Friday, June 7, 2013

Cookin' With Gus Is a Smorgasbord of Silliness

By James E. Trainor III
Photo By Jackie McCall

Deborah Kennedy as Gus;
Marquetta Senters as Carmen
Amana - Gourmet chef Gus Richardson (Deborah Kennedy) has been offered the chance of a lifetime: her very own cooking show. There's only one problem: she's deathly afraid of cameras, microphones, and public speaking in general. Well, there are two problems, really; her boyfriend Walter (Dion Stover) doesn't want her to do the show. He's a retired inventor who wants her to take some time off, travel with him, and finally tie the knot. When they strike a precarious bargain — he'll hypnotize her to overcome her stage fright if she'll agree to get married and go on safari — the stage is set for the series of farcical mishaps that is Cookin' with Gus.

Jim Brochu's script is palatable; it's funny and peppered with visual gags, though at times the action moves a little slowly. The real strength is in its memorable characters, such as Bernie (Eddie Skaggs), Gus's agent. Bernie has a taste for talking mainly in abbreviations, which makes for a lot of comic misunderstandings. Another spicy side-dish is Carmen (Marquetta Senters), the co-host for Gus's pilot. Carmen, a self-described gypsy fortune-teller, is taking her passion for liquor up a notch by taking night classes in bartending. These two offer up large servings of laughs when they come on stage. The script does feel a little gimmicky, but with farce, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and this cast, under Sean McCall's direction, executes Cookin' with Gus with skill and style.

Kennedy and Stover take advantage of the long opening scene to build the relationship between the two of them. They're both very funny actors, always right on time for a punchline or a visual gag, but they're also really listening to each other, and by the time the conflict comes to a boil, it's easy to believe they're really fighting and they really care about each other.

Kennedy in particular is really great with the physical comedy. When the heat is on and the pasta is flying around the kitchen, she's simply hilarious, and moves the scene along with charm and creativity. She plays well off of Senters, who has a powerful stage presence and adds a second helping of riotous comic energy to the stage.

The set is very effective; a very realistic kitchen upstage dominates the space while leaving enough playing room for all the physical bits. The costumes, by Annette Rubin, serve the show particularly well by adding just the right amount of comic exaggeration to the characters of Bernie and Carmen. McCall's stirring direction does a wonderful job of combining all the ingredients in Gus into a comic stew that leaves one wanting more. If you're hungry for farce, head to Old Creamery!

Cookin' With Gus runs through June 30 on the main stage at Old Creamery. More information here.

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