There is no right or wrong way to tell a story.
That's part of what makes telling a story well so difficult. Through stories, we share ourselves, our experiences, our perspectives, our thoughts and emotions. This is life - it's difficult, heady stuff, and the only thing more trying and complicated than living itself is successfully putting it into words.
"Sadie's Kitchen," the first play by local playwright La'Chris Jordan, currently in its inaugural run at the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center, is about family.
It's therefore a story about the stories we tell ourselves, and each other, in an attempt to make sense of our lives. In an attempt to get to the heart of the characters' internal and interpersonal conflicts, Jordan creates moments of riveting dramatic tension but tends to undercut them with predictable, tidy resolutions.
The story revolves around the family of Sadie Smith, a widow whose daughter, Clarice, is just about to graduate from college. Sadie is two months pregnant and has decided to have an abortion, a decision made before consulting her mother or her boyfriend, Steve. Conflicts ensue when she makes both her condition and decision known, conflicts that are exacerbated by the presence of Vesta, Sadie's sister, and her son, Cedric.
The entire play takes place Sadie's kitchen house, the perfect setting for both familial conflict and reconciliation. The drama of the play is offset by the mundane domestic activities of unpacking groceries, repairing leaky faucets, doing homework, and, of course, preparing and eating meals. The action takes place episodically, each scene ending with a fade to black.
As in all families, the secrets kept by Sadie and her loved ones are both necessary and devastating. While they preserve the apparent cohesion of the family as a whole, they eat away at individuals from the inside, particularly Clarice. As the characters wrestle with their own demons, they agonize over what they should and should not reveal to those around them.
Jordan succeeds in portraying the incessant give and take of the family dynamic. Her characters give equal weight to both personal as well as collective needs and desires, and the struggle to maintain both unity and individuality is constant. However, especially due to its episodic structure, the play sometimes feels a bit too much like a TV soap opera.
The dialogue in each scene is a bit too discursive and drives a little too quickly toward the tidy resolution of complicated problems, which amounts to a pronounced lack of depth in both the characters and their relationships. This isn't to say that the audience can't identify with and relate to the action on stage. It's just that sometimes it feels as if the characters are simply there to move the action along, instead of being the reason for its existence.
"Sadie's Kitchen" is a decent journeyman's effort, and I look forward to seeing Jordan's future work.
What: "Sadie's Kitchen" by La'Chris Jordan.
Where: Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center 104 17 Ave. S., Seattle.
When: Now through December 11.
Tickets: available online at www.brownpapertickets.com, or call LHPAC for ticket info, (206) 684-4757.
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Sean Molnar may be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org.[[In-content Ad]]