Walk into “Cuisine & Confessions” and you’ll be hit with the aroma of garlic, herbs and onions. Onstage — the set is a kitchen — veggies are being chopped and recipes exchanged.
“When people come into the theater, it’s like walking into somebody’s house,” says Sebastien Soldevila, co-creator/co-director of the Montreal-based show that’s making a tour stop at Stony Brook University’s Staller Center this weekend. “Every time there’s a party, everybody ends up in the kitchen because food brings people together.”
The show features nine performers who hail from France, Russia, Argentina and the United States. Each shares a story of a food dish that’s affected their lives through song, dance, cooking and circus stunts in the middle of a kitchen.
“Everyone has a history with food,” says Soldevila. “It’s something that connects us all.”
COOKING AND CLOWNING
At age 4, Anna Kichtchenko emigrated from Russia to Toronto. But one Russian tradition remained strong in her family: Borscht.
“It’s a Russian dish made of beets, cabbage and potatoes, which continued to be made at my house,” says Kichtchenko, 25. “It kind of tied me to my past.”
Not only does she share her soup story, Kichtchenko, who studied at the National Circus School of Montreal, performs contortions and aerial silks.
“I can lie on my chest on the ground and make my feet touch my ears. Then in the silk, I can be almost at the ceiling, then drop near the ground while still in the silk,” says Kichtchenko. “The point is for the audience to be surprised, scared and wondering how it’s all possible.”
She’s not the only one doing breathtaking theatrics. Mishan Ferrero, 27, of Providence, Rhode Island, tosses his partner, Anna Kachalova of Russia, into the air and catches her.
“It creates that ‘wow’ factor,” says Ferrero. “There’s always a lot of movement going on — something to catch the eye. Each act goes smoothly into the next section, causing a real fluidity to the show.”
HIGHS & LOWS
The show plays with the audience’s emotions during tender moments, like when Matias Plaul from Argentina discusses his father’s last meal or when Melvin Diggs from St. Louis talks about the comfort he received from the omelets his mother made him each morning.
“We make it feel like a roller coaster,” says Soldevila. “Sometimes the emotion goes high, then sometimes it goes low. It’s an eclectic journey.”
All the while, performers are doing acrobatic hoop diving, juggling and working the Chinese pole on stage.
“We use circus as a language,” says Soldevila. “We like to camouflage it into the choreography making it one unit. It doesn’t stand out; we fit it in.”
Those seated in the crowd shouldn’t get too comfortable, because they might end up in the show.
“When you come, you are part of it,” says Ferrero. “At any moment you could get pulled up on stage.”
Participants might be asked to work food prep as the main characters cook a meal while the show is happening or simply share their own food story.
“We want to get to know the audience,” says Kichtchenko. “It’s interesting asking them about their childhood memories with food or what meal a couple had on their first date.”
At the end of the show, the kitchen is open and plates of pasta with vegetables are served at the front of the stage along with bites of banana bread.
“The kitchen draws all kinds of emotions. People laugh and cry, plus the smells bring you back to certain moments,” says Ferrero. “You share your life there. It happens in every single culture.”
‘CUISINE & CONFESSIONS’
WHEN | WHERE 8 p.m. Saturday and 4 p.m. Sunday, Staller Center, Stony Brook University
INFO 631-632-2787, www.staller.sunysb.edu