Director Michael John Garcés takes a fiendishly literal approach to Eduardo Machado’s new kitchen-sink drama, The Cook. Call it the Williams-Sonoma school of staging. Not only do the faucets work, but the hors d’oeuvres and cakes, freshly whipped up, look absolutely scrumptious. Set in a Cuban mansion on New Year’s Eve just prior to Castro’s rise to power, the play revolves around Gladys (Zabryna Guevara), the beloved cook who promises to look after the estate while her panicked mistress flees to America with her furs and jewels. The incoming Communist dictatorship may spell disaster for the rich, but it’s a time of optimism for the servants. Even trusty Gladys momentarily puts down her spatula to light a cigar and throw back some rum. Still, her loyalty to the old aristocratic order will, like the grand house she assiduously maintains, withstand the depredations of nearly four decades of disappointment and change.
Machado’s epic tale is affecting in its outline, though often dull in its unfolding. So much time is spent mixing, simmering, and spreading—it’s like watching the Food Network without the benefit of a pre-production staff to speed things along. Garcés’s spotty cast doesn’t help matters, though Guevara ultimately rises in stature as reliably as one of her character’s delectable puff pastries.