A recipe for disaster
Or the secret ingredient behind every bad performance
Cooking with the Calamari Sisters
Created by Jay Falzone, Dan Lavender, and Stephen Smith
April 12 – May 20
I really wanted to like Cooking with the Calamari Sisters. As a huge fan of musicals in general, I came in with high expectations for this production. Thus, I took an Uber ride all the way to Arlington to see if I could be impressed like I have been for the other theatrical productions in Boston. However, I quickly found out that the production ruined any hopes that I had.
A story about two sisters on the last episode of their television show, Cooking with the Calamari Sisters, aspired to be a humorous foray into Italian life. What it does, instead, is fall flat on its face on multiple levels. The main characters, Delphine and Carmela Calamari are caricatures of the stereotypical Italian women. They riff about each other’s weights and about the complicated family history that they share. While I understand that their portrayals are meant to be self-deprecating, I felt completely unamused by the acting going on in the production. It felt clichéd, relying on these straw men of actual people to relay its humour.
Most importantly, the leading roles are confusingly played by two male actors. It makes no sense to be adding this extra layer of so-called “physical comedy” to the production. Both the Calamari sisters are frustrating in their own ways, and I constantly found myself cringing from their performance. It was as though I was back home, watching old Vietnamese television shows and their antiquated portrayals of gender. That is to say, I found no entertainment in the handling of the characters nor in the over-exaggeration wrought upon us by the actors.
Furthermore, the jokes that were told during the play were awkward at best and irritating at worst. They were unoriginal, seeming to originate from some corner of the broadcast universe. To make matters worse, they constantly played off the idea that these women were Italian and therefore they must be hilarious. While the audience around me cackled over the crass humour intoxicating the room, I tried my best to salvage their trainwreck of a comedy routine in my head to tide me over until intermission.
Nothing appeared to save this production from the faults of its acting, staging, and set design. Multiple times did I find myself recoil from the impossibly cringe-worthy performance that rooted itself on stage. And while this production marketed itself as a musical, I rarely found any signs of inspiring musical numbers. If anything, they felt like an imitation of a threepenny Off Broadway show. The only thing that could possibly redeem it was the gaudiness of the stage itself or maybe the dance routines that attempted to vainly inject substance into this mess. In the end, neither route worked. Cluttered and claustrophobic yet without any significant meaning, the stage was a labor to look at. Coming in for the horrific tag team, the dance routines were senseless smoke and mirrors to try and distract you from the void that wanted to burst from the seams.
To put it shortly, this production is not worth your time nor the effort to travel all the way to Arlington. Spend your time watching other performances with more substance underneath them rather than this gasping amalgamation of shameless theatrical tropes.