Review: This One (First Root)

This One by Denise Mader

Come for the “lovely” play and stay for the coffee and pie, This One is on stage at Fraser Studios in Toronto

This One, playing at Fraser Studios, is a hat trick. For the price of admission you get a lovely 60 minute play, a recipe for Pecan Pie, and a piece of pie after the show. As a bonus you get to see someone make a pie crust from scratch. All in all a delightful, delicious evening.

Denise Mader wrote the piece and performs it while she makes a pecan pie. Nice multi-tasking!

This is the first time that I’ve gone to a play and been offered coffee, tea, or water by the performer. Mader encouraged people to help themselves from the carafes on a table on the stage. She poured coffee for some people and even delivered it to others in their seats. There was country music playing and Mader was smiling her beautiful smile and talking to people as they arrived. It felt as if we had dropped in and were being invited into the kitchen to sip tea and chat while she made the pie.

She was in the kitchen. Andrea Mittler’s set is complete with kitchen cupboards (with stuff in them) and counter, a sink, a stove, a fridge (also with stuff in it), and a table. You need a real kitchen to make a real pie.

One of the things that helped create the feeling that we – the audience – were visiting in Mader’s kitchen was Kaileigh Krysztofiak’s lighting. The house lights never fully went down so there wasn’t any real barrier between the stage and the audience.

This One is a play about Mader coming to terms with the death of her mother. One of the ways that she accomplishes this is by learning to make pie, something her mother did every Saturday. While Mader makes the pastry she tells us stories from her childhood, stories about her mother – who sounds like an amazing woman. She raised five children, worked on the farm, cooked, baked, and kept the house, and still had time to crazy dance around the kitchen. I would like to have known her. The play is a celebration of her life.

My friend Glenna said how nice it was to see a play about a family that wasn’t dysfunctional and angst-ridden. It really was.

It always impresses me when actors perform an autobiographical piece. They’re playing themselves, or at least a version of themselves. There isn’t a character to escape into. Glenna said that she’s always thought that one of the good things about acting would be the chance to play a character rather than being yourself and that it must be difficult to play yourself.

Mader is an impressive actor. She has great timing and her performance was relaxed and polished. No mean feat because she seems like someone who is bursting with energy. You need a good director to play yourself well and Melee Hutton’s direction was strong.

It’s a fairly short play at 60 minutes but I was surprised when it ended, it didn’t feel like an hour had passed. It’s a perfect piece for a winter evening.

And the pie was delicious.

Details:

  • This One is playing at Fraser Studios (76 Stafford Street, Unit 101) until December 14th
  • Performances Wednesday through Saturday at 7:30, Saturday and Sunday at 2
  • Tickets are $25 and $20 for students and arts workers
  • Tickets are available online and at the box office

Photo of Denise Mader by Dahlia Katz

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