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Washington DC by Susan Berlin

I Love to Eat

I Love to Eat
Nick Olcott
Nick Olcott's ebullient performance is the primary reason to see I Love to Eat, the one-man drama now at Round House Theatre in Bethesda, Maryland. Playwright James Still brings the viewer into the home of James Beard (1903-1985), a pioneer in American cooking and host of the first cooking show on television. (That was in 1946, when hardly anyone owned a television set.)

Beard was a trendsetter in his emphasis on American recipes and ingredients—in his words, "good food simply cooked," which he classified as cookery rather than using the more pretentious term cuisine. But while his tastes in food were not elevated, his personality certainly was: he was a famous wit, gregarious, a lover of gossip, and a born performer who, in his early years, dreamed of singing opera or acting on Broadway. Instead, the kitchen became his stage.

Still's play is less a straightforward biography of Beard than a depiction of the man's character as reflected in his own eyes: he appears magically in a cloud of stage smoke and a scattering of rose petals as opera booms in the background. Over the course of 70 minutes or so, he chats comfortably with the audience from the kitchen of his New York City brownstone, taking time out for phone conversations with everyone from Julia Child to a home cook trying to host a dinner party.

As choreographed and modulated by director Leon Major, Olcott portrays Beard as indefatigable and never less than charming. Where Still's script wanders from memory to anecdote and from event to event (including a cameo appearance by Elsie the Cow, sponsor of Beard's television show), Olcott remains centered throughout and ties everything together. He even prepares canapés for the lucky audience members seated at close-in tables.

Misha Kachman's scenic design compresses the broad Round House stage into a compact work space bounded by kitchen counters, with shimmering copper pots hanging on the rear wall and utensils close at hand.

Round House Theatre
I Love to Eat
October 17th - November 4th
By James Still
James Beard: Nick Olcott
Directed by Leon Major
4545 East-West Highway
Bethesda, MD
Ticket Information: 240-644-1100 or www.roundhousetheatre.org


Photo: Danisha Crosby


-- Susan Berlin


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.



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