Theatre Mirror Reviews - "When The World Was Green (a Chef's Fable)"

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entire contents copyright 1997 by Larry Stark

"When The World Was Green (a Chef's Fable)"

by Joseph Chaikin & Sam Shepard
Musical Compositions by Woody Regan
Directed by Joseph Chaikin
Co-Directed by Anders Cato

Set Design by Christine Jones
Lighting Design by John Ambrosone
Costume Design by Mary Brecht
Stage Manager Anne S. King

Old Man..................Alvin Epstein
Interviewer...............Amie Quigley
Pianist....................Woody Regan

In "When The World Was Green (A Chef's Fable)" Alvin Epstein plays an old man convicted of murder who poisoned the wrong man, and Amie Quigley plays a young journalist interviewing him about why, and Woody Regan plays incidental music on the piano. But it's really about --- well, it's really about an hour and a quarter of movingly beautiful theater.

The dialog by Joseph Chaikin and Sam Shepard is about five generations of family blood-feud, about a life-long obesession with a cousin marked out as intended victim, and about the girl's search for a runaway father. However, the play is about conversation and argument, about shouts and silences, about saying much more than what is spoken.

And because it was touched by Joe Chaikin, it is about where people are on stage, about the spaces between actors, about listening to what another person says, about forgiveness and regeneration and the peaceful excitement of the ordinary, the joy and pride of a job done well. It is about Bosnia and Belfast and Hebron, about the miraculous perfection of well-cooked food, and about how very much and how very little it takes to make theater sing.

Christine Jones' set is a slate-gray cell with a bed and chair and table and one incredibly small window high up in the rear wall, and John Ambrosone's lighting features a lot of tight, dimly-lit pools where soliloquies are isolated, and open area lighting in scenes that use the total space of the stage. Mary Brecht's costumes are believable, and Woody Regan's quick trills are spare and laconic. And the production is a co-production of A.R.T. New Stages and The Signature Theatre of New York.

The play moves with deliberate, intensely slow choreography from mistrustful irritation toward a thawing realization of what is fundamentally good about these people and their lives. At play's end, I felt as I had the previous afternoon when, after the long, cruel, silent winter, the catbird next door burst into song on the first day of spring.


produced by
American Repertory Theatre
in association with
Signature Theatre Company of New York
12 Holyoke Street, CAMBRIDGE
till 6 April

THE THEATER MIRROR, Boston's LIVE Theater Guide