By Michele Markarian
“I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti.” Adapted by Jacques LaMarre from the memoir by Giulia Melucci. Directed by Ilyse Robbins . Presented by Stoneham Theatre, 395 Main Street, Stoneham, through June 25.
“I can count on my breasts the number of times I’ve missed a meal”, Giulia (Kerri Jill Garbis) tells us. For Giulia, food is love, as she demonstrates by actually cooking dinner for eight guests onstage while telling us unfortunate stories from her love life. If you have an interest in food and a colorful romantic past, this is the show for you.
Giulia is a woman who, despite success in the publishing world of New York City, wants to get married and have a family. The men she commits to, however, are not what you’d call marriage material. There’s Kit, the alcoholic. Ethan, the undemonstrative Jewish man. Marcus, the old guy. And Lochlan, the Scottish novelist. Even when Giulia lets them move in, takes on their culinary traditions, and in one case, helps them get published, commitment eludes her. So desperate is she to have a mate of her own that she continues in these relationships, ignoring the warning signals that maybe it’s time to let go.
We’ve all been there, which is what makes the character of Giulia so easy to relate to. Giulia is a woman who gives more than she gets, and is even willing to accept that – until she isn’t. Ever the optimist, she moves on until another succubus comes to take the previous one’s place. Kerri Jill Garbis, a lovely and engaging performer, manages to convey her experiences as if she were telling them for the first time. We feel her elation as she meets each potential soulmate, and her disappointment when the relationship comes to an end. Garbis is so sincere and credible in the role that the audience completely bonds with her – when she comes out in a new dress, for example, we cheer her on as you would a girlfriend who needs encouragement. Because we have been taken into her confidence, we are invested in Giulia’s success.
Mind you, all of these stories – peppered with humor, despite their pathos – are conveyed while Garbis is preparing and cooking a meal for eight. Can you imagine? If any family member tries to talk to me while I’m making dinner, at best they’ll get a vague response. Even while using some pretty sharp instruments, Garbis maintains focus and composure. Erik Diaz’s set is a dream kitchen, with ample counter space, working stove, working sink, and well-appointed plants. For those interested in food, the preparation is interesting to watch, as it involves not just cooking but the enjoyment of the audience members who had the foresight to purchase onstage seats. “The food was delicious”, I heard one woman say at the end of the show, and it looked it (the recipe for Garbis’s aromatic Bolognese Sauce is actually printed on page 11 of the program. I am going to try it).
At the end of play, we were treated to a talkback moderated by talented director Ilyse Robbins, with Garbis, playwright Jacques LaMarre, and the real live Giulia Melucci (which was a little confusing for those of us who identified Garbis as the character). Giulia Melucci seems like a smart, unassuming woman, the kind of woman that you knew as a single person and would be friends with, commiserating together over the scoundrels that passed for relationship partners. She was also signing copies of her book, which contains more recipes from her Italian heritage. I won’t tell you how her story ends, but if you believe that good things happen to good people, well, buy a ticket to “I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti” and see for yourself. For more info, go to: www.stonehamtheatre.org