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Theater review: 'Dolly West's Kitchen' at Theatre Banshee

November 3, 2011 |  2:45 pm

Contemporary flavor accents the traditional recipe of "Dolly West's Kitchen" at Theatre Banshee. Frank McGuinness' 1999 comic drama about an atypical Irish family during World War II has its ungainly ingredients, but they certainly reflect modern tastes. 

Unmarried, college-educated Dolly (tartly understated Kirsten Kollender) has unwillingly returned from studying art in Italy to nominally neutral County Donegal and her fractious, well-to-do clan. Esther (invested Kacey Camp), Dolly's elder sister, barely tolerates devoted husband Ned Horgan (Greg Bryan).  Justin (intense Brett Mack), their brother, is a fierce Anglophobic nationalist with a secret. And matriarch Rima (show-stealing Casey Kramer) understands her children and the changing world ahead better than her ribald derision indicates. 

Things begin to sizzle with Alec Redding (Shawn Savage), the Englishman whom Dolly knew while at Trinity.  Stirring in two American soldiers -- flamboyant homosexual Marco Delavicario (vivid Cameron J. Oro) and taciturn Jamie O'Brien (Martin Doordan), his hetero cousin -- McGuinness sets his themes simmering toward a grave Act 1 curtain, letting internecine and topical issues boil over in Act 2. 

Director McKerrin Kelly serves the quasi-Chekhovian property with detailed efficiency around designer Dan Conroy's set, assisted by Bosco Flanagan (lighting), Jessica Dalager (costumes) and Mark McClain Wilson (sound). Her cast, including pert Natalie Hope MacMillan as perceptive maid Anna, is proficient, although some sacrifice audibility to naturalism. 

That's one liability, the top-heavy, overstuffed structure another. Despite their pertinence, certain gay elements feel anachronistic in context, and one character's post-intermission absence dims the energy.  Even so, there's plenty to savor in "Dolly West's Kitchen." Abbey devotees and Banshee habitués will be sated. 

-- David C. Nichols 

"Dolly West’s Kitchen," the Banshee, 3435 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. Ends Dec. 4. $20. (818) 346-5323 or  Running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes.

Photo: Kirsten Kollender, left, Shawn Savage, Greg Bryan and Kacey Camp. Credit: Donald Agnelli.