Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast
How to Use a Knife takes place in the kitchen of a New York restaurant. The first half hour is a setup as we watch the kitchen undergo some management changes, but the play gains momentum in a scene between dishwasher Steve, who is from Africa, and Chef George, brought in to organize a poorly functioning staff. Important issues tackled by this engrossing play include immigration, the morality of war and substance use/abuse. None of these issues are clearly resolved and I know I will be thinking about this play for a while.
The play is performed by a superb ensemble cast. One can actually breathe the relationships between various factions in the kitchen: cooks, the dishwasher, a busboy, the new chef/manager, the owner and oft absent owner. Sam Mossler is Chef George. He is clearly in charge of the kitchen but cares about his people. Cedric Cannon is Steve, whose deeply buried past sets things in motion. Alfredo de Quesada is Carlos and Omar Pelaez is Miguel, two Guatemalan cooks. Michael Fraser is Jack the busboy, and Chris Tipp is owner Michael. Alexis Hyatt completes the cast as Kim, an inspector from immigration looking for Etienne, known to us as Steve.
Director Jason Cannon makes the limitations of Bowne's Lab Theatre a plus for this production. With limited scenic design by Bruce Price possible, he keeps the focus on the characters and the plot. He does amazing work just keeping seven characters moving with purpose in a tiny playing space. Costume designer Adrienne Webber offers attire that helps define time and place. Lighting designer Bryce Benson and sound designer Thomas Korp provide professional results.
How to Use a Knife is provocative theater at its best, and I highly recommend it.
Florida Studio Theatre's How to Use a Knife, through February 9, 2018, at the Gompertz Theatre 1241 N. Palm Avenue, Sarasota FL. For tickets and performance information, please call the box office at 941-366-9000 or visit www.floridastudiotheatre.org.
Cast (in order of appearance):