25th Street Theatre’s new play bares all in a celebration of self-worth

(left to right) Bobbi Jones and Sarah Bergbusch feature as a pair of disembodied boobs in "The Art of French Cooking" produced by 25th Street Theatre. (Supplied / Photo courtesy of 25th Street Theatre)

A pair of boobs are the main characters of 25th Street Theatre’s upcoming production of The Art of French Cooking.

And by “boobs” we are not referring to a couple of silly bumbling comics — though they may be that as well. Instead, Madeleine Blais-Dahlen’s absurdist comedy centers on a woman’s breasts who have decided to jump the proverbial ship.

“This woman’s boobs reject her, and they become major characters in the play,” Blais-Dahlen said. “And they’re highly opinionated — the left boob is a socialist and a bit of an activist, and the right boob is conservative and a homebody.”

The aptly-named Boobar and Boobel (played by Bobbi Jones and Sarah Bergbusch, respectively) detach themselves from Blanche (Elizabeth Nepjuk) in protest of their treatment, sparking a journey of self-discovery and self-worth for all parties.

Blais-Dahlen said she was inspired to write the play after reading a newspaper article about some Hollywood starlets in Banff who were afraid their collagen injections would freeze and break in the cold Canadian winter — emphasizing the lengths women had to go to to feel like their bodies were acceptable for a judging public.

Combined with a French cookbook she was reading at the time that she described as “kitchen erotica,” and the kernel for The Art of French Cooking was formed.

“It becomes a reflection of how women are talked about as if they’re pieces of meat,” she said. “The physical body of women is the subject of much discussion by men.”

Blais-Dahlen began writing this play more than 20 years ago, and is bringing it to the stage for the first time with 25th Street Theatre. She lauded artistic director Anita Smith and the whole cast for helping bring her characters to life.

Despite the play being a comedy, Blais-Dahlen said the characters in the play are complex and nuanced. The various characters — both the humans and the more absurd anthropomorphized body parts — explore the ever complicated question of identity.

Blais-Dahlen said it’s telling that these discussions over identity, self-judgement and self-worth are still happening more than two decades after she was inspired to write the play.

“This whole conversation about identity has evolved … it’s become more complicated, but the basic question has not changed, which is ‘who am I? And how does my body fit into that?'” she said. “Society has an opinion on you which they don’t have a right to have, they have an opinion on your value as a person based on your appearance.”

The Art of French Cooking is, as Blais-Dahlen puts it, “a very ordinary idea taken to the extreme.” Through all of the silliness and theatre artistry that goes into bringing breasts to life, Blais-Dahlen said she hopes the audience will walk away from the show appreciating the celebration of self at the heart of the play.

The Art of French Cooking runs at Emrys Jones Theatre on the University of Saskatchewan campus from May 2 to 12. Tickets can be purchased online at 25thstreettheatre.org.

Recent Posts