Thursday, January 06, 2005

Elmina's Kitchen

Last night Miss Anonymous L took me to Batimore's Center Stage to see the opening for their new play, Elmina's Kitchen.

The whole play occurs inside the space of a West-Indie take out and delivery restaurant in the Hackney ghettos of London. Delhi, the owner, named the eatery after his dead mother, whose portrait hangs in a promiment spot on the wall behind the counter. The set was perfect: faded paint on the walls, stools and chairs with the vinyl worn out in spots, a t.v. to the side constantly flashing. You could practically smell the curry and the greasy chicken. Ashley, Delhi's 19 year old son, helps with food deliveries when he's not taking classes at college.

The kitchen's primary customers are Baygee, an old timer who sells just a little of everything to anyone, and Digger, a yardie or gang banger who runs a protection racket in Hackney. When he's not eating or chatting up Delhi, Digger struts across the stage engaged in his various deals and transactions via cell phone.

Things begin to change when Delhi hires Anastasia, a willful spitfire of a woman, to help out in the restaurant. An undeniable attraction charges the air between Delhi and Anastasia, and she pushes and nudges him to make some changes in his life. Delhi cleans up the restraunt a bit, replacing the chairs and tableclots, hangs up a neon sign and even adds some unique items like a Plantain and Chicken Sandwich to the menu.

Amidst all the positive changes, the bad inevitably creeps in. Delhi's older brother dies a day before his release from prison. Clifton, Delhi's estranged father, arrives for the funeral and stirs up all levels of old hurt and anger for Delhi. Troubles with Anastasia begin when Delhi's lack of confidence keeps him from moving their relationship beyond friendship. And, as if that weren't enough, Ashley drops all ideas of school and falls under the wing of Digger, who uses Ashley to help muscle and terrorize the businesses in his neighborhood.

Despite some of the high-action moments, Elmina's Kitchen is first and foremost about Delhi's relationships: their development, their evolution and their ultimate disentegration. It is ultimately the disentegration of Delhi's relationship with his son that drives the climax, bringing out a final moment that I was not expecting but could not have been more perfect for this powerhouse of a play.


LadyLitBlitzin said...

Wow, it must be nice to experience culture. :) Sounds like a great time... I think the last play I went to see was... uh... Richard III, I think? Hmm... I don't go to plays nearly enough, I fear.

That was such a nice treat from Anonymous Miss L! Sounds like a lot of fun.

Was this perhaps for a birthday? Hee. :) Happy birthday!

Jen said...

Ha! I read none of your post because I'm working the show on Tuesday (I volunteer usher at Centerstage--actually CENTERSTAGE now) and don't like to read reviews before I see a performance. However, if you're ever coming up again to see a show, let me know and I'll sign up to usher that night so I can say hello.

Have you seen anything else this season? Lady Windermere's Fan was Pretty good, and I liked the Arthur Miller production (can't think of it now) more than I though I would.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if we'll get to more performances or not (particularly since I'm the one who lives in Baltimore), though it would be nice. CENTERSTAGE is such a great venue. Did go to a play with a friend last year... a.m. something, I think. Didn't resonate as much as this did. Enjoy the performance, Jen!


Hebdomeros said...


The b-day is actually tomorrow (Saturday) but thanks for the advance wishes! It was kind of a birthday thing, even if there was no cake. I don't go to theatre, concerts or readings as much as I would like. It was a good thing to do.


This was my first time at CENTERSTAGE. I love the space, and it's a great play. I'm still thinking about it, which is a sign of how much it hit me. I would definitely like to see other things down the line. My review here glosses over a lot of the details, so I don't think you'll lose out by having read it. BTW, avoid the review in the Washington Post. They give away the ending, the bastards. Hope you enjoy it!

Miss Anonymous L-