Family traditions, like a delicious dessert, can bring love and happiness to everyone. As time marches on and society changes, can those traditions still hold the family together? Will it take more than sugar and a deft hand?
The Baklawa Recipe is a moving, harsh, at times humourous, story on the changing values across the generations of two immigrant families. The show has flashes of flair amongst the impending sadness and drama. It is compelling, sweet, and very genuine.
The roots and traditions of the ancestral home are fragile threads joining the past and present. As the characters struggle with the experience of new lives in wintery Montreal, the tie that binds them all is a family recipe for Lebanese Baklawa (not to be confused with the Greek variety). As one of the characters describes the making of this dessert as an “art”, the process is very messy for others.
For Rita (Natalie Tannous), her joy is in her family, her new life in Montreal, and sharing the recipe with her friend, Nadia (Christina Tannous). Nadia is an artist and a free spirit. But life as a married woman sharing a duplex with overbearing relatives is very difficult for her. She cannot make her place and it crushes her. She carries out reckless acts to gain a bit of freedom. It provides juicy gossip for the neighbours and pain for Rita. Their children are products of the society of the new world. Rita’s daughter, Naïma (Eleanor Noble), is moving on with life with the stability and confidence she learned from her gregarious mother. Fanny (Anne-Marie Saheb), Nadia’s daughter, is struggling with the shame and social stigma of her mother’s behaviour. As time moves on, the inevitable is confronted with heart-breaking results.
The performances are very good. The actors capture the conflict of pride of the culture and the pursuit of self-identity, all in the face of duty to the family. The cast beautifully convey this story with humanity, love, and touching melancholy. Excellent work by all.
The sets are individual cubbies representing the homes for each character. They try, and often fail, to communicate by phone or Skype depending on the technology of the period. The exception is the kitchen table used to make the Baklawa- it is brought out to centre stage where the characters share the recipe and find joy, however brief, in each other’s company.
Traditions not only reflect the past and the roots of the family. They can be the honey that unites people and brings comfort in the changing world. Some traditions survive regardless of the times. To forget them, would be to lose one’s self. But everyone can come home again, even if it is just for a sweet or bitter spell.
Photo Credit: Antoine Saito
The Baklawa Recipe: Presented by Centaur Theatre Company. Directed by Emma Tibaldo. Written by Pascale Rafie. Translated by Melissa Bull. Show continues to February 18, 2018, at the Centaur Theatre, 453 St-François-Xavier, Old Montreal. For tickets call the box office at 514-288-3161 or go to www.centaurtheatre.com