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  Play Details

To Master the Art

TimeLine Theatre Company
615 W. Wellington Ave Chicago

Commissioned by TimeLine in 2008, this world premiere recalls the adventure and romance of Julia and Paul Child¹s journey of discovery to Paris during the 1950s. From the bistro where Julia fell in love with food, to the kitchen table where she recreated everything learned during cooking class, to a room where Paul was grilled by U.S. agents about alleged Communist contact, this is the story of a larger-than-life culinary icon and her remarkable husband as they struggle to find themselves as Americans abroad.

Thru - Dec 19, 2010



Price: $28-$38

Show Type: Drama

Box Office: 773-281-8463

www.timelinetheatre.com



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  To Master the Art Reviews

Chicago Tribune - Recommended

"...And the very happy result is a most distinguished piece of acting — a kinder, gentler, more accessible Julia than the Child re-created by the excellent Streep in the otherwise mediocre 2009 Nora Ephron movie, “Julie & Julia.” Woditsch creates an exceptionally full and honest portrait that captures the fragility and insecurity of a woman known for stuffing the cavities of chickens and pigeons without a moment's pause."
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Chris Jones


Chicago Sun Times - Highly Recommended

"...To Master the Art, the entirely delicious new play about Julia Child that opened this weekend at TimeLine Theatre, is a great appetite enhancer. It might even send the most fervent non-cooks (and I count myself among those who stick to chopping or boiling), racing into the kitchen to start rattling some pans. Just be sure to shop ahead of time, bagging some lovely brown eggs for scrambling, a bit of fresh butter, some fragrant shallots and a nice bottle of white wine."
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Hedy Weiss


Chicago Reader - Highly Recommended

"...Karen Janes Woditsch steps into Child's size 12 espadrilles with aplomb, nearly erasing memories of Meryl Streep in Julie and Julia by opting for emotional truth over mimicry, while Craig Spidle's Paul is a force of nature in his own understated, highly principled way. Brown's rock-solid supporting cast and an evocative kitchen set by Keith Pitts--enhanced by Charles Cooper's autumnal lighting--add texture and spice to this unlikely but thoroughly engaging love story."
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Kerry Reid


NewCity Chicago - Highly Recommended

"...The play, a world premiere by William Brown and Doug Frew, smartly understands the inherent dramatic arc of the source material: the rise of Julia set against the McCarthy-era career disappointments of her loving and beloved Paul Child (ably played by Craig Spidle who, like his character, lives in the large shadow of his partner) and manages to convey the pathos, the passion and the comedy. Since the play takes place mostly in France, but so many of the characters reside in the States, the playwrights have smartly brought letter writers to life (in uniformly solid performances) rather than just having Julia and Paul read them; this adds to the sense of “life is a rich cassoulet” that permeates this highly recommended show."
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Brian Hieggelke


Windy City Times - Highly Recommended

"...Co-authors Brown and Frew integrate these facts into their text as gently and seamlessly as olive oil into a sauce mayonnaise, while Keith Pitts' cozy kitchen evokes all the nostalgic charm we associate with gallic decor, enhanced by the ambient aromas of simmering butter, shallots and seasonings—olfactory special effects guaranteed to whet audiences' appetites. Completing the picture are dialect consultant Eva Breneman's array of regional accents from both sides of the Atlantic and chef Scott Gorsky's instruction in the proper technique for slicing vegetables and breaking eggs. This is not to take anything away from Karen Janes Woditsch, whose vocal rendering of Child's idiosyncratic delivery in no way dilutes a portrayal both sensitive and articulate—qualities matched in Craig Spidle's likewise engaging performance as the urbane Paul Child and echoed by a multilingual cast boasting pronunciation accurate to the last cedilla and circumflex."
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Mary Shen Barnidge


Copley News Service - Recommended

"...Karen Janes Wodtisch is convincing as Julia, capturing the woman’s search for some purpose in her life that leads to her conversion to the splendors of French cooking. Her Julia is a fighter as she grapples with the intricacies of French cuisine and then pitching her book to a scoffing publisher who considers it un-saleable. The audience can rejoice with Child in the ultimate success of “To Master the Art of French Cooking.” Still, that’s a pretty slender reed to on which build an entire play."

Dan Zeff


Talkin Broadway - Highly Recommended

"...Where To Master the Art goes beyond Julie and Julia is the way it communicates a sense of this era's importance as a transitional period in history. In post-WWII Europe and America, the world was starting to become smaller. In fact, Paul Child's job was to promote democracy and American values through promoting American culture. Similarly, America was ready to learn more of Europe, and Julia Child became a player in that movement through her promotion of French cuisine to Americans. The play also communicates the horror of the Childs at the McCarthy witch hunts and their sense of disillusionment with their native country they love, even as ex-patriots enjoying an amazing life abroad. The play is in remarkably good shape for a first production. It slows down a bit in a few places, and I would have liked a little more clarity as to the timeline of the action, but these are minor points which are easily be fixed or overlooked."
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John Olson


Time Out Chicago - Recommended

"...To Master the Art does suffer from some of the pitfalls endemic to its genre. The Childs’ marriage seems fascinating from the glimpses we get, with the decade-older Paul both supportive of and a little threatened by his wife’s burgeoning career. But our attention is often diverted from it by the press of historical and biographical detail. A scene in which Paul’s summoned back to Washington for interrogation by McCarthyite goons feels both familiar and not entirely germane. The biggest drawback to the play, though, is what it leaves out: We only really see Julia at work in the kitchen once. That scene, in which chef Max Bugnard (Hamilton) corrects her scrambled eggs, is a spellbinder; it leaves us hungry for more."
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John Beer


ShowBizChicago - Recommended

"...To Master the Art is a tasty tribute to one of food’s greatest eras and one of America’s most beloved figures. It is an authentic love story, a thoughtful piece of history, and a celebration of achievement—one worthy of emulating in our lives as well as our kitchens."
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Dan Jakes


Chicago Theater Beat - Highly Recommended

"...TimeLine waited a long time before it commissioned a play — To Master the Art is the first in the 14-year-old company’s history — but it certainly started out with a flourish. Kudos also to dramaturg Maren Robinson and others who provided the excellent information about Child and her world contained in the program and lobby displays."

Leah A. Zeldes


ChicagoCritic - Highly Recommended

"...Brown and Frew have effectively blended history, character sketches of the famous into a love story that is both accurate and compelling. This love story about food will quench the most demanding theatrical appetite."
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Tom Williams


Chicago Stage Standard - Highly Recommended

"...The script, a gem of graceful, natural and witty dialogue, effortlessly moves from the more light-hearted cooking revelations about scrambled eggs and French onion soup to the darker desires of political pogroms and brainless nationalism.  Both sides of the same story are perfectly balanced by co-author Brown’s exquisite and spirited direction.  An actor’s director, he brings out performances so perfectly cast and pitched it’s hard to imagine anyone else playing these parts or their playing anything else after this."

Lawrence Bommer


Around The Town Chicago - Highly Recommended

"...This is truly a love story and romance for this young couple as he is shipped to France to work his government job. During their stay, from the first time Julia ate the cooking of France, she fell in love with the flavors and while Paul was working each day, she learned to cook. Most everyone in America knows that her best selling book ( which led to her TV appearances) changed the way our society judges fine cuisine and watching her discover her new life and talents ,over the shortest 2 hours and 20 minutes I have ever sat in a theater, is pure magic. As I have always said, the ensemble members are a key to a production being complete and this one has a fine cast of actors; JeannieAffelder, Ian Paul Custer, Amy Dunlap, Joel Gross, Terry Hamilton ( who has two key roles in this play),Juliet Hart, Ann Wakefield, Ethan Saks- all powerful in each of the characters they bring to life."
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Alan Bresloff


   This show has been Jeff Recommended*

*The designation of "Jeff Recommended" is given to a production when at least ONE ELEMENT of the show was deemed outstanding by the opening night judges of The Joseph Jefferson Awards Committee. The entire production is then eligible for nomination for awards at the end of the season.
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