To Master the Art

A new play about Julia Child juxtaposes Child's rise to master chef against her husband's struggles to keep his career from being derailed by the McCarthy investigations.

TimeLine Theatre Company

Chicago

(773) 281-8463

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Capturing the essence of an “iconic celebrity” like Julia Child is no small challenge, said Brian Hieggelke in Newcity Stage. That’s especially true for an actor attempting the feat just one year after Meryl Streep’s Oscar-nominated portrayal of the pioneering chef in the film Julie & Julia. Yet Karen Janes Woditsch is clearly up to the challenge in this new play, which finds an authentic yet strikingly different story to tell about Child. Playwrights William Brown and Doug Frew juxtapose Child’s “journey from novice to master” of cooking against her husband’s struggles to keep his government career from being derailed by the McCarthy investigations. The resulting tensions add to the play’s “rich cassoulet” of comedy, pathos, and passion.

It helps that Woditsch’s Julia Child is “a kinder, more accessible Julia” than Streep gave us, said Chris Jones in the Chicago Tribune. The actress manages to highlight the inner fragility of an eccentric cook famous for “stuffing the cavities of chickens and pigeons without a moment’s pause.” Brown, who is also the director, surrounds his star with an “intimate, foodie-friendly staging” that at one point includes “the delectable smell of shallots sautéing in butter” wafting through the 99-seat theater. The fragrant atmosphere adds a sensual dimension to the story of “the woman who tamed the elitist glories of Le Cordon Bleu.” If the show has a fault, it’s that it adores Julia and her world a little too much.

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