Reflecting upon Kitchen Dog’s current black comedy, Charise Castro Smith’s Feathers and Teeth, I was struck by the subtlety of the title. In nature, you never see both in the same creature. If it has teeth it doesn’t have feathers. If it has feathers it doesn’t have teeth. But the villain of Feathers and Teeth does. Like Mack the Knife, she’s very good at hiding her grisly side. Set in 1978, and recalling the trashy sci-fi of the 60’s, Feathers and Teeth mixes a strange and unlikely blend of genres: dark satire, absurdism, horror and drama. And (this is the truly bizarre part) they blend perfectly, like a collage, or a quadriptych. When we see Arthur jumping Carol’s bones on the kitchen table it’s ridiculous, funny and sad, all at once.
Chris, an angry teenage girl, has lost her mother to cancer, and her dad, Arthur (while well-meaning) has not left much time to grieve before taking up with his deceased wife’s nurse caretaker, Carol. Arthur has just hit some small, unidentifiable animal with his car, far beyond a veterinarian’s help. For some inexplicable reason, he drops it in a perfectly good stockpot, and Carol subsequently “euthanizes” it with a butcher knife. She’s not exactly, uh, gentle. Later, when Chris and her German Boy Scout friend Hugo, check in the pot, they discover that not only is the creature not dead, but it’s reproducing And has a thirst for carnage. It’s amazing and amusing, what you can pull off, simply by letting the blood fly.
Here I must give all kinds of mad props to Charise Castro Smith, Director Lee Trull, and cast members: Matt Lyle, Morgan Laure’, Dakota Ratliff and Parker Gray. This is difficult material to pull off. Beyond evincing a successful show, there’s something about this play that transcends narrative on its face. It stays in your memory, though it’s not easy to understand why. Smith has laced this piece with vivid, indirect metaphor. Like other intoxicating shows, it rewards closer inspection. Kitchen Dog has a gift for staging plays that sink into your skin. As it were. Feathers and Teeth is subversive, and tender in odd ways. It takes a deranged sense of irony to stage this during the holidays, but it’s something you shouldn’t miss. If you love visionary, risky theatre.
Kitchen Dog Theater presents: Feathers and Teeth, playing November 18th-December 17th, 2016. Trinity River Arts Center, located at 2600 N. Stemmons Fwy, Ste, 180, Dallas, TX 75207. 214-953-1055. kitchendogtheatre.org.