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Come On In My Kitchen

a Play
CATEGORY : DRAMA
by Robert Earl Price

COMPANY : 7 Stages [WEBSITE]
VENUE : 7 Stages [WEBSITE]
ID# 1531

SHOWING : February 16, 2006 - March 12, 2006

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

Playwright Price ("Hush") uses the Crossroads legend of Blues great Robert Johnson as a springboard for a musical and poetic meditation on compromise and selling out.


CAST & CREW LIST
Director Del Hamilton
CP Brandon Dirden
Tuner Yvonne Singh
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REVIEWS

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What was that
by tylers
Tuesday, March 7, 2006
2.0
Well...hummmm... well... welllll... I just didn't like it. While I agree with Brad that there were "some" talented people on stage by far I didn't not enjoy the show. I found the characters of CR, CP and CT to be a little to "actory," if you know what I mean. CP heee kneeewww heeee waaaassss onnnnn staaaaggggeee. I am sorry for the strange text but I think you all know what I mean. To me the only "stand-outs" were the blues singer and the "devil" character. These women had unbelieveable voices. I enjoyed the staging of the show and the use of the projected images. I do have to say though I found the lady who sat stage right and held the camera to be a bit distracting as she was 2 seats away from me.

Maybe I just don't have enough book learnin but I just couldn't "get" the show. Was the author trying to condemn African American's for selling thier souls to become successful or merely acknowleding that it is something that must be done in order to get ahead? Also there were many comments made by the characters that I just don't agree with. Could it would be because a caucasian can't understand the view from African American eyes? Maybe so.

Tyler Schaker [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
Compromise, Sour Grapes, and Poetic Vision
by Dedalus
Friday, March 3, 2006
3.0
As the legend goes, Robert Johnson made a deal with the devil at the Crossroads and became one of the best Blues guitarists ever. Using this as a starting point, playwright Robert Earl Price and 7 Stages’ Director Del Hamilton have constructed a poetic piece called “Come on in my Kitchen,” also the title of a Johnson favorite. Filled with Blues, imagery and bombast, “Kitchen” wonders what compromises were made by three contemporary African American political figures, known here only as C.T., C.R., and C.P., a judge, diplomat, and soldier respectively. The play also ponders the nature of compromise, the costs of attaining dreams, and the question of whether the structure of Blues can be translated into an evening of theatre. I’m very ambivalent on the results – I loved the piece in parts, but I’m not sure it holds up as a whole. In that spirit, let me offer the following disparate observations – some of them have more to do with my own worldview and state-of-mind than with the play itself – and perhaps you will get some sense of the play itself.

I liked this piece much more than the previous Price/Hamilton collaboration (“Hush – Composing Blind Tom Wiggins”) which I thought exploited a little-known musician to make a sociopolitical statement that gave a “been there seen that” feeling. In this case, the statement is more textured, more complex, and the use of Robert Johnson more symbolic than exploitative.

As political theatre, “Kitchen” is miles ahead of the last 7 Stages import (“George and Martha”) – C.T., C.R., and C.P. are full and complete characters who exist independent of our knowledge of Clarence Thomas, Condaleeza Rice, and Colin Powell – the play will not lose its relevance or meaning once the antecedents have been forgotten.

What the heck was the slapstick segment between C.T. and C.P. all about? It wasn’t over-the-top enough to qualify as a Stepin-Fetchit satire, wasn’t poetic enough to add to the flow of the evening, wasn’t funny enough to work on its own terms. It was as jarring as if Robert Johnson stopped a Blues riff to badly paraphrase a Chris Rock joke.

The play’s music, mostly performed by Valerie Hines, was marvelous. Take away the dialog sequences, and you’re still left with a compelling Robert Johnson tribute concert.

How much of the Robert Johnson legend was sour grapes by those who couldn’t measure up to his standards? How much is racist spin that saves the teller from actually respecting a Black Man’s accomplishments? How much contemporary criticism of conservative African Americans is the same?

What exactly is compromise? Does C.R. compromise her ethnicity by liking Mozart more than Blues, or does she compromise herself by pretending to like Blues because “she’s supposed to?”

How much of the devil’s deal is based on personal ambition and how much on societal prejudgments?

The repetitive nature of Blues is part of its strength – in the longer format of an evening of theatre, is it a weakness? I found many of the sequences needlessly repetitive without advancing the admittedly thin plotline and without adding to the poetic impact of the evening. Compare this to “Maria Kazito,” also a thinly plotted poetic piece, but whose repetitions added more emotional weight.

For once, projections and on-screen performances worked – Robert Johnson appears only as a projected image, as do several other characters played by Theo Harkness and Kenny Leon. A live camera also reproduced on-screen images of the actors at critical moments. This could have been distracting, but, instead, added to the dreamlike quality of the production.

In the main roles, Isma’il ibn Connor, Brandon Dirden, and Bobbi Lynne Scott were outstanding, giving some of the best work I’ve seen from any of them. The entire ensemble gelled completely, even those actors whose entire performances were pre-recorded.

To summarize, “Come On in My Kitchen” is a beautiful and heartfelt work, raising questions more compelling than the answers some would provide. Its poetic language, its music, and its dreamlike imagery helped build a vision of “magical realism” that only the theatre can get away with. Its passion, though, was too cerebral, too skin-deep – it didn’t cut to the bone, like a Robert Johnson piece can. Maybe that’s why it didn’t quite hold together for me. It’s as if Mr. Price and Mr. Hamilton weren’t quite ready to make their own Moonlight Deal at the Crossroads.

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)

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