BWW Review: CHEF Opens Season at Upstream With All the Right Ingredients
Chef, a play by UK/Egyptian playwright Sabrina Mahfouz and winner of the 2014 Fringe First Award at the Edinburgh Festival, made its U.S. premier at Upstream Theatre, opening the 2018-19 season. Linda Kennedy starred in this one-woman show, directed by renowned Swiss director Marianne de Pury.
It is the story of a woman confined to a stark prison cell who dreams of being able to one day cook her own way again. Once a notable chef, now an incarcerated prison cook, she tells, in language that is both poetic and brutal, of all the cruel circumstances that landed her in this moment in time: a strained relationship with her father, a punishing romance, a late-night breakup meal, a benevolent chef who taught her to taste like her "tongue was a paintbrush." And then, there's the incident that happened just yesterday. She breaks the monotony and gets through the days imagining what her restaurant will look like and what menus she will offer when she gets out, interspersing those reveries with backstory.
The sound effects sometimes seemed disjointed and were a tad intrusive in this wonderful play, but the tech was flawless, and Kristin Cassidy's scenic design and Laura Hanson's costume design were simple and perfect for this 80-minute play. Kennedy was especially adept at guiding us gently into this world where a pattern of abuse, domestic violence, and PTSD shape futures, and where rising out of ashes sometimes means flying into bigger fires, but where there is also quiet hope. She made brilliant use of space, particularly for a one-woman show, and moved between the ages and stages of life with the refinement of a veteran actor, stunning us again and again.
Chef ran through October 14 at Kransberg Arts Center. For more information on the rest of Upstream Theater's 14th season, visit https://upstreamtheater.org/content/passport-season-14