‘Kitchen Witches’ a tasty confection

When two female cable-access TV chefs, rivals as bitter as bad wine, are forced to work together things heat up faster than hand-held chocolate. The recipe for disaster results in the delicious comic confection “The Kitchen Witches,” a Sonoma Stage Works production playing the Sonoma Community Center through July 15.

Nancy Vandegrift (who also directed the show) is the down-home, self-taught country cook. Her haughty nemesis, trained at the Cordon Bleu and wielding a tongue sharper than a Ginsu knife, is portrayed by Jill Wagoner.

The script, by Caroline Smith, is a workable recipe for ham. With gags, put-downs and even a food fight, the roles are meaty indeed, and the actresses sink their teeth right in.

With their own TV shows canceled, the duo is caught fighting live, on-air. It turns out the two have a history, including a man in common and one big, dark, nerdy secret. The audience loves the cat fighting (Martha Stewart meets Jerry Springer) and a new show, “The Kitchen Witches,” is ordered up by the station manager.

For the chefs, the match turns out to be a pain in the asparagus. The insults fly. Tempers boil over. Backs are stabbed with professional precision. Not much cooking gets done – all the cutting up is strictly verbal — but who cares. One look at these two at work and Gordon Dempsey would run screaming back to England.

Adding to the fun is the set, everything takes place on the stage of the TV show, and the setting: the theater audience is that of the fictional cooking show. So the producer (Ryan Neilan) talks directly to the crowd before going live, employs an ‘applause’ sign and offers a heartfelt greeting to the “dozens of people watching at home.” Nick Christensan as a stage-wandering camera operator adds to the effect.

Amusing local references are sprinkled liberally throughout. The sponsors, real-life supporters of the production such as Sisters Consignment and Patt’s Copy World, get thanked throughout. Receiving multiple shout-outs from the cast is Black Bear Diner, “where the meat is never grisly.”

The manic script is leavened with a bit of drama. The interlude gives Wagoner a chance to show a softer, subtler side. Vandegrift, who has more levels of bubbly than the entire Champagne district of France, has far fewer moments of introspection — she’s too busy sampling the rum-cake rum or sucking whip cream from the can to settle her nerves.

If you like your divas served deep-dish, check out “The Kitchen Witches” before its July 15 expiration date.

“The Kitchen Witches” plays Thursday, July 5 and Saturday, July 7, at 8 p.m., with a 3 p.n. matinee on Sunday, July 8. Tickets are $15-$24. For additional show dates and times, and to order tickets, contact 928-4626 x1 or Sonomacommunitycenter.org.

‘Lobby Hero’ in repertory

“The Lobby Hero,” a work Sonoma Stage Works producer Todd Evans calls “a gripping urban drama, is in rotation with the “The Kitchen Witches” on the Andrews Hall stage through July 15.

“It’s a very intriguing play,” he said. “It gets pretty intense.” Laureen Smith directs the production, which stars David O’Connell, Joey Hobear, Jessica Short and Cameron Stuckey.

Tickets are $15-$24. For additional show dates and times, and to order tickets, contact 938-4626 x1 or Sonomacommunitycenter.com.

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