Raging Skillet – Review by Tim Leininger

‘Raging Skillet’ offers a tasty night out

Local playwright Jacques Lamarre’s new play “Raging Skillet,” now playing at TheaterWorks Hartford, is an uneven, but mostly funny recounting of the real life memoir of acclaimed catering chef, Chef Rossi.

Plus the show serves food — real food — which is partly prepared during the show and served to the audience.

“Raging Skillet” opens as a cooking demonstration and book promotion show presented with a rock concert theme. There are as many speakers on stage as there are kitchen appliances.
Hosting the show is Chef Rossi (Dana Smith-Croll) along with her sidekick DJ Skillet (George Salazar).

The concept is that they promote Rossi’s book, “The Raging Skillet: The True Life Story of Chef Rossi, a Memoir with Recipes,” while discussing highlights of her life that are referenced in the book and making some food from the book.

The play takes a turn to the paranormal when the ghost of Rossi’s mom (Marilyn Sokol) shows up to give her perspective on the events that Rossi recounts.
Contention begins to rear its ugly head as the two women bicker and debate over their past conflicts, like Rossi’s homosexuality and her appreciation for non-kosher food.
Lamarre, for the most part, keeps the conflict light and weaves humor into the narrative. But as things progress and their relationship grows worse, Rossi becomes more and more unlikable and less sympathetic.

This all seems intentional and the reasoning appears to be to add drama to the story. But as it escalates, it gets a little too heavy for the initial premise. It is almost like meeting a person you initially like and have a great time with and then discover they are really an arrogant and spiteful human being.

I am usually not one to endorse over-sentimentality, but “Raging Skillet” could have done with a little more levity on the later end of the show.

The pacing also suffers from time to time as DJ Skillet has to move around the house from his DJ station behind the audience down to the stage and around as necessary. It would probably improve if the stage design incorporated the portion of the stage that was used in “Fade” that is closed off in this production and put the DJ station down to the side of the stage instead of behind the house. This could have expedited shifts in the narrative.

Smith-Croll gives Rossi a great rock star personality. She moves around the kitchen with confidence and keeps her timing down perfectly with her dialogue as she walks away from a skillet cooking bacon and is able to come back at just the right time to turn them and pull them off the heat.

Aside from the aforementioned issues with the narrative getting too dramatic at the end, she also keeps the show light and funny.
Sokol is great as Rossi’s mother, presenting a humorous pity that is both self-righteous and adorable at the same time.

Salazar meanwhile is the breath of fresh air as the play progresses. His presence keeps the show as loose and relaxed as possible until the drama supersedes his involvement.

“Raging Skillet” is an overall enjoyable show. Though it does get a little heavy for its atmosphere of celebrating food and life, it is mostly humorous and a light night of theater.
Plus, if you’re lucky, you’ll get to eat as well.

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