Directed by William Brown
Produced by Broadway In Chicago.
Chicago Commercial Collective
& TimeLine Theatre
At the Broadway Playhouse, Chicago
“Cooking is like love; it should be entered into with abandon or not at all.”
— Julia Child
Playful remount of a Chicago hit shows stimulates the senses
Featuring the glorious smells of French cuisine, To Master The Art is the story of Julia Child, the famed advocate of French cooking, print and TV star of cooking shows, the remount of the hit premiere at TimeLine Theatre once more unites Karen Janes Woditsch, as Julia and Craig Spidle, as Paul.
The first full production commissioned by TimeLine Theatre in 2010, To Master the Art by William Brown and Doug Frew was delightful. The remount is trues to the original. It blends the history of post war America and France with the adventures of self discovery of Julia Child and her husband Paul from 1948-1961 when they lived in Paris. Paul is a information officer with the US government, Julia is looking for a purpose as she is bored. Julia falls in love with French cuisine and vows to learn to cook. She takes a year long class at the Cordon Bleu under the tutelage of Chef Max Bugnard (Terry Hamilton).
We see how the love story of Julia and Paul is marinated by their tolerance and love of excellent cuisine. Julia and Paul, patriots both, meet in Ceylon during World War II as both worked in intelligence for the OSS (earlier version of the CIA). Julia came from a conservative California wealthy family; Paul from a poor East Coast family. As usual for educated folks in the 1930′s, Julia and Paul had friends that flirted with communism but none that actually became Russian operatives.
We see how during the madcap paranoid 1950′s Paul was summoned to Washington fro Paris to be grilled by the FBI. Meanwhile Julia was becoming an expert devotee of French cooking. The theatre is filled with the rich aromas of French cuisine as we see Julia’s relentless devotion to cooking perfection. Julia truly found her purpose in becoming both a master chef but also as a expert teacher of all thing concerning French cooking.
Her friend and mentor Simone Beck (Jeannie Affelder) becomes her partner in developing a detailed cookbook – Mastering the Art of French Cooking. We see how meticulous Child and Beck were in researching and writing the book. Julia is the American voice while Beck spoke to the French sensitivities. The result revolutionized American cooking and led to Child’s eventual PBS cooking TV show.
Brown and Frew have captures the essence of Julia and Paul as a love story; as a story self-discovery; and as a historically accurate slice of the times. Besides a cast of expert players featuring Terry Hamilton (Chef Max Bugnard and Julia’s father) with fine work from Jeannie Affelder (Simone Beck and Madame Dorin), the show rests on who plays Julia and Paul.
Craig Spidle plays Paul with a sincere admiration and tolerance for Julia. Spidle, one of Chicago’s best actors, has a nice mixture of subtle humor and genuine love for Julia.Spidle is totally at home kin this role. Karen Janes Woditsch has the shrill voiced Julia down as she combines Julia’s self-deprecating humor and physical gawkiness with her dogged determination and passion for cooking. W0ditsch shows us Julia’s charm, wit and drive. The chemistry between Spidle and Woditsch is enchanting and it has grown more genuine in this remount. The show’s humor is more appreciated in the remount. The sheer honesty of piece come across to make Julia and Paul Child two empathetic characters that we enjoy being around.
Brown and Frew have effectively blended history, character sketches of the famous into a love story that is both accurate and compelling. This love story about food will quench the most demanding theatrical appetite. We get to know and appreciate the journey of the Child’s. This is a terrific production of a worthy story.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: September 17, 2013
For more info checkout the To Master The Art page at theatreinchicago.com
At the Broadway Playhouse, 175 E. Chestnut, Chicago, IL, call 312-977-1710, www.broadwayinchicago.com, tickets $25 – $75, Tuesdays at 7:30 pm, Wednesdays at 2 & 7:30 pm, Thursdays & Fridays at 7:30 pm, Saturdays at 2 & 8 pm, Sundays at 2 pm with some 6:30 pm performances, running time is 2 hours, 15 minutes, through October 20, 2013