We're now in a weird stage of the pandemic where some of us are wondering if we've lost the ability to socialize in person, some are breaking quarantine habits in favor of not losing it, and some of us are actually...well, losing it.
That's more or less the backdrop for Eden Theater's The Kitchen Plays: three one-acts (performed together) that take place in, you guessed it, the kitchen. Written by emerging NYC playwrights, these plays have been created specifically for Zoom, like most theatre these days. As usual, Eden Theater's playwrights and performers have come up with creative ways to use both the Zoom medium and the one-room setting. And as usual, it's scarily easy to relate to characters having a mental and/or emotional breakdown amid the backdrop of COVID-19.
In Passion Project, written by Cassandra Paras and directed by Byron Anthony, two actor friends try to practice for an upcoming audition during a work break. But as they try to make it through a simple scene, real life keeps getting in the way. Larry Fleischman and Cassandra Paras both put in very honest, affecting performances, convincingly portraying an unconventional but touching relationship. Laced with understated humor, the play's emotional beats all land right. It's 15 or so minutes of much-needed catharsis, and incidentally, my favorite of the three.
Ginger Bug, written by Jake Brasch and directed by Amber Calderon, finds two friends meeting for their weekly Zoom cookoff, but they might have taken things a bit too far. Janine, played by Madeline Barr, is ready to end the charade and just have a heart-to-heart talk in person, but months of isolation seem to have affected her friend Perry, played by Jake Brasch, who now feels more comfortable around his sourdough starter and ginger bug than around people. Barr is excellent as a recent divorcee on the verge of a breakdown, while Brasch is delightfully zany and just the right amount of uncomfortable. The play includes some cleverly fun dialogue, and Perry's obsession with his sourdough starter hits much too close to home.
In final play For the Family, written by Madison Harrison and directed by Diane Davis, a young man (Owen Alleyne) is at his wits' end trying to decide what to make for Thanksgiving with his estranged parents. And his friend, very entertainingly played by Danielle Kogan, isn't much help. After hanging up on a friend, furiously ripping out pages of a recipe book, and falling asleep in the kitchen, our main character may just be saved by a surprise ending. But should he really be happy about this turn of events?
Not sure about that, but I do know one thing. Until live, in-person theater resumes, quarantined theatregoers, out-of-work actors, and starved playwrights are lucky to have initiatives like Eden Theater's four-part series The Room Plays (of which The Kitchen Plays is the final installment) to tide us over.
Livestreamed performances of 'The Kitchen Plays' take place on Friday, February 5 at 8pm, Thursday, February 11 at 8pm, Friday, February 12 at 8pm Friday, February 19 at 8pm, and Saturday, February 20 at 8pm. For tickets and more information, visit: