Saturday, September 20, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Cooking onstage at the Wilma Theater

Mary Marello must cook -- and the cast must eat what she makes -- nightly during the Wilma's "Body Awareness." Inquirer theater critic Howard Shapiro joins her there for a cooking session.

Cooking onstage at the Wilma Theater

By Howard Shapiro

I went into the Wilma Theater the other day to cook. That’s right, cook. On stage. Actually Mary Martello, who plays one of the leads in Annie Baker’s comic drama Body Awareness, did the cooking — at a full kitchen that’s been built as part of Mimi Lien’s set for show.

Martello cooks in character as she delivers dialogue, and needs to be at a specific time in the action, needs to have finished making her soup so that the cast can then eat it. So there’s no messing up at the stove allowed.

I asked Martello about the mechanics and acting involved, and mostly about the recipe she uses, in the play that involves a lesbian couple, their son who may or may not have Asperger's syndrome, and a photographer who is boarding with them, during “Body Awareness Week.” He takes unconventional pictures of women in the nude; the two women react differently to his work.

But in the accompanying video we made at the Wilma, I ignored even asking about that aspect of the script  and went straight for the cooking — after all, nudity’s now a part of scripts all the time, but cooking? Hey, I know a story when I see one.

Contact staff writer Howard Shapiro at 215-854-5727,, or #philastage on Twitter. Read his recent work at Hear his reviews at the Classical Network,

About this blog
Toby Zinman's night job since 2006 is theater critic for the Inquirer. She also is a contributing writer for Variety and American Theatre magazine. Her day job: Prize-winning prof at UArts, author of four books about four playwrights (Rabe, McNally, Miller, Albee), and doer of scholarly deeds (winner of five NEH grants, Fulbright lecturer at Tel Aviv University, visiting professor in China). Her 'weekend' job as a travel writer provides adventure: dogsledding in the Yukon, ziplining in Belize, walking coast-to-coast across England, and cowboying in the Australian Outback.

Wendy Rosenfield has written freelance features and theater reviews for The Inquirer since 2006. She was theater critic for the Philadelphia Weekly from 1995 to 2001, after which she enjoyed a five-year baby-raising sabbatical. She serves on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, was a participant in the Bennington Writer's Workshop, a 2008 NEA/USC Fellow in Theater and Musical Theater, and twice was guest critic for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival's Region II National Critics Institute. She received her B.A. from Bennington College and her M.L.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. She also is a fiction writer, was proofreader to a swami, publications editor for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and spends all her free time working out and driving people places. Follow her on Twitter @WendyRosenfield.

Jim Rutter has reviewed theater for The Inquirer since September, 2011. Since 2006, he covered dance, theater and opera for the Broad Street Review, and has also written for many suburban newspapers, including The Main Line Times. In 2009, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded him a Fellowship in Arts Journalism. Thames & Hudson released his updated and revised version of Ballet and Modern Dance in June, 2012. From 1998 to 2005, he taught philosophy and logic at Drexel, and then Widener University. He also coaches Olympic Weightlifting for Liberty Barbell, and has competed at the national level in that sport since 2001.

Merilyn Jackson regularly writes on dance for The Inquirer and other publications. She specializes in the arts, literature, food, travel, and Eastern European culture and politics. In 2001, she was dance critic in residence at the Festival of Contemporary Dance in Bytom, Poland; in 2005, she received an NEA Critics’ Fellowship to Duke University’s Institute for Dance Criticism. She likes to say that dance was her first love but that when she discovered writing she began to cheat on dance. Now that she writes about dance, she’s made an honest woman of herself, although she also writes poetry.

Howard Shapiro Inquirer Theater Critic
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