Playwright: William Brown and Doug Frew At: Timeline Theatre Company at Baird Hall, United Church of Christ, 615 W. Wellington. Phone: 773-281-8463; $28-$38. Runs through: Dec. 19
With her Wagnerian physique, Little Orphan Annie hair and parrotlike voice, Julia McWilliams Child was hardly the picture of a mid-20th-century popular icon. But that didn't stop William Brown and Doug Frew from celebrating the pioneering U.S. chef in a Hollywood-style biodrama steeped in romance, courage and gustatory imagery.
The real-life saga of the housewife from Pasadena, Calif., is an adventure in its own right: Told that she was too tall to join the WACs, the six-foot-two Smith College alumna enlisted in the OSS, her duties therewith taking her to, among other allied outposts, Ceylon and Chinatravels during the course of which she married Paul Child, of the U.S. Foreign Service. Following the war, he was posted to Paris, where his wife, searching for a project to occupy her time, enrolled in the exalted Cordon Bleu school. Later she met Simone Beck, with whom she inaugurated a series of private classes aimed at teaching French culinary arts to her fellow expatriates. This led to a cookbook adapting the preparation of French cuisine to New World ingredients and technology. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Like all brave heroines, Julia and her gallant spouse encounter adversity, battling bigots, bureaucrats and snobs of all nationalities. Paul is investigated by HUAC ( the House Un-American Activities Committee ) , Julia's book is rejected by publishers and they fret over the toll their respective ambitions exact on their marital responsibilities. But, despite setbacks, the valiant lovers defy the authorities and reaffirm their mutual devotion until they ultimately triumph over their foes.
Co-authors Brown and Frew integrate these facts into their text as gently and seamlessly as olive oil into a sauce mayonnaise, while Keith Pitts' cozy kitchen evokes all the nostalgic charm we associate with gallic decor, enhanced by the ambient aromas of simmering butter, shallots and seasoningsolfactory special effects guaranteed to whet audiences' appetites. Completing the picture are dialect consultant Eva Breneman's array of regional accents from both sides of the Atlantic and chef Scott Gorsky's instruction in the proper technique for slicing vegetables and breaking eggs. This is not to take anything away from Karen Janes Woditsch, whose vocal rendering of Child's idiosyncratic delivery in no way dilutes a portrayal both sensitive and articulatequalities matched in Craig Spidle's likewise engaging performance as the urbane Paul Child and echoed by a multilingual cast boasting pronunciation accurate to the last cedilla and circumflex.Read more story below....