PICKSINSIX Review: HOW TO USE A KNIFE
"SEARING 'KNIFE' LEAVES DEEP, HAUNTING WOUNDS"
A pivotal reckoning … The stark and haunting wounds of civil strife that lay at the center of playwright Will Snider’s searing drama How to Use a Knife directed by Shattered Globe’s producing artistic director Sandy Shinner are now nearly 25 years old. Coincidentally, news reports have surfaced recently about ongoing efforts to identify the staggering number of more than 800,000 victims of the genocide in Rwanda, a defining event for one of the two main characters whose personal coping methods begin to emerge as the pivotal reckoning for his boss, Chef George, who has a thousand-yard stare all his own.
What’s it about … Michael worked on the line for Michelin star Chef George years ago. Not very talented, George recalls, but, smart enough to parley meetings with George’s patrons, raise capital and launch his own restaurant. Meanwhile, after George invented the “12/12 Pairing Menu” his fast-paced lifestyle took a gut-wrenching turn. So now George “needs to get his wings back” and Michael has hired him as the new chef in his trendy Wall Street restaurant.
Everyone has a story … Peter DeFaria delivers a fine, multi-layered performance as the complex and tortured chef who suffers from drug and alcohol addiction. Helping George find his way out of the darkness is Steve – Anthony Irons in a powerful, measured performance – whose willingness to learn quickly moves him up as a confidant and mentee. As Steve's past comes back to roost, it is the impassioned, deeply personal, interplay that brings them together and ultimately drives them apart.
A terrific pairing … Snider’s frank statements about accountability and loss permeate this story and there is a depth chart running through each character. Michael (a solid role for Shattered Globe ensemble member Brad Woodard) appears to have completely lost touch with the business and those he works with, so must rely on someone he can trust in the kitchen. The line cooks, Miguel and Carlos, a terrific pairing of Victor Marana and Dennis García, share the responsibility of keeping things running at the restaurant but also need to protect their jobs. Everyone is seemingly trying to stay ahead of Kim (Michelle Bester) from the immigration authorities while Jack, the busboy/writer that Dillon Kelleher splendidly embodies as the voice of the playwright, is happy to just get a paycheck.
Precise detailing … the precise detailing of the set design by Jeffrey Bauer, elaborate props by Abigail Cain, costumes by Hailey Rakowiecki, sizzling lights and sound by Shelley Strasser and Christopher Kriz is so striking that you almost smell the steak coming off the grill. One can imagine what’s happening just outside the swinging doors as the activity on stage heats up and more of this heart-wrenching story unfolds.
A lot to be learned … recreating a busy, fast-paced kitchen environment requires the kind of ingenious staging that Shinner has fashioned with the audience on two-sides in Theater Wit's Theater Three. There is a lot to be learned about the inner workings of expeditors, line cooks, and busboys but not everyone is who they appear to be - particularly when they are holding the knife, which adds an effective and chilling element to the dark side of this play full of manic, unhinged emotions, and mind-searing life experiences that are hauntingly familiar.