Veteran Trio Cooks Up Satisfying Dance-Theater Program

Frank Walsh/Corningworks c.2013
Frank Walsh/Corningworks c.2013

CorningWorks – The Glue Factory Project: Recipes Our Mothers Gave Us (World Premiere)
New Hazlett Theater – Pittsburgh, PA

January 15-19, 2014

Reviewed by Steve Sucato

The brainchild of dancer/choreographer Beth Corning, CorningWorks’ The Glue Factory Project series brings together veteran performers over the age of forty to create dance-theater works that explore the human condition. The latest in the series, Recipes Our Mothers Gave Us, brought together Corning along with actor/dancer Francoise Fournier and playwright, actor and choreographer Maria Cheng to revisit advice given to them growing up about how to live life.

Recipes opened on a stage loaded with cooking paraphernalia at its far end and surrounded on three sides by audience members. The work’s trio of performers each then manned kitchen trolleys and began slowly circling the stage greeting and playing to audience members as Jazz music played. The performers then stopped each in front of a different section of the audience to don cooking aprons. From there those in attendance watched as Corning, Fournier and Cheng cooked up a series of sight gags and poignant moments, opening up windows into their hearts and letting loose the strengths of their personalities.

A mantra of “success, failure, birth, death, marriage and another marriage” accompanied the trio as they climbed on and over their trolleys and repeating moment phrases for added effect.

Young enough to still delight in their own dancing yet stage savvy enough to use the physical limitations that come with age to get a laugh, the trio applied their stagecraft masterfully.

Frank Walsh/Corningworks  c.2013
Frank Walsh/Corningworks c.2013

In the first of several heartfelt moments in the work, Corning, in a solo set to Stephen Foster’s haunting lullaby “Slumber My Darling”, looked mournful and anguished as she twisted and turned her body tossing out a series of carefully crafted hand, arm, and facial gestures that concluded with her pulling imaginary bed covers over her head.

Corning’s poignant solo then gave way to what could have been a scene out of TV’s “Iron Chef America”, with the trio scrambling to reach piles of props in search of the “ingredients” to make a happy life.

It is here where clear differences between the ladies surfaced.  Their personal desires, ethnic heritages and comedic sensibilities all led to a differing array and use of props like plastic baby dolls, “Ken” dolls, toy planes and fake money being dumped into each woman’s cooking pot to create a dish personal to them; Corning, an apple pie, Fournier, a croissant and Cheng, an egg roll.

Frank Walsh/Corningworks  c.2013
Frank Walsh/Corningworks c.2013

The remainder of the hour-long work contained several more interesting vignettes including a scene where the performers created music using kitchen utensils, a graceful yet troubled solo by Fournier and a solo in which Cheng debated the merits of loveless sex.

The work’s most powerful moment however came in the form of an unadorned verbal bombshell dropped by Corning as she recounted being told by her mother to “never kiss on the first date”, then went on to say that she was raped on a first date but never did kiss the guy. While devastating moments like this were riveting and Corning, Fournier and Cheng’s performances were wonderful throughout, this reviewer yearned for even more flavorful ingredients to add to Recipes, elevating it from an overall  satisfying dish into a truly memorable one.

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