Kohl, directed by Lorna Kettle and Sophie Cassidy, was a one hour play performed in the fabulous Players theatre Monday to Friday during Societies Week. The audience sat facing a simple set: a table with two chairs, a glass of scotch, a catwalk and a bar. Three girls clad in black slips and mock kimonos sat on the cat walk and took turns speaking in rhyme as they told the audience to put away mobile phones and other noise making machines.
Mr. Kohl was the best private investigator around, according to himself, and was awaiting a visit from the beautiful Mia Swan, a senator’s wife and daughter of a gangster. Kohl was set to track down Mia’s missing sister, Bella. The dialogue between Kohl, Mia and the three girls in the slips remained on stage, jumping in to say their piece, resulting in Kohl and Mia becoming frozen and the lighting to shift from them to the dancers (as we later found out was the occupation of the three girls).
This kind of setup was continuous throughout the production; characters talking, dancers interrupt, characters continue. It was an entertaining means of helping the audience follow the plot while simultaneously keeping us on our toes.
The scene changed and we were introduced to a reporter who was undercover as a dancer named Trixie, then Mr. Swan and Mia’s not-so-happy marriage, followed by the dancers: Roxy, Maggie May, and Cherry, and finally their bosses Mr. Antonelli and Madame Lebouche. The final pair to be introduced were the quintessential prohibition New York seedy business men; between the underground burlesque dance club, the high profile patrons they served, and the illegal booze – they were the type of people you would not want to mess with.
Perhaps my favorite were the two henchmen of Mr. Antonelli who provided comic relief through their jokes and casualness about disposing the bodies that they had killed. Throughout all of this, Mr. Kohl’s investigations led him to the burlesque room and right to Bella who was kept working there after having her unexpected pregnancy dealt with by Madame Lebouche. The senator got the warrant to search the burlesque club and all involved were arrested, with the exception of Bella who was secretly and safely reunited with Mia. And our three dancers were weirdly okay with being locked behind bars.
The short play was the perfect way to break up a Friday afternoon between classes and one that I would certainly see again. The actors were committed to the characters they played and the New York accents made a slightly homesick American (yours truly) laugh along with the rest of the audience. The close proximity of the stage to the audience added to the sense of being in the scene with the characters and experiencing it all first hand. In the end Kohl was a wonderful play that provided all one could hope for: humour, horror, murder, illegal booze, and plot twists.