Nora Armani Directs Debut of French Comedy At Triad Theater

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Gabriel Tigran Chytry and Sofi Lambert in a scene from “Cuisine et Dependances” (Maud Pravikoff photo)

NEW YORK — The TRIAD theatre in New York City was packed to capacity Saturday night, October 16, as “Cuisine et Dépendances” (Kitchen and Extensions) by Agnès Jaoui and Jean-Pierre Bacri was presented to a mixed Francophone and non-French speaking audience. The play was directed by Nora Armani and performed by a cast of New York-based French-speaking actors.

This cult French kitchen comedy, written in 1991, still rings contemporary to this day after almost 20 years since its Paris premiere. A film version, directed by Philippe Muyl was made in 1993. As a result the play has amassed international popularity in the French-speaking world. Saturday’s performance of the play in its original French was the New York premiere of the work.

A team of energetic actors, Pascal Yen-Pfister, Gabriel Tigran Chytry, Sandy Prenois, Sofi Lambert and Thomas Beaudoin brought to life the splendid and raucous text of Jaoui and Bacri. They kept me entertained from the moment the lights went up to the final curtain call. The choice of sets, costumes and props, quite authentically Parisian, were very efficient, simple and to the point. The music used was the quintessential Serge Gainbourg’s Je t’aime, moi non-plus, that haunted as a leitmotif the end of each act helping transition into the next tableau.

From left, Pascal Yen-Pfister, Sandy Prenois, Gabriel Tigran Chytry, Sofi Lambert and Thomas Beaudoin during curtain call at the end of Cuisine et Dépendances (Maud Pravikoff photo)

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The action takes place during a dinner party where the hosts are keen on making a good impression on their guests, one famous TV presenter and his wife, who is an old friend of theirs they haven’t seen for 10 years. Add to this their cranky bachelor friend as their temporary house-guest and their gambling and womanizing younger brother, and you get the ingredients of funny situations all taking place in the kitchen, from where we only hear about what is happening in the living room.

It is quite a responsibility to do a play that is so well-known and that was also made into a film. Comparison becomes inevitable. Staying true to oneself and not falling into the trap of imitation just because certain elements had worked in past versions, is quite a challenge,” said Armani. “I tried to remain faithful to the work of the authors as much as possible, while adding my own touch, but avoiding innovations for their own sake. I chose to work with a minimal yet efficient set to put the focus on the actors’ performances.”

The play is superbly written and the direction was seamless, crisp and purposeful. The production was accomplished by Pemart Productions, with Armani also as producer and Sandy Prenois as associate producer.

In an excerpt from the director’s note in the program, Armani had written, “The play was staged is a very short time. The alternative would have been not doing it all. From this experience I learnt that when art needs to be created, it will find a channel, and we should just follow course and let it happen. Artists are just the facilitating channels for that creation to take shape and become visible to the human eye.”

I enjoyed the whole experience and left the theater wanting more. I couldn’t help think of those patrons who had been turned away due to lack of seats. I sincerely hope they get a chance to enjoy this wonderful production at another date hopefully in the near future, with a longer run. I am sure there would be a demand for it, since it would not only interest the French speakers, but the general theater-going audiences since good theater transcends language boundaries.

One non-French-speaking audience member that I spoke to on my way out said, “The English speakers like myself were able to follow very well thanks to the animated super-titles. Thank you for this beautiful moment that I won’t forget.”

We sincerely hope that there will be another opportunity for more people to enjoy this wonderful experience.

Linda Levenson

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