It’s odd to think that Kitchen Dog Theater — which many local theater fans consider to be our edgiest “young” company — is 25 years old, and has spent 20 of those years housed in the McKinney Avenue Contemporary, where more than 100 productions have challenged audiences … some more successfully than others, to be sure, but always with the goal to provoke. News that KDT would be relocating (for one season only) to the Green Zone in the Design District tinges the current mainstage production, The Firestorm, with melancholy — a farewell to a space I’ve spent countless hours spying in the dark as the scope of human foibles unfold.
The Firestorm feels like an appropriate kind of play to sign off with, if not KDT’s best work. It focuses on some hot-button issues: Patrick (Cameron Cobb), an Ohio politician running for governor, performed a racist act 20 years early as a college hazing prank, and its disclosure just weeks before the election threatens to derail him. Only Patrick’s new wife, Gaby (Kenneisha Thompson), is African-American, and her support could soften the blow … if only she wants to.
Racist fraternities, political scandals, power couples— Mereidith Friedman seems to have culled her plot points from front page headlines. But in many ways, the play goes no deeper than headlines, and many of the behaviors seem like authorly conceits rather than character-driven. Gaby begins to suspect that Patrick married her “in case” this 20-year-old scandal ever reared itself, as if this were some Victorian thriller about a Bluebeard; we’re given the facts in a light most sympathetic to Patrick, but then sucker-punched when the object of his prank confronts him about the repercussions of his actions.
That speech, like many portions of The Firestorm, are packed with emotional resonance and make good points. Too bad they feel more at home at a town hall meeting on race than in a play.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 29, 2015.