Cohen.
At Theaterlab, 357 W. 36th St. Floor 3, New York, NY 10018, theaterlabnyc.com. The production will run until May 28 with seating limited to 15 audience members per performance. The performance will run approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes including one 10-minute intermission.
WITH Orietta Crispino