Wendy Ishii Is Mesmerizing As Middle-Aged Woman Looking Back On Her Life

Colorado Playwright Eric Prince Wrote “Blue Kitchen” To Celebrate Bas Bleu’s 25th Anniversary

Reviewed by Tom Jones
April 8, 2017

Ava was born in Ireland. Now living in Colorado, she looks back with joy and sadness on her life. As portrayed by Wendy Ishii in “Blue Kitchen,” Ava is now in her middle years, and she is in emotional torment. Ishii is a marvel as Ava– joyful and happy one moment, facing tearful despair the next. And losing touch with reality.

Wendy Ishii in Bas Bleu Theatre Company’s production of “Blue Kitchen”. William A. Cotton Photography

The role was created specifically for her by longtime friend Eric Prince who also directs the production. Ishii and Prince first met in 1996 at the International Beckett Festival in Victoria, Canada. Their mutual attraction for works of Irish playwright Samuel Beckett has created their longtime friendship. Prince is now a Colorado State University professor whose doctoral thesis for the University of Ulster, Northern Ireland, was “The Stagecraft of Samuel Beckett.” He has written extensively on the Irish writer and has directed many of his plays.

Much of “Blue Kitchen” is reminiscent of Beckett’s musings on everyday memories of times past, and why they might (or might not) shed light on who we have become. Looking at the trivial, and wondering if it might be more important than we assume. During much of this show, Ava is in her kitchen preparing food for friendly gatherings. She is measuring each ingredient, as if she is putting together her life – to regard it with pride or with disdain, depending upon the moment/ingredient. She also takes on the persona of persons from her past – male and female. Some were easy to figure out, others not so. Ishii is at her finest when she is Ava – with rollicking humor, with great pathos, and always looking beautiful – even while heavily dusted with flour.

The set is interesting – Ava’s Colorado kitchen, looking out over the landscape sometime in the darkest moments of night – just before dawn. Leafless trees carefully guard the surroundings. Lighting is especially effective.

“Blue Kitchen” is a one act play, offered in combination with a preface of music and readings, known as the “Blue Craich.” This features Barbara Clark and a variety of friends providing music, poetry with a touch of Irish pub life — changed nightly. The performance I saw included music provided by Clark and Mulligan’s Irish Musicians, with a few poems read by CSU’s Rich Miranda. Playwright Prince provides the poetry/ reading prior to some performances, with music provided by a variety of artists. The total production is approximately two hours, with the guest musicians and guest readers (the “Blue Craich”) taking about 45 minute before the 15-minute intermission. The one-act “Blue Kitchen” runs about an hour.

It is a pleasantly-diversified program, highlighted by Ishii’s tour de force portrayal of the Irish-born Ava.

“Blue Kitchen”
Where: Bas Bleu Theatre Company
401 Pine Street, Fort Collins, CO 80524
When: To April 30, 2017
For Information: www.basbleu.org