25th Street Theatre serves up a recipe of self-discovery

“It’s the cleanest play you ever will have seen. However, there is a group orgasm over a peach that is quite delicious!”

After years of being the center of attention, ogled, poked and prodded…Blanche’s breasts have had enough and decide to leave her, literally. That’s the opening of The Art of French Cooking. Playwright Madeleine Blais-Dahlem is well-known in French theatre circles and this absurdist comedy with 25th Street Theatre is her English debut.

Blais-Dahlem says this play is a celebration of self. (Light Line Photography)

“I started writing this 20 years ago. The idea came from a newspaper article about a charity event in Banff where Hollywood starlets were afraid to go skiing because it was -30. They were worried their collagen injections would freeze and crack,” says Dahlem. “The idea that women, who had been artificially enhanced, were afraid of living a normal life because they could not withstand changes in temperature. I generally write about things that I think are unfair and that made me angry.”

“It’s a fear of becoming invisible.”

That headline left Blais-Dahlem thinking about the way women are judged based on their bodies and not for who they are as people. At the same time, she was reading a French cookbook best described as kitchen erotica. The recipes were written in a way that revealed the sensual joy of eating. The resulting play is a dreamscape journey through the female body and all its parts. Actor Elizabeth Nepjuk plays “Blanche” whose body is betraying her, piece by piece, and is forced to find her true self-worth.

Actors Tim Bratton and Elizabeth Nepjuk cooking up a delicious performance with director Anita Smith. (25th Street Theatre)

“It’s a fear of becoming invisible. How a woman’s body is shaped really dictates how people receive you. There’s a lot of pressure to have big boobs, a small waist, and remain eternally youthful,” says Nepjuk. “There’s a pressure to keep up, that you have to ‘fix it’ to be viable.”

Actor Tim Bratton has several roles in this play, many of them hyper-masculine caricatures, a penis-like cowboy for example, that challenge Blanche at every turn.

“This play uses comedy and the absurd to break the ice into deeper conversations,” says Bratton. “This play cultivates empathy in people, for us to take a hard look at the experiences of others. What it’s like to live with the unrealistic expectations of society.”

“The secret to French cooking is to enhance without denaturing,.”

For Blais-Dahlem, this comes down to the quote she read in that cookbook so long ago.

“The secret to French cooking is to enhance without denaturing,” she says. “The message of this play is not against body enhancement, it’s one of self-acceptance. You have to accept yourself first and only then you can truly love yourself.”

The Art of French Cooking

May 2 – 12

Emrys Jones Theatre – University of Saskatchewan

Tickets $16 – $26

Click HERE for more information and to purchase tickets.

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