Written and directed by Sky GilbertI Cook, He Does The Dishes is as much about the value of relationship as it is a questioning of how we relate to being in, out of, or enmeshed in it. The play is a modern take on the real-life love affair between John Cage and Merce Cunningham who were influential art leaders during the avant-garde movement. The story begins with John Cage’s open relationship with his wife, but when a threesome with Merce happens it awakens unresolved feelings in Cage, feelings that he can’t, or won’t explain.

A witty exploration of what it means to love and be loved at a time when sexuality, in most of its forms, was shunned. It is woven together by a compelling storyline, and directed to expand and contract around the audience (think: Alice In Wonderland meets Al Pacino in Cruising). Sky’s use of The Theatre Centre’s Incubator’s space made for an immersive experience.

The space itself would be a typical black box venue except the square stage is sunken into the middle of the room. Seated on all four sides, the audience is witness to the relationships that evolve before us, but as the line between audience and performer blurs, we are left to sort out our own relationship to art and sexuality and ourselves. At times challenging, I Cook, He Does The Dishes raises may questions about the fluidity of relationships, and is a beautiful reminder that sex, sexuality and love are not static concepts.

Shawn DeSouza-Coelho is brilliant as John Cage, a man tortured by the need to find himself while enduring criticisms from his colleagues and peers. Aldrin Bundoc (Body Politic, Buddies In Bad Times) gave a stand-out performance as the charming and sexy Merce. However, it was Claire Burns in the role of Cage’s female love interest, Xenia Kashevaroff who cooked up the best courses.

Burns is stunning, clever, and her talent extended well beyond her stage presence. During the opening night performance, her character breaks convention and speaks to the audience causing a few people to shout out as if they were part of the show,  and by this time we all kinda were. With a flick of her wrist and a quick comment, she instantly brings the moment into the show, and without missing a beat, let’s out a laugh that brings our full attention back the actors’ performance. There are few things more intimidating to an actor than having an audience completely surrounding them, so to be in the midst of this setting and having full command over an audience is a theatre experience at it’s best.

Noteworthy moments include ’the laughing ladies’ whose timing and sporadic jolts of hysterics created a surreal, almost vaudevillian atmosphere, as did the ‘people tortured by music’ shifting the audience yet again from voyeur to participant. Lyon Smith’s Bauhaus-inspired dancing was as provocative as it was absurdly genius, accompanied by Shawn on the piano playing what could have been a beautiful John Cage piano piece. The pick-up sex scene was inventive in it’s presentation in that it was intimate and salacious all at the same time. I Cook, He Does The Dishes will leave you entertained, challenged and moved by the performances, but it’s the experience of being there that’ll grab and hook you.

For more Sky Gilbert read my Silence, Sexuality & Shakespeare article in this issue of theBUZZ. On stands now or download a copy here.

I Cook, He Does The Dishes
The Theatre Centre, 1115 Queen St. West
Now playing until April 1, 2018
Tickets: 416-538-0988 | PURCHASE ONLINE

About the Author

Raymond Helkio is an author, director filmmaker, and graduate of Ontario College of Art & Design. He currently lives in both Toronto and New York. His most recent play, LEDUC, is now available in paperback. www.raymondhelkio.com