‘The Baklawa Recipe’ making its world premiere at Centaur Theatre
The Baklawa Recipe – Food can be a unifying factor to any situation, whether it be light-hearted or dire.
When it comes to a pair of Lebanese-born immigrants who come to Canada in the 1960s to make a new life in the Montreal suburb of Ville St. Laurent, the tie that binds them to softening the blow of the difficulties of settling into a new way of life in a new country is the ability to faithfully follow the recipe of baklawa, a Middle East confection exclusive to their native Lebanon, no matter how easy or difficult that immigrant experience is for them.
That is the message strongly conveyed in Pascale Rafie’s play “The Baklawa Recipe”, which is making its world premiere at the Centaur Theatre, where it is playing until February 18.
The play goes back and forth over a period of 40 years, first with newcomers Nadia and Rita (played by, respectively, Christina and Natalie Tannous), who have to deal with the joys and pitfalls of adapting to their new homeland, not to mention trying to deal with the their roles defined by their native Lebanese culture and the emergence of the liberated, independent woman in modern Canadian society. And do they deal with it? By getting together and making their favourite baklawa recipe, making sure that each ingredient is carefully including with loving care so that the end result is a delicious treat that was just as much fun to make as it is to eat.
The other side of the story is shared by Naima (Eleanor Noble) and Fanny (Anne-Marie Saheb), the daughters of Nadia and Rita, who try to deal with the tragic circumstances their respective mothers had to face while making a new life in Montreal (one through the unrelenting idle gossip by her neighbours, the other through a debilitating battle with cancer). Yet through all the tragedy, the thing that brings them together are the memories of how their mothers always managed to make a perfect baklawa.
This a very compelling production, with solid acting by the four principals that vividly expresses the joys and agonies of trying to bridge two cultural ways of life, and how the immigrant experience is not always an easy one to go through. Although the set design is minimal at best (it almost resembles a TV game show isolation booth), yet it does vividly represent that sense of isolation immigrant women did go through. However, no matter if they be Lebanese, Italian, Jewish, Irish or Scottish, an immigrant community can find solace — or a means of outreach or ties to their native homeland – through one avenue that we can all identify with: food.
For more information, or to purchase tickets, go to www.centaurtheatre.com or call 514-288-3161.
Feature image: Baklawa Recipe – ChristinaTannous NatalieTannous Photo: Antoine Saito