Volume 73, Number 47 | March 24 -30, 2004

Theater


“Cooking With Lard”
MAINSTAGE
HERE, 145 Sixth Ave
Thru April 3
Mon., Thurs-Sat. 8:30 p.m.
Sun. 4 p.m.
212-868-4444.


Talking Texan at the local diner

By Davida Singer

Cindy Hanson and Kathryn Dickinson in “Cooking With Lard” at HERE.

In the vein of “Fried Green Tomatoes”, a new off-beat, comedy co-written by Texans Cindy Hanson and Cheryl Norris opens this week at HERE.

“Cooking With Lard” is set in Addie’s diner and takes place over the course of a day (dawn to dusk) in a small Texas town, just outside of Austin. There’s a mystery here – the death of a local man whose wife may have killed him - and everybody’s talking about it, along with every other snippet of news they can wrap their vocal chords around.

Part of White Bird Productions’ Flying South Series, “Cooking with Lard” marks the reunion of a creative team who studied theater together over 20 years ago at SMU.

“Our general mission is to do theater works that explore urban environments,” says Artistic director/actor, Kathryn Dickinson, who founded White Bird in 1998.

“We collaborate with theater artists on environmental themes, and currently we’re exploring plays that take place in and examine the American South.  We’ve also been doing something called Creative Theatrics, theater programs in Brooklyn for children and youth.”

The “Cooking With Lard” project began about five years ago, after Hanson invited Dickinson to see a production of the show in Chicago. Dickinson was impressed, and when Hanson moved to New York soon after, the two began work on a new staging of the piece.

“What first attracted me to the play was that four actresses play fifteen different characters - all women,” said Dickinson, who also acts in the show. “Plus, it’s very funny in its exploration of the human spirit. It’s about how people really talk to each other. The writing style has some broad comedy and some performance art blended into it. We don’t use make-up or wigs, so we’re dependent on words and performance. In this time of multi-media abstract theater, this is a throwback to older traditional works. It’s something like “Greater Tuna”- female Southern Gothic.”

Dickinson describes the set for “Cooking With Lard” as a naturalistic diner, with walls covered in black and red menus, red and white checkered floor, and interspersed splotches of turquoise. A heavy dose of Texan tunes keeps everything jumping.

“Both playwrights grew up in Texas, and lots of people there still cook with lard, so Addie does too, in her diner,” said Dickinson. “And there’s another character, a protester, who is a vegetarian. We’ve got a lot of meat images here, and lots of good-natured debate. It’s really high voltage all the way through.”

So how does that affect the actor/director’s personal energy flow? 

“I’m not usually in these shows, so it’s wonderful to do this one, but it takes a huge amount of stamina to do both. But that’s true for everyone involved. My hope is that this translates to the audience. It’s so cathartic when you have a really good laugh. This play doesn’t challenge you on the surface. It’s meant to be fun and light.”

“On the other hand, there’s also something more to be found here,” she said. “I was born in Mississippi, grew up in California. Often New Yorkers think they’re the only sophisticated, smart people in America, and that’s just not true. There are some jerky people in the diner, but we also meet some open-minded, intelligent folks there as well. The characters might seem stereotypical, but they’re also recognizable. No matter where you’re from, there is that character in your own environment.”


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