San Francisco Fringe 2019
“Natacha stepped into her French grandmother’s kitchen to pick up a birthday present. But the gift-wrapped box on the windowsill was only the latest salvo of a multi-generational battle–and Natacha stood on the front lines. It would take a submarine disaster, the songs of Edith Piaf, and chocolate to bring its last two opponents to a final détente.”
Speaking in both french and english for the first few minutes, Natacha Ruck talks about her childhood growing up with her sister, and tells action packed playground stories about her mother! Ruck’s parents were from Russia originally, before moving to France to raise their family. Like any family there are conflicts and Ruck shares detailed anecdotes that bring the family to life, vividly.
Ruck is a very good performer, animated and personable. She is an enthusiastic storyteller and changes the mood quickly using her expressive face and direct eye contact that develops a warm rapport with the audience.
The script is well crafted and edited – developed by Ruck with David Ford, directed by Kenny Yun and Mercilee Jenkins, with lighting design that helps to shape the piece in the space by Alexia Staniotis.
Ruck changes her voice and demeanor to become her suave and stylish mother. Her crisp movement throughout the piece adds to the visual storytelling. There is a fascinating story about gendered language and how Ruck discovered to her consternation that things in in french default to masculine – she follows with wonderful abstract movement personifying gender – it’s very imaginative and effective!
A highlight is a creative two way phone conversation when Ruck portrays herself talking to her mother. Ruck also shows her emotional range in this interesting, funny and poignant piece, and she sings very well, too.
The audience connection is there and at one point many spontaneously murmured in unison after hearing about one of the events in the story, which is very moving.
Ruck and her mother’s adventures in NYC are mischievous and we learn that Ruck is tough and creative with construction!
While there is sad news, Ruck is authentic and empathetic, positive and uplifting. The ending is rather long and could benefit from streamlining to sustain the energy.
Ruck’s vibrant performance confirms her respect and love for her strong mother and how eager she is for us to get to know her. There is also one very curious thing that we learned in this show – and that is where the family keeps their chocolate hidden!