Review "To Master The Art": The Better Half of "Julie & Julia"

TimeLine Theatre presents

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TO MASTER THE ART
At 616 W. Wellington
Written by William Brown and Doug Frew
Directed by William Brown
Wednesdays and Thursday at 7:30pm
Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm
Saturdays at 4pm, Sundays at 2pm 
Thru December 19th
Buy Tickets
Running Time:  Two hours and twenty minutes includes ten minute intermission

Reviewed by Katy Walsh

Facing forty, Julia marries, moves to France, learns to cook, publishes a book, and becomes an entertainment icon.   Julia Child is the epitome of a successful mid-life crisis.  TimeLine Theatre presents the world premiere of TO MASTER THE ART, a commissioned production.  The newlywed Childs move to Paris for Paul's job.  Julia is intrigued by the French's flair for cuisine.  Her own inadequate kitchen skills motivate her to enroll in cooking school.  Her new found passion leads her down an unstoppable path of reconstruction.   As Julia follows her bliss, Paul faces the challenges of being an American in Paris.  Sure, the war is over but the attacks go on.   The U.S. government is hunting communists.  And it's open season on Paul and his friends.   Through it all, the Childs are 'operational proof' of finding joy in the simple pleasures: a tasty grape, a good wine and a lingering kiss.  TO MASTER THE ART is the best half of the movie "Julie & Julia" expanded for the stage.      

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Under the direction and script of William Brown, Julia and the audience are immersed in French influence immediately.  The bilingual nature of the first scene and the end scene illustrate perfectly her novice to convert transplant experience.  Brown also actualizes the pleasurable experience of a taste by slowing down the action with piano accompaniment.  The technique almost makes you react by swallowing.   In the lead, Karen Janes Woditsch (Julia) channels the fun-loving and driven to excellence nature of the food aficionado.  Woditsch shrills out the well-known distinctive voice of Julia although sounding a little more Texan than Californian.  Woditsch masters French cooking and the language going from bumbling vulnerability to confident authority.  Woditsch and Craig Spidle (Paul) are hands-on loving affection.  Woditsch and Spidle charm together and apart.  Under interrogation, Spidle angrily reflects the lunacy and helplessness of the 'Red Scare' days.  Jeannie Affelder (Simone)is delightful in multiple French roles.  As the co-author of the cookbook, Affelder's amuses with an authentic accent mixed in with American expressions.  She hilariously confirms an always suspected French sport of Americans, 'I'll speak French very fast.  It'll be fun.'   Joel Gross (Carolina and others) is tri-accented for his triple parts:  French, Southern, and Government.  Gross transformations are distinctive but as Carolina, Gross smokes like barbecue on a chicken.  With all the international chat, there are a few accented conversations between characters that suffer from a-where-in-the-world-are-you coming from.  But it's minor parsley on the big buffet offering of the talented cast.   

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Just like at any party, Julia's life happens in the kitchen.  Designed by Keith Pitts, the functional kitchen is a pots and pans cozy haven to cook up scrambled eggs or wash dishes.  It adds an authentic ambiance for cooking demonstrations and correspondence sharing.  As Julia or Paul hold letters, characters appear as the 'talking version' of their communiqué.  The storytelling element is a pen pal frenzy to describe the impact of unmet people on Julia's destiny.   In the second act of her life, Julia Child became a food guru.  TO MASTER THE ART is an intimate look at a woman's bon appetite that led to a food revolution. 

"Find something you're passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it." - Julia Child     

A Francophile too, James says 'Un bon temps.'

Production photos courtesy of Lara Goetsch.
           

 

 

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