2 Must See’s: My Interview with Judy Wicks & “I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti” @ George St. Playhouse

Judy Wicks of the Legendary White Dog Cafe to Speak at Duke Farms This Sunday

GoodMorning Beautiful Business

Wicks, local foods pioneer and a nationally recognized leader in the socially responsible business movement, is the keynote speaker at Slow Food Northern NJ’s event this Sunday, March 23rd, from 1 to 3:30 pm. Last week I spoke with Wicks about her upcoming appearance and her memoir, Good Morning, Beautiful Business. Read the conversation at www.njmonthly.com, then click the link at the end for tickets to the event, which cost $18 and include a lunch of local foods prepared by two of NJ’s finest chefs: Anthony Bucco of the Ryland Inn and Dan Richer of Razza and Arturo’s. The barn at Duke Farms in Hillsborough is the location.

Eat Your Heart Out at Charming, Hilarious One-Woman Tour de Force @ George St. Playhouse

Photo by T. Charles Erickson

Photo by T. Charles Erickson

I must admit it was with some trepidation that I attended the opening night in New Brunswick of I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti, the adaptation of Giulia Melucci’s best-selling memoir about her romantic misadventures and how she cooked her way through them.

First off, like both Ms. Melucci and the actress who plays her onstage, Antoinette LaVecchia, I am an Italian-American girl with an East Coast accent who grew up eating my way through joys and sorrows while making Sunday gravy. Usually, this means my radar for authenticity gets in the way of my enjoyment of artistic representations of such. (Sorry, Cher, but this includes your performance in Moonstruck.)

Photo by T. Charles Erickson

Photo by T. Charles Erickson

Second, the action involves Ms. LaVecchia preparing a 3-course meal onstage and serving it to a small number of audience members over the course of the performance. Antipasto, salad, and fresh pasta with Bolognese. So even my radar for authentic cooking would be on overdrive.

Third, the play itself or the acting could have fallen short, especially since it is a one-character play, and that character speaks directly to the audience. (High potential squirm factor.)

Photo by T. Charles Erickson

Photo by T. Charles Erickson

Obviously, I Loved, I Lost… cleared all these hurdles. And then some. The set, simple but effective, is a working kitchen island and Ms. LaVecchia really does use it to make from-scratch Bolognese sauce (a can of Cento tomatoes included) and fresh pasta dough that she runs through a pasta maker and boils before our eyes. I had my doubts as to whether the results would taste good, until aromas began to waft over the theater in the third act. (For insurance, afterwards I approached some of the 10 diners who were perched at bistro tables on stage during the play, and who ate and drank wine – poured by Ms. LaVecchia – throughout. They confirmed that the sauce was terrific and the pasta perfetto.)

Lest you think this play is all gimmick, let me clarify. The character, Giulia, is smart, funny, earthy, real, and heartbreaking. (Someone characterized the book, correctly, as “Sex and the City meets Big Night.”) Ms. LaVecchia engages the audience from beginning to end. She’s so good at it and so relatable that when she asked, “Now where was I, what was I saying?” after a snafu with sound equipment had temporarily halted the performance, someone in the front row blurted out, “You were telling us why you broke up with Ethan.” Just as if a friend had asked during a tete-a-tete.

One cool side note: Catherine Lombardi restaurant, next door to the playhouse, is donating the ingredients needed for the production.

I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti runs through April 11. Tickets and info at www.georgestreetplayhouse.org or call the box office at 732.246.7717.

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