Wednesday, December 13, 2006


BIG NIGHT (1996, USA, Stanley Tucci & Campbell Scott, wr Tucci & Joseph Tropiano)
To eat good food is to be close to God. To have the knowledge of God is the bread of angels. I'm not sure what it means, but...

Maybe it's because I live in a city that's got more restaurants than patrons, maybe it's because I love to eat, I don't know why, but whenever things get too tough and I think it's time to shut down the theatre company I started a couple decades ago, I think about bakeries. I imagine Pacific Theatre is this bakery that makes these kinds of bread and pastries and cakes you can't get anywhere else, and we've got these customers that come through the door regular like clockwork to pick up their knishes and strudel and cranberry bread (especially good for turkey sandwiches, you oughta try some). It's where people get their soul food. There are other outlets, you can get some pretty good stuff at churches and libraries and other theatres around town, but nobody bakes what we do. And when I think about closing up shop, I think of all those customers, all those friends, who won't be able to get the kind of nourishment they want. Who'll have to settle. I mean, they're not going to starve, but something will be gone from their lives, and they'll be the poorer for it.

And I also, what about me, what am I gonna do? I bake bread. That's what I do. I like the work, I know just how I like it to come out, I like the people who work at the store with me, and hey – if I stop baking, what kinda bread am I going to have to eat? No disrespect, but...

We could switch over to other products, put preservatives in, mass produce, there are things you can do to attract customers. But I'm just not interested: I only want to bake the stuff I want to eat. It takes time, most people don't appreciate, but hey – they don't have to buy. Wonder Bread you can get at the Safeways.

So, for better or worse, I stick it out. It's not always a living, but it's a life.
All that to say, I think you can see why BIG NIGHT strikes a particular chord with me. It's the story of two Italian brothers who start a restaurant – the only business as unlikely to succeed as live theatre – where they're going to cook real Italian food, it isn't fast and it isn't the most popular, but it's done right. Problem is, people want spicy tomato sauce and meatballs, people are in a hurry, and besides there's no extra money for fancy advertising. So they hit on a plan: they talk Louis Prima into coming to the place, and it's obvious, in one big night their reputation and success will be secured. They fill the place with friends and neighbours – you don't want Louis Prima eating in an empty restaurant, for God's sake! – and then they wait.

And I'm thinking what it's like when you spend a year writing a play and a hundred and twenty hours and twenty thousand bucks rehearsing it, and you open the darn thing and nobody comes except the comps. And I'm thinking of Luke 14:21, I'm thinking FIELD OF DREAMS, I'm thinking about divine calling, I'm thinking of Lizzie Curry who puts the fancy dress on and the beau don't come, I'm thinking of Jesus who sits down to a meal with His friends just before it all comes to a terrible end, who fulfills His calling and their worst fears all at once. But first they eat together.

There's something about food that's close to soul, that has to do with art and with spirit and with sacrament. Think of all the movies where food and creation and the Creator and people in communion are all connected up.

BIG NIGHT is about brotherhood and conflict, about compromise and idealism, about vision and calling, about the heart of an artist and the hands of a craftsman, it's even – the subtlest soupcon – about God. But mostly it's about food.

Bon appetit!


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