BY CARSON HUGHES, A&E EDITOR
If there’s one thing the seemingly endless string of Gordon Ramsey-hosted cooking shows has taught us, it’ is that the kitchen is a perfect pressure cooker for drama. Mixed Blood’s “How to Use a Knife,” written by Will Snider and directed by Jesca Prudencio, takes advantage of the high-intensity setting of a restaurant to deliver comedy filled, witty verbal sparring that transforms into a drama that explores guilt, trust and racial and class conflict.
“How to Use a Knife” follows the story of George (Zack Myers), a no-nonsense, high-class chef who is stuck working at a burger joint due to drug and alcohol abuse. George receives unexpected help in learning to cope from an East-African dishwasher named Steve (Ansa Akyea). The two develop a bond as George begins teaching Steve how to cook. However, tensions come to a peak when George begins asking Steve about his past, and an ICE agent visits the restaurant looking for Steve.
Both actors give very strong performances. Myers is able to turn on a dime from soft-spoken and self-deprecating to raging with bellicose anger as soon as something goes wrong in the kitchen.
Akyea serves as a great foil, carrying an air of mystery and nobility in his performance. The rest of the cast also gives believable performances that complement the two leads. Raul Ramos and Jake Caceres are incredibly funny as Carlos and Miguel, two Guatemalan line cooks who frequently steal the show with their antics. Many of their lines are in Spanish, but their physicality and the direction given by Prudencio make their jokes understandable to those who do not speak the language.
Michael Booth plays the role of Michael, the owner of the restaurant. Booth’s performance captures the character’s undeserved privilege and serves as a reminder for how far George has fallen.
The production design for this show is very well put together. The set, designed by Joseph Stanley feels like a real kitchen complete with stoves, shelves stocked with supplies and a pair of traffic doors that characters charge through to beat the lunchtime rush. “How to Use a Knife” is an enjoyable show, but it is not perfect. Steve, despite being the secondmost prominent character in the show, is not as fully fleshed out like George is. The play tries to balance their narratives, but ultimately Steve seems to exist to serve George’s plot more than his own.
Nonetheless, “How to Use a Knife” is an experience full of wit, betrayal and a lively cast. Mixed Blood is holding its final showing this weekend at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and at 2:00 p.m. this Sunday. It costs $25 to reserve tickets, but Mixed Blood’s radical hospitality policy allows you to get a ticket for free if you arrive within half an hour before the show
This article first appeared in the Friday, October 13, 2017, Edition of The Echo.