Review: A Piping Hot Plate of Laughs

There are two surefire ways to mend a broken heart – stuffing your face or laughing it off. "I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti", the new production at New Brunswick’s George Street Playhouse, balances these strategies with hilarious results.

Antoinette LaVecchia as Giulia Melucci in "I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti" at the George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick.
Photo by T. Charles Erickson

The one-woman show (playing through April 6) is based on the memoir of the same title by Giulia Melucci, an unlucky-in-love New York publishing professional.

For Giulia (played with gusto by Antoinette LaVecchia) food is a part of who she is, and preparing meals for people she loves is a privilege and something of an addiction. The two-hour play takes place in a single evening in Giulia’s kitchen, as she preps an exquisite Italian meal for her guests and regales them with stories of romances gone wrong with every course. Herein lies the twist of the show. Her “guests” are audience members who sit on stage with her and sample each course. And LaVecchia is not just faking it with plastic props and bowls: she is genuinely cooking, and her guests are genuinely eating.

She sips wine, salts and seasons her sauce, she even makes her own dough, rolls it flat, and slices up her own spaghetti, all while cracking wise about the men who have done her wrong. The audience is not only enthralled by Giulia’s tales of woe – like having her heart broken on Disney World’s “It’s a Small World” ride – but by the mouth-watering aromas that fill the theater. Giulia admits cooking, perhaps too early, for each of her former paramours, and we can imagine her smiling beatifically at each lover as she hustles from the stove to the table.

There’s the high school sweetheart who took her on a whirlwind four-week romance; the intelligent preppy with a taste for the drink; the neurotic Jew who can’t commit; the too-old, too-goofy, too-bizarre cartoonist; and the man-child Scot who only wants to publish his novel and have a good time. Throughout the performance Giulia also receives calls from her overly attentive Brooklyn mother, who voices concern about her daughter’s culinary methods and the state of her love life. LaVecchia gives each character a distinct personality and voice, and imbues Giulia with such warmth and charm you start to wonder if her boyfriends were blind.

Giulia also has a great sense of humor. Two of her dinner guests at a recent showing were representatives from New Brunswick’s sister city of Limerick, Ireland. While talking about her Bay Ridge childhood, she mentioned how the Brooklyn neighborhood is best known as the setting for Saturday Night Fever. Instead of smooth John Travolta types, she said, most of the residents of her block were Irish. “And let me tell you,” she quipped, “the Irish cannot dance.” Without missing a beat, she turned to the table where her Emerald Isle guests were seated and bellowed, “I’m sorrrrrry!”

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