Giulia Melucci wrote a foodie memoir in 2009 about a series of failed relationships. It’s title said it all: I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti. She described how she prepared meals for men at every step in love from courtship to foreplay to desperate attempts to hang on. Playwright Jacques Lamarre has turned Melucci’s bestseller into an entertaining work for the stage, and actress Antoinette LaVecchia, who originated the role at role at Hartford, Conn.’s TheaterWorks in 2012 and has owned it since, is performing it at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park. My only question is why a woman as charming as Melucci (at least as played by the funny, attractive LaVecchia) couldn’t land a more “normal” guy sooner than the end of the show. Several men in the audience on opening night were surely ready to propose before then.
The show’s gimmick is that it’s set in a working kitchen where LaVecchia prepares an aromatic three-course Italian meal while animatedly describing her romantic adventures, starting at age 16 and continuing into her 40s. Cooking is the thread that runs through her story, and while she recounts her gustatory encounters — portraying Giulia’s lovers vividly using her physical and vocal talents — LaVecchia simultaneously prepares and serves a meal of antipasti, salad and spaghetti Bolognese (with fresh pasta she’s made as she talks) to four couples, seated right in front of her kitchen counter. (They’ve paid an additional $35 for the privilege.) LaVecchia is so natural as Giulia that you feel like you’re one of her best friends. She banters with audience members, interrupted by persistent phone calls from her mom. At one moment, when a phone went off in the audience, she ad libbed about how her mom will do anything to get her attention. You also feel well acquainted with her quirky lovers, from stammering Ethan and egotistical cartoonist Marcus to a Scottish writer whose novel she successfully promotes (she’s a publishing publicist in New York), just before he dumps her. Her storytelling is punctuated with pop culture references to Cyndi Lauper, Billy Joel, MacGyver, The Brady Bunch, Moonstruck and more.
“I get therapy; you get to eat,” she announces. It’s a great combination. She loved, she lost, she made spaghetti. And we laughed.
I LOVED, I LOST, I MADE SPAGHETTI, presented by the Cincinnati Playhouse, continues through Nov. 2.