Comfort food is on the menu at Barbara’s Blue Kitchen, and while there’s no reason to send health inspectors over to Lori Fischer’s new play with music, a serious upgrade in ingredients is needed. Leftovers are being served.
Fischer’s play is set in Watertown, Tennessee, where the local DJ (Scott Wakefield) announces in a terrifically cheery tone that “all the songs are original and all the folks listening are one of a kind.” As the radio plays, small, familiar dramas unfold. Barbara’s half-sister brings her kids in and tries to stash her vicious dog in the kitchen. Barbara frets about the lothario hairdresser whom she loves. The new waitress describes the abusive marriage she’s just fled.
Fischer does a credible job alternating between these and other characters. The play, however, feels concertedly manipulative. Each serving of heartbreak comes with an equal measure of life-affirming sentiment and cloying comedy. The freshest ingredients in Kitchen are Fischer’s country-western tunes, even if the lyrics are a day or two old. Audiences will leave Kitchen—and its requisite upbeat ending—filled by the menu, but not terribly satisfied.