Sept 1 | 7:00 pm
Sept 2 | 7:00 pm
Sept 3 | 7:00 pm
Sept 6 | 2:00 pm
I should never go to a Victoria Fringe Festival show about high cuisine on a half-filled stomach. I thought the hamburger I had before The Best Meal You Ever Ate would be enough but I was wrong. Set in the backdrop of World War II, the story does a fine job in highlighting the plight of the Jews in Warsaw and in serving some great philosophical moments while delightful food was being served.
When a couple, Avram and Netti (Jonathan Stoppi, Christine Upright), is forced into hiding inside a dilapidated building and they believe themselves surrounded by Nazis, the two believe that they will not survive the night. When they see down the street a jovial man (Michael Armstrong) all decked out in white and waving a checkered flag, they are wary. He identifies himself as Jean-Paul, a classically trained chef, and he’s here to offer them an exemplary dining experience.
Avram believes this messenger is bringing their last meal to them and Jean-Paul shows nothing is poisoned. As he serves them, they talk about existentialism and what it means to be a Jew. Avram’s wife is ready to forsake everything of their beliefs just to survive but he’s not ready to. Moments of comedy serve to highlight the tense moments and in what this screenplay offers, it nicely reminds audiences what a cultural identity entails. Eventually the food that’s offered are highlighted and I was licking my lips, sucking on ice cubes from a lavender lemonade I bought from Habit Coffee in a vain attempt to sate my appetite.
Jambon and potato scallops were served. In what I could spot, casseroles, croquettes, puddings and dessert chocolates were offered. I was glad I had my punch to sip on should I get knocked out by any delightful scents coming from the picnic basket. I resisted the urge to turn into Yogi Bear. I really did have to wonder if truffle mushrooms were used in the potato dish tho’.
Judging from my own reactions to watching what was served and verified by Zelda Dean, the producer, the food was authentic, catered by a local chef. The video clip really worked to help set the mood for this show. Plenty of history is recalled in this screenplay. While there were times where the comedy stylings reminded me of Hogan’s Heroes, I could not help but wonder what greater purpose Jean-Paul represents. His Dom DeLuise like demeanour was the highlight. How many people did he assist in escaping? This play got to reveal what these three people’s lives were like before the war. The meal not only fueled the mind but also the soul. Avram got a renewed vigor and I can only believe that both he and his wife did succeed in escaping.
4 Stars out of 5
Postscript: Bēma Productions is a new community theatre group with strong ties to the local Jewish Community and they have reported that more shows are in production. Two of which is planned to debut in October at this venue.