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Caroline’s Kitchen

Theatre Review by Howard Miller - May 2, 2019

Aden Gillett and Caroline Langrishe
Photo by Sam Taylor

The production of Torben Betts' overstuffed yet undernourished raucous comedy Caroline's Kitchen, opening tonight at 59E59 Theaters, is like something you might experience if you were to simultaneously binge watch episodes of the cartoonish "Married . . . with Children" on one screen and "All in the Family" (but without the satiric touch) on another, while drinking on an empty stomach from a bottle or two of cheap wine. There may be moments that amuse, but at the price of a serious hangover.

This British import, running slightly over 90 minutes, takes place in the home of Caroline (Caroline Langrishe) and Mike (Aden Gillett), where their kitchen (New York apartment dwellers will be envious of James Perkins' lovingly detailed set design) doubles as the TV studio where Caroline's popular cooking show is aired. As the play opens, she and her aide Amanda (Jasmyn Banks), who is pretending to be a Swedish culinary expert, are rehearsing for the next day's live telecast of the final show of the season. It doesn't take long before we realize we are being set up for a sort of a sitcom qua farce, but things fly off in so many different directions that it's difficult to know what the intent is. Take a deep breath and prepare for spoilers ahead as I attempt to give a capsule summary of the plot.

Caroline, we learn, is a heavy drinker and a right-wing conservative in her politics and in her religious views who is carrying on an affair with the handyman Graeme (James Sutton), who is married to Sally (Elizabeth Boag), who has mental health problems. Then there is Caroline's husband Mike, a bipolar verbally abusive sexist and homophobe, who wants Caroline to forgive him for an affair he has been carrying on. Rounding out this happy little family group is Caroline and Mike's son Leo (Tom England), who has just arrived home to celebrate his graduation from Cambridge "with a First," as his mother tells everyone in sight at least ten thousand times. What Leo wants most of all is to be able to tell his father that he is gay, but he cannot get a word in edgewise with his distracted and self-absorbed parents. If this isn't enough, there are perhaps another half dozen plot threads that show up and lead nowhere.

Perhaps the play is meant to examine the disintegration of the family in an age of narcissism, but there is little of substance beyond running around and yelling, some of it on top of a very loud and close thunderstorm (God's wrath?). To their credit, Ms. Langrishe, Mr. Gillett, and Ms. Banks give it their all by frenetically playing things up as if they were appearing in an actual well-constructed farce, and there is no faulting their timing under Alastair Whatley's direction. But, to quote Mme Armfeldt from A Little Night Music, Where is style? Where is skill? Where is forethought? The answer is, unfortunately, not here.

Caroline's Kitchen
Through May 25
Theater A at 59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th Street between Madison and Park Avenues
Tickets online and current Performance Schedule:

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