I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti -- a Saucy and Sweet One-Woman Show
By Amy J. Barry
Talk about multi-tasking, Antoinette LaVecchia is not only the star of the one-woman play, I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti premiering at Theaterworks, she cooks up a storm throughout the two-act production. And I don’t mean a pretend meal; I mean a three-course Italian dinner including Pasta Bolognese made from scratch on stage. She even serves it with a nice glass of red to people who pay a premium for front row table seating. All this while regaling the audience with the sad but amusing stories of her failed love life, interrupted by endless phone calls from her prying mother.
The play was adapted by Jacques Lamarre from Giulia Melucci’s best-selling memoir of the same name, published in 2009, and is directed by Rob Ruggiero. Lamarre and Ruggiero have done a fine job of bringing the pages of the book to three-dimensional life, including the wonderful aromas of frying garlic, and simmering tomato sauce.
Giulia is a literature-loving Sarah Lawrence graduate and a driven publishing executive, who returns to her Italian roots after work to recreate for her boyfriends du jour, the simple, delicious Italian fare of her childhood.
“I am drawn to repressed men like I’m drawn to a plate of bubbling lasagna,” she tells us.
LaVecchia, who was born in a small Italian village -- about which she is currently writing an original play -- and starred in How to Be a Good Italian Daughter (in spite of myself) Off Broadway, has a convincingly natural affinity for her character. She is sparkly and wired, with very expressive body language, and in the play’s few poignant moments, we catch a glimpse of her vulnerability under the hip New York gloss.
Among the long list of men that Giulia attempts to seduce with food is a drunk Irishman (he starts out sober), a Jewish mensch, for whom she makes a Passover Seder from soup to nuts, an aging artist hipster, who sounds like Charles Nelson Reilly, and an eccentric Scottish novelist, using her to get a book deal.
All of them have in common that they’re self-absorbed, commitment phobic, and not won over by the smart and beautiful young woman’s culinary skills.
If we didn’t know the play was based on a real memoir, we might find the men Giulia falls for absurdly stereotypical. That said, her hammed-up imitation of the Charles Nelson Reilly guy isn’t quite so funny by the fourth or so reference.
At times LaVecchia loses her focus and stumbles slightly on her lines. But cooking and serving a home-cooked meal, while you’re the sole actor carrying a play, makes walking and chewing gum look like a piece of cake, it’s such an impressive feat -- and so must be forgiven.
LaVecchia’s lively performance is enhanced by set designer John Coyne’s inviting kitchen where she’s stationed behind a butcher block-topped island chopping and sauteing when she’s not walking on and off the stage, serving her guests the next course. Gorgeous lighting by John Lasiter brings even richer shades of color to an already vibrant modern geometric backdrop. Between scenes, a high-energy modern rock musical score by Sasha Wahl sets the mood of early ’90s Manhattan -- when the play takes place.
I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti continues through July 8 at Theaterworks, 233 Pearl Street in downtown Hartford. For tickets call 860-527-7838 or online visit www.theaterworkshartford.org.
This review appeared in Shore Publishing community weeklies, and online at zip06.com and theday.com.