By Karla Betania Sánchez Arismendi
Three cups of talent, 2/5 cup of laughter, three spoons of family drama, four cups of love and five of bad words.
With the premiere of Kitchen Witches, Azuay Community Theater has proven that it is recharged! The first day of the show at its new location was a total success. All 80 seats sold, prolonged applause, boisterous laughter, and friendly faces greeted the performers. And, a good one for Diana Ham, in her first role as a director.
While ACT is known for its “Readers’ Theater,” all actors in this show memorized their lines, and no mistakes or scripts were evident. Actors dedicated eight weeks to rehearsals, memorizing lines and practicing together.
When asked whether this marked the end of ACT’s “Act Naked” readers’ theater, Deana Culp, President of ACT’s Board of Directors, said “Absolutely not! The expat community is comprised mostly of retired people, many of whom are worried that they are unable to memorize all the lines required for a full two-hour play. We tell them to try out for the Act Naked reader’s theater productions, where the actors have scripts in their hands and still can participate on stage.”
Also, for the first time, costumes were used for an ACT show. Funny and well-chosen apparel was an excellent addition to an exceptional performance. The significant effort that volunteers made in the stage design were readily apparent. Hopefully, as time passes, the stage design will only improve with hard work by the volunteers.
The play started with the voice of Bob Fry (playing the role of Stephen Biddle) opening the doors of a low-budget cable TV cooking show. Bob convinced the audience that he is a shy but loving man, who genuinely cares about his mother despite her many shortcomings. Fry managed to create an almost tangible connection with the audience, who trusted him and followed his guidance through the two-hour performance.
With the permission of the author, the director decided to use the familiar names of local businesses, like the Vegetable Bar, Cuenca Consignments and Cuenca Car Share and many others, adding a personal touch to the production.
Terri Drake erupts into the first scene as Dolly Biddle, a “mature” star of a cable-access cooking TV show that is about to be taken off the air, and, not coincidentally, she is also Stephen’s mother. Terri provoked loud laughter with her bad words, witty insults and the way she can show-off a costume. The conversations with her enemy and the ex-best friend were easy-flowing, funny and delightful.
Organizers offered cookies, champagne, and juice to the audience in the intermission. That gave theater-goers time to chat with friends, meet other people or admire the new ACT home, check out the three floors, white walls, beautiful pictures of the new theater. Everyone seemed to agree that it’s beautiful home for the performing arts.
In the play’s second act, Cody Hamilton (Isobel Lomax), was the star. In every scene, she managed to communicate and connect with the audience. She made us present, listening, watching, feeling. Trained at the Cordon Bleu, “Izzy” was a successful woman who has come to terms with the choices she has made early in life. She also quickly set up the audience for the unexpected plot twists in the play.
The laughs climax
A man from the audience was chosen to go on the stage to be the “celebrity judge” in a cooking competition between the two witches (Dolly and Isobel) that turned into a hilarious and very messy issue.
Linda Lewis (Roberta the Camera Gal) had just one line. But each time she appeared on the stage, she did it with perfect timing. She cleaned upsets, reset props, answered the phone and kept Stephen supplied with nicotine patches.
ACT plans to improve the space to meet their needs better. As funds become available, they intend to raise and extend the stage, install more lighting instruments and light board, and wire the space for sound. Meanwhile, they are luxuriating in their very own space, where they can rehearse on stage, rather than in someone’s living room, and leave the sets up for more than one night.
The first ACT performance at their new home was a success. Come down and visit them at their theater, immediately to the west of the Oro Verde Hotel on Av. Ordoñez Lasso and get to know more about their future projects. ACT always welcomes new people to join them, whether actors, musicians, set construction, costume designers, directors, ticket sales, or any of the other myriad volunteer jobs that make community theater possible.