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I Love to Eat

a One Man Show
by James Still

COMPANY : Theatrical Outfit [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Balzer Theatre @ Herren's [WEBSITE]
ID# 5479

SHOWING : April 10, 2019 - May 05, 2019



1984. Manhattan. “In the beginning there was Beard,” said Julia Child of the first TV chef whose charisma transformed him from aspiring actor to culinary expert. A flamboyant yet introverted gastronomist, James Beard was his own greatest promoter and harshest critic. He weathered shifts in foodie culture for half a century, and the award bearing his name today is craved by chefs worldwide. Drop into Beard’s Greenwich Village kitchen for bean-spilling anecdotes, on-air flashbacks, and a salty voyage around the world of love, life, and comfort food. Sit close and sample a taste!

Director Clifton Guterman
James Beard Bill Murphey
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I Love to Watch "I Love to Eat"
by playgoer
Tuesday, April 16, 2019
I do hope James Beard’s apartment has an elevator. In the set design for "I Love to Eat" at Theatrical Outfit, Isabel and Moriah Curley-Clay have designed a first-floor kitchen with an impossibly high ceiling, huge windows in the back and copper pots and pans suspended on tracks far above reach. Chandeliers made from kitchen implements provide lighting, and tables and counters abound. If the physical James Beard is sleeping upstairs and near death, as the play leads us to believe, the climb up the stairs to his bedroom would surely have done him in.

The metaphysical James Beard is who we see onstage, entering "Drowsy Chaperone"-style after a lengthy montage of kitchen sounds while a kitchen timer is spotlit on the countertop center stage. Jeff Cone’s costume for Beard (William S. Murphey) is a striped Chinese-style set of silk pajamas and a brightly-lined silk robe, together with a monogrammed apron donned at various points. Mr. Cone has also designed the magnificent Elsie the Cow puppet that Mr. Murphey manipulates and provides the voice for.

Technically, this is a glorious production. The set and costumes are magnificent, and Adam Howarth’s sound and Rob Dillard’s lighting highlight the action beautifully. Nick Battaglia’s props overflow the counter space and spill onto the floor, making the elevated stage look incredibly lived-in. And would this be a Curley-Clay set if parts of it didn’t pull out or rotate?

James Beard was a renowned chef, but in the play he brags that he’s not a snob about cuisine. That’s bragging nevertheless. Mr. Murphey doesn’t seem particularly adept in the kitchen, but he handles the cooking section well enough, as he makes mayonnaise and assembles round onion sandwiches that are served to first-row patrons, a couple of whom are invited onstage to eat and imbibe.

The play lets us know about Beard, largely through telephone calls on various phones scattered about the set. His thirst for fame, initially as an opera singer, infused his life, and sometimes makes him seem more conceited and curmudgeonly than likeable. In Mr. Murphey’s capable hands, however, he’s a presence we don’t want to take our eyes off of.

Is this production of "I Love to Eat" a triumph of design and performance over material? Definitely. Clifton Guterman has directed a show that is destined to be an audience favorite, starring an Atlanta favorite whose portly profile provides a good approximation of James Beard’s. Is this a man I would have liked to meet in person? Probably not. But at Theatrical Outfit, we’re treated to a 90-minute monologue that makes the man a spell-binding presence, moving around a set that is a wonder to behold. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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