The Kitchen Witches

Written by Caroline Smith
Directed by Marc Richard
Performed by Liz Gordon, Elva Mai Hoover, Ed Sahely, Courtney Micks
Victoria Playhouse Petrolia
July 26 to August 13, 2005
Reviewed by Mary Alderson

Kitchen Witches fails to conjure surprises

The Kitchen Witches, currently running at Victoria Playhouse Petrolia, has an intriguing premise and starts out with some hope, but in the end, it fails to deliver on the promised laughs.

The idea is a good one: two women who have competing cooking shows on the local cable station hate each other. When Izzy tries to take over Dolly’s show, the sparks fly, but the small audience loves the conflict. So the producer, Stephen, decides to continue with the two women cooking and fighting together. By the end, it becomes a little too didactic, and somehow, out of scatological humour, the audience is supposed to learn a lesson about true friendship. Neither the bodily function jokes, nor the message about friendship, work very well.

Playwright Caroline Smith wrote this for the Sterling Festival Theatre in 2003. With tighter editing and by replacing some of the old gags, it could be improved with dialogue to match the creative premise.

The problems were not with the local cast – they did what they could with a tedious script. Liz Gordon as Dolly showed a delightful talent for accents, and a face for comedy. Elva May Hoover as Izzy was somewhat reminiscent of Betty White when she played TV cook Sue Ann Niven on the old Mary Tyler Moore Show. Like Sue Ann, Hoover plays Izzy as all sweetness for the camera, but a real witch when the camera is off.

Ed Sahely plays Stephen Biddle, the exhausted producer trying to garner ratings at a cable channel. Sahely was excellent as the radio personality in Looking at VPP a few weeks ago, and is known for his comedy in the improv television series, This Sitcom: Not to be Repeated. However, in this show, he is reduced to a lot of yelling and doesn’t have the opportunity to demonstrate his comedic timing.

Courtney Micks plays Rob, the camera girl, who is obviously working under some court-ordered volunteer program. Rob (who doesn’t want to be called Roberta) shows her bad attitude throughout. Micks is also the apprentice stage manager.

But while the cast performs well, the gags are old and tired, and the plot has no surprises, right up to the predictable ending.

The Kitchen Witches continues with eight shows a week at Victoria Playhouse Petrolia until August 13. Call the box office at 1-800-717-7694 or (519) 882-1221 for tickets.

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