Any dedicated chef or foodie will tell you that cooking is an art form. Cuisine & Confessions, a show from Canadian creative collective, Les 7 Doigts, exemplifies this idea, combining acrobatics, acting and cooking for a unique live experience.
I was immediately hit by the scent of garlic wafting through the air upon entering the Main Stage at the Staller Center for the Arts. My eyes were drawn to the steam rising above the stage, which looked like a kitchen complete with a stove, open cabinets housing an assortment of cookware and a large banquet table in the center.
The cast was putting on a performance before the show had officially started. One performer played catch with the crowd, tossing a lemon back and forth from the stage. Another ran into the audience, challenging people to crack an egg using only one hand.
Soon after I sat down, an acrobat named Mishan approached me. He asked me about my favorite and least favorite foods and any memories I had in the kitchen, scribbling all my responses down on a notepad. He told me about his own cherished food memory, his grandmother’s Spanish omelette. He tried to recreate the recipe himself but could never get the distinct taste of saffron to come through in the same way. Before long, he ran off to go interview more audience members.
As the lights dimmed and the show began, there was a sense of uncertainty lingering among the audience, like no one knew quite what to expect. So you can imagine my shock when less than 20 minutes into the show, Mishan turned to the audience and asked, “Where is Rebecca? Can Rebecca please stand up?” As I rose to my feet, Mishan stared straight at me and said “I decided I’m in love with you.” You could practically hear the sound of my jaw hitting the floor.
Before I had time to process what was going on, I was dragged up on stage, where I was seated at a table set for two. The cast tumbled all around me, flipping and leaping, cartwheeling and juggling. One woman serenaded me with a dreamy accordion performance. All throughout, the performers painted pictures of their experiences with food and romance: making eggs for a lover in the morning, and sipping hot cocoa before a first kiss.
A delicately folded omelette that was prepared right on stage was placed in front of me. One of the acrobats presented me with a small forkful and instructed me to open my mouth. Fluffy eggs, combined with the sharp taste of green onion and the sweet relief of a farmstand tomato, was simple yet so delicious.
The audience sat in anticipation as they awaited my feedback, and cheered when I gave a positive response. I was ushered back to my seat where I enjoyed the rest of my omelette while watching the performance.
The show was organized into a series of vignettes and highlighted the points at which food intersects with love, lust and loss. The storytelling was accentuated by death defying feats of athletic prowess.
The story of cast member Sidney’s relationship with his mother was represented through their mutual love for banana bread. As a monologue about growing up without a father figure played in the background, he and another acrobat took turns leaping through hoops that were up to eight feet high.
Audience interaction was an important component of the show. As the performers placed pans filled with banana bread batter into the oven, they asked everyone to pull out their phones and set a timer. Thirty-six minutes later, at the end of the show, a chorus of digital alarms went off in unison. We were then invited to come up to the stage and sample a piece.
The show was full of lighthearted moments. One scene parodying an infomercial for kitchen appliances ended with one of the cast members fashioning pots and pans into a suit of armor and “slaying” the rest of his peers. In another, three random audience members were pulled onstage and were forced to sit around the table together and get acquainted over a bowl of olives.
One of the most powerful moments of the night came when cast member Matias told the story of his father, a political dissident who disappeared at the hands of the Argentine government. Matias described the perfect last meal he had envisioned for his father – his whole family gathered around eating a traditional Italian pasta dinner.
Matias expressed his feelings of pain and emptiness visually, climbing up and down a massive pole on the left side of the stage. In a display of immense strength — both physical and emotional — he hung horizontally from the pole. His stiffened body looked like a flag jutting out in the wind.
The most shocking move came when Matias slid down the pole headfirst, and actually removed his hands so that he was free falling. A sigh of relief emanated from the crowd when he stopped himself, grabbing back onto the pole just inches from the ground.
Cuisine & Confessions simultaneously engages your five senses while pulling at your heartstrings. What on the surface may appear to be two hours of pure sensory overload is actually a meticulously crafted entertainment experience that captivates the audience. I left with a newfound appreciation for the way food shapes the human experience.