Love and cooking, the Italian way

I loved, I lost, I made spaghetti.

Italian-American Giulia Melucci is a smart, single career woman who just can’t find the right guy. This is in spite of the fact that she is a terrific cook and likes to make a thick, rich meaty tomato sauce and homemade spaghetti from scratch. She feeds them; she loves them; but it never seems to work out. She keeps dating Mr. Wrong, and in the process provides one of the funniest and saddest tales of the modern woman today.

At Seven Angels Theatre in Waterbury, actress Maria Baratta does it all. In a fully equipped onstage kitchen, she actually cooks up an aromatic tomato sauce. Then with flour, eggs, and a pasta machine, she makes long golden strands of pasta right in front of the audience. While doing all this, she confesses “I loved, I lost, I made spaghetti,” which is the title of this delicious play by Jacques Lamarre and based on the book of the same title by Giulia Melucci.

Starting with an antipasto, Baratta, not only prepares and cooks a complete four-course meal, but she serves it to four couples who are seated on stage. This talented actress also creates vivid characterizations of her former boyfriends by giving them unique personalities and distinct vocal accents. So if she’s talking about her Scottish boyfriend, then you will hear the brogue and come to know that man as well as you come to know her. Her big brassy fellow, well, he sounds just like Charles Nelson Reilly and therefore, Maria Baratta takes on the sound and affectations of Charles Nelson Reilly.

This is a perfect production for young couples who are dating, as well as for seasoned theater-goers, because it is so rare to find an actress who can do all that is necessary for this role. The first act was a warm-up for Baratta and there were some ad libs going on, especially when she couldn’t find a utensil or prop. However, by the second act, she was in the moment and the audience loved her. Her Italian is pure and her recipes authentic. Having seen this play before with a more mature woman playing the role, it became apparent that 30-somethings would really identify with this production and the trials and tribulations of the dating game today.

One of the absent characters in this play is Guilia’s mother. She is never seen or heard on stage, but whenever Guilia’s getting ready for a date, her cell phone rings and it’s her mom with plenty of advice on how to dress, cook, and land a guy. The mature members of the audience really enjoyed the mother/daughter phone calls. Her relationship with her mother is loving but hilarious.

Italians of all ages will love this production, filled with Italian sayings, food, and language. One thing is for sure: Italians are seen in a very positive light there. They are a passionate people who know good food and good loving.

Semina DeLaurentis directed this work and her perfect sense for comic timing shows through. Daniel Husvar designed an exquisite set for Seven Angels. It is a full working kitchen in what would be a New York apartment with a great view of the skyscrapers outside the window. Matt Guminski’s lighting accented the production beautifully by adding lights to the skyscrapers in the second act and whenever romance was in the air, a rosy-lit stage warmed the moment. Matt Martin’s sound design made every word audible and crystal clear.

On opening night the author of the book was in the audience and her books were sold during intermission. Having read the book, which is a fun and easy read, and having seen the play, I have to say that playwright Jacques Lamarre did an outstanding job of bringing Melucci’s book to life on stage.

Overall, this is a most entertaining and delightful production. It plays through April 26; for tickets, sevenangelstheatre.org or 203-757-4676.

Joanne Greco Rochman is an active member in The American Theatre Critics Association. She welcomes comments. Contact: [email protected]

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