Raging Skillet – Review by Bonnie Goldberg


Chefs are noted for being temperamental and demanding divas who rule their domain, kitchens, like a dictator and hold dominion over all the appliances and food preparation . Their menus are sacrosanct and the specific property of their creators, not subject to questions or reproach. All that being said, you probably have not met the likes of Chaf Rossi, that distinct breed of food preparer who is taking over the kitchen set, created with care by Michael Schweikardt, at Hartford TheaterWorks until Sunday, August 27.

Thanks to playwright Jacques Lamarre, there’s a new meal maven in town and you’re invited to make her acquaintance. Please note she is a punk rock, lesbian, Jewish, independent and free spirited caterer of a distinct rebellious nature in the world premiere of “Raging Skillet.”

Dana Smith-Croll’s Chef Rossi is her own woman, secure in her title and career and mistress of her destiny. She has just written a new tell-all book about her life, complete with recipes, and tonight is her book launch party. Signed copies of her book are available for purchase after the show. Together with her right hand man and helpmate, George Salazar’s D J Skillit, she is literally on top of her form, the meatball on top of her flavorful mound of spaghetti.

All is going swimmingly in rich tomato sauce until her mother invades the scene, a woman who has been dead since 1992. Marilyn Sokol’s mom upsets the culinary cart and spills the baked beans and Ritz crackers and has a kniption fit when she finds her daughter, for all her kosher upbringing, is cooking with bacon. It’s a shanda, a scandal, an outrageous act against God.

The mother-daughter dynamic is explored and shaken in a beer batter concoction. Mom can accept the recipes that make up a Snickers and Potato Chip Casserole but bacon, even when it is dipped in chocolate, is too much. It may cause mama to die all over again.

Audience members get to sample some of the unusual and tasty treats (I recommend the pizza bagels) and the even stranger drinks. The ultimate message, after the chopped liver hits the fan, is that “food is love” and family is family. John Simpkins directs this intriguing “sound track” of Chef Rossi’s unorthodox life.

For tickets ($50-65, seniors Saturday matinee $35, student rush $15 when available), call TheaterWorks, 233 Pearl Street, Hartford at 860-527-7838 or online at www.theaterworkshartford.org. Performances are Tuesday to Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday matinee 2:30 p.m.

Bring your coupons, coriander and chopping block as this wild child reminisces about adventures and guilt trips on her way to success as a chief chef and caterer.