A pair of lifelong best enemies catfight it out on the set of a community access cable TV cooking show in Caroline Smith’s entertaining if minor comedy The Kitchen Witches, now playing at San Pedro’s Little Fish Theatre.

44641_10151518023371373_885839048_n The final live broadcast of Baking With Babcha (pronounced bob-ka) has only just cut to community service announcements when its heavily-accented Ukrainian hostess’s cooking lesson is interrupted by an uninvited studio audience guest threatening legal action against Babcha.

The guest in question turns out to be none other than the deposed hostess of the station’s previous cooking show Busy Izzy, who declares in no uncertain terms that “Babcha from Ukraine” is in fact the very unforeign Dolly Plotznick, and that Dolly’s late husband Larry Biddle may have married “Babcha” way back when but he loved “Izzy” … and she’s wearing the Biddle family heirloom ring to prove it.

The eruption of the former best friends’ feud on live TV proves so much more entertaining than either lady’s own cooking show that the duo get invited to co-host a new-and-improved joint effort beginning with the following week’s broadcast.

In the immortal words of Margo Channing, “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night!.”

1000231_10151518023366373_491887103_n Much of the pleasure in watching The Kitchen Witches comes from the insults that fly and furious between Dolly (Madeleine Drake) and Izzy (Adriana Bate) to the consternation of the show’s producer—and Dolly’s son—Stephen (Glen Alexander), whose efforts at peacemaking prove futile indeed.

When Dolly insists that Izzy is the older of the two and Izzy demands, “Since when?”, Dolly is quick to quip, “Since God said ‘Let there be light’ and you threw the switch!” When the full-figured Dolly protests Izzy’s calling her “overstuffed,” Izzy shoots back with “Honey, we could fill you with helium and rename you Zeppelin!” When Stephen expresses his hope that the Kitchen Witches can “rise above it all and soar like an eagle,” Izzy responds with “It’s hard to soar like an eagle when you work with a turkey,” to which Dolly replies “Who are you calling a turkey, you scrawny-necked buzzard?”

And so it goes.

Despite a Samuel French Canadian Play Contest win, The Kitchen Witches has “community theater staple” written all over it. In other words, don’t expect it to debut on (or even off) Broadway any time soon.

Still, at about ninety minutes (plus intermission), Smith’s comedy doesn’t overstay its welcome, and if nothing else, it offers two very juicy roles for “women of a certain age.”

1002903_10151518023361373_1509688726_n Under C. Ryanne Laratonda’s lively direction, Bate and Drake are clearly having the time of their lives exchanging one barb after another, and if they each occasionally trips over a line here and there, it should be noted that the longtime stage vets accomplished the nearly impossible feat of taking over their starring roles only days before Opening Night.

A nicely layered Alexander provides tiptop support as the long-suffering Stephen and a terrific Christopher Bunyi proves that you don’t need to open your mouth to garner laughs as Rob The Camera Guy, the “Audio-Visual Co-op student from the excellent ‘Getting Our Kids Off The Street’ program.”

733758_10151518023501373_101445782_n Scenic designer Chris Beyries has created a dandy kitchen set, effectively lit as always by Darrell Clark, and if the production skimps a bit on the gazillion food props specified in Smith’s ambitious script addendum, prop mistress Teresa Stirewalt has done a commendable job of getting together a whole bunch of them. Christa Armendariz has come up with some wonderful costumes, including Ukrainian and Southern Belle-wear for Dolly, more fashionable garb (and a Colonel Sanders suit!) for Izzy, and character-appropriate outfits for the men. Laratonda and Christopher Renfro’s sound design features a fine mix of music (by Rachel Randall and Renfro) and effects. Aileen Kamoshita is stage manager.  Stephanie Coltrin is producer.

The Kitchen Witches provides a nifty gender balance to Richard Dresser’s (male) odd-couple comedy Rounding Third, running concurrently on the Little Fish stage, adding up to a pair of mid-summer crowd pleasers for San Pedro’s intimate theater gem.

Little Fish Theatre, 777 Centre St. San Pedro.

–Steven Stanley
August 14, 2013
Photos: Mickey Elliot

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