This review of Colby Day's Kitchen Sink Experiment(s) at Brian & Simone's Apartment was written by Nickolaus Hines and published in Volume X, Issue 5 (2015) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!
Kitchen Sink Experiment(s)
Written by Colby Day
Directed by Andrew J. Scoville
Production Designer: Joel Soren
Stage Manager: Alannah O'Hagan
Crashbox Theater Company
Brian & Simone's Apartment
28 Scott Avenue
Bushwick, Brooklyn 11237
Getting into a Bushwick loft is an adventure. Walking dark streets at night, entering through a door and walking down a winding hallway, passing numbers on doorways with signs on them hinting at inhabitants inside. Suffice it to say, finding the Kitchen Sink Experiment(s) is part of the experience. It's casual, there's beer for a donation, and it's intimate; the loft has a lived-in feel. A small audience sits on wood-topped bookshelves along the walls with cushions for seats that have varied flower designs.
The Kitchen Sink Experiment(s) may as well be called The Experiment In Audience Voyeurism. Playwright Colby Day has created a work that focuses on the sexy and dramatic as well as the everyday and mundane. The play follows a couple, played by Lena Hudson and Matthew K. Davis, as they submit themselves to a social experiment. The experiment is to be observed by a college scientist, played by Rachel Lin, to see how cohabiting couples live in their natural habitats. Unacknowledged by the actors but very much a felt presence in the show is the 20 or so theater guests, some of them less than five feet away from the action happening in the middle of the loft; some of them less than two feet away.
The closest resemblance to other pieces of work would be Lena Dunham's television show "Girls." Hudson and Davis are keenly aware of their behaviors and every facial expression. A single missed beat can be devastating when the audience is so close they can count the actors' eyelashes, but both were so natural at being natural that it didn't appear as if they were acting at all.
Lin plays her part well, and her character is the keeper of time over the week that passes on stage. Judging a character by how much she isn't there is peculiar, but that is what must be done with Lin's character. She is supposed to observe, hear and not be heard, see and not be seen. She is also the perfect soundboard for the questions that every twenty-something must face, and her presence allows for periods of semi-monologue for both Hudson and Davis.
The passage of time is heavy in this piece. A constantly clicking clock counts away the minutes and clever lighting techniques signal the day, when Hudson's character works, and the night, when Davis' character works. For the most part, every aspect of an average day is played out in the loft. There is silence and cooking. There is sleeping and painting. There is sex and eating - a lot of eating!
Much of the tension comes from the awkwardness of being observed, and most of the humor stems from it as well. The silences are as unbearable as silences among a group of friends when someone says something awkward or during the lag time before switching the topic of conversation.
The Kitchen Sink Experiment(s) toys with existentialism and nihilism. It is deeper than the atmosphere suggests. Each character struggles with finding out who they are, who they want to be, and what the point of everything is anyway. There's enough philosophical questioning to make Nietzsche jealous.
Prudish audience members may find some of the experimental aspects of the play to be a turn-off; the two sex scenes, for example. If the first one just off-stage with loud screams doesn't make you blush, then perhaps the second one on the kitchen table, a spitting distance from the farthest audience member, might. If that doesn't do it, maybe it will be Hudson dropping her robe to reveal her stark naked body, while remarking, "I wouldn't have agreed to do this is if I was shy." Even for a conservative crowd, however, there is much to be learned about life in the Kitchen Sink Experiment(s). Figuring out what the purpose of life is and what it means to be you are universal questions every person must face.
The opportunity to observe characters who are reacting to being observed, no matter how meta that may read, is a different experience than observing characters pretending not to be observed. The Kitchen Sink Experiment(s) is quintessentially a show where you come for the humor and voyeurism, stay, and think about it after for the philosophical pondering.
The Kitchen Sink Experiment(s) has been extended through November 13, 2015. Tickets are $28.00 with a limited audience of 20 people per performance. To purchase tickets, call 1-800-838-3006 or visit www.crashboxtickets.com