Jack Lyons Theatre & Film Critic
Jack Lyons Theatre & Film Critic

What does one get when a faux TV cooking show goes wildly off the rails? You get a comedy production that is loaded with laughs courtesy of the St. Joseph Players of Yucca Valley. The light comedy/farce however, is a tad weak on plot and a bit confusing to follow at times, but the kookie (no pun intended), baking and cooking comedy show is nicely straightened out by professional veteran actor/director Abe Daniels.

15178130_1826605424251096_258952092906166303_nDaniels, is a multiple Desert Theatre League (DTL) award winning actor/director who knows his way around comedy, farce, satire, and drama too. ”Kitchen Witches” written by Canadian playwright Caroline Smith caught his eye while searching for a play to direct for audiences of the hi-desert theatre company founded by actor/director Rebecca Havely.

The story in short, revolves around two “mature” Divas of a local, TV cable access station who were former friends: Dolly Biddle, who performs her show in a Russian/Ukrainian accent, is sensationally played by Marty Neider, one of hi-desert’s finest character actors. New to the desert acting scene is Sally Fox as Isobel Lomax, who blusters her way into Dolly’s TV show one morning. Isobel is Dolly’s arch rival and former best friend. Both women have their own cooking shows at the same TV station, but at different times and days. Both have off-camera personal baggage issues and both have secrets they’re not interested in sharing with their fans or audience. Due to dwindling ratings for both shows, management has decided to place both ladies on a new show called “Kitchen Witches” as a way of boosting viewership.

15203291_1826605430917762_1093512004337836243_nAs a result, the next few words one would expect to hear is … “Ladies, start your engines” or “Let the games begin!” And begin they do. On Day One of the new show: the set is all smiles, then on subsequent shows the sly catty remarks, then the full blown insults and on air behavior no self-respecting TV channel management organization would allow to take place… takes place. But, guess what? Negative showmanship gets the ratings and the dollars and the profits win the day.

The job of refereeing this two-woman tag match cooking show, falls to harried TV producer/director Steven Biddle played by Jackson Dean. Not only does he have to make sure the show goes on and off the air on schedule, he must continually wet-nurse his two divas in order to keep them from doing bodily harm to one another on the air. It isn’t easy. To complicate matters, Dolly is Stephen’s mother. Shouts of favoritism leap immediately from the lips of Isobel. And two former friends are at each other’s throat once more arguing as to who gets Dressing Room # One. And you thought only men were hyper-competitive. Really?

Recording all of the on-set antics is studio technician Rob, the camera guy, played by Barry Inscore, who invokes the ghost of silent movie icon buster Keaton. Rob never utters a word. He just goes about his business with his TV camera. If one is looking for a little kitchen magic from the actors like actually preparing food forget it. The only food they might prepare is used to throw at one another while on the air.

Director Daniels doe a nice job of keeping everyone on message, so to speak. The technical creative team led by Daniels consists of set builder David Jessup, costume designer Kathryn Ferguson, who does a neat job with the Witches costumes and all the rest of what the actors wear. Also Sharon Noble costume assistance and props with help from: Rex Aleshire, Mike Lipsitz, Jericho McWilliams, Rebecca Havley, Liyan Legavarti, Shannon McWilliams , and Pat Michaels. Light/Sound Technician Francis Wright completes the team.

“Kitchen Witches” performs at The St. Joseph Players Theatre in Rusack Hall, Yucca Valley, through December 4, 2016. For tickets call the box office at 760-362-9319.