The Bloomington Playwrights Project’s latest piece is Doug Bedwell’s comedy “Cookie Bites the Ninja.” Cookie is a sex kitten. She’s the main character in a series of discretely brown-paper-wrapped,adult romances. Their anonymous author is Nathan, played by Kevin Roach. Nathan has a reasonable success and income from the “Cookie books” and a string of rejections slips for his serious writing. Dividing his life between porn’ and art has given Nathan a well earned case of writer’s block. Seeking escape, Nathan wanders into a coffee shop. Leslie, a sympathetic waitress played by Nicole Bruce, lends Nathan a Jackie Chan movie. Hence the Ninja. And yes, in the manuscript that Nathan knocks out, Cookie bites him. I still think “Cookie Bites the Ninja” is a terrible title for a book, a play or even a recipe collection of pastries, but there you have it.
The manuscript is delivered at the last minute. Nathan’s harried publisher, Jerry played by Benji Loudermilk, skips even a computer grammar check and rushes the book into print and into those plain brown envelopes for delivery. Initially, it looks like a disaster. Some regular subscribers cancel. Jerry who’s now read Cookie Bites the Ninja describes it as “way beyond awful,” and “in shouting distance from abysmal.” The exasperated publisher tells Nathan,“You can’t have oral castration and expect no one to notice.” He tears up Nathan’s contract.
Now so far, “Cookie Bites the Ninja”’s account of writing in the sex trade had been pretty funny, but author Bedwell raises things to a whole new level. Nathan’s girlfriend Theresa, played by Hannah Smith, has been slogging her way through the mind numbing complexities of post modern literary criticism. As a lark Theresa writes a jargon filled paper focusing on the images and architypes of the book. The paper is published and creates a minor sensation. Cookie Bites the Ninja is assigned for freshman lit’ classes. The “Cookie books” take on a life of their own. Theresa’s academic career is assured. Jerry is now jubilant as he has to get out four printings just to satisfy college bookstores. He wants to write Nathan a new contract.
Director Steve Decker’s set neatly divides the small area of the Playwrights Project into an office, a living room, a bedroom and a coffe shop. This allows nicely for a series of flowing scenes. Creative use of sound with music that comments on the action along with off-stage narration and interior monologues make the intimate BPP theatre seem bigger than it is. In Saturday night’s performance the action moved well and everyone did their part. I especially enjoyed Nicole Bruce as the kind hearted waitress, David Mickler as her menacingly slimey boyfriend, and Hannah Smith as Theresa the up and coming academic.
Doug Bedwell’s “Cookie Bites the Ninja” is a very funny play. It has interesting characters, a plot with mysteries and surprises, and it takes a wicked a delight in skewering the emptiness of some academic pomposities.
The Bloomington Playwrights Project’s production of “Cookie Bites the Ninja” plays Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights at eight and Sundays at two through November fifteenth.