Kodachome at Portland Center Stage

Last week was the world premiere of Kodachrome at Portland Center Stage. The production runs until March 18, 2018 at the downstairs intimate Ellyn Bye Studio. Kodachrome was developed from a submission to the 2015 JAW (Just Add Water): A Playwrights Festival,  an annual festival supporting new plays and helping to incubate new works. What was then a script named Colchester now has grown up, renamed Kodachrome, and is in full production a few years later.
Kodachrome at Portland Center Stage: poster for Kodachrome, Art by Mikey Mann

The story takes place in a small town called Colchester, and is narrated by Suzanne, the town photographer. We follow her through the interconnected stories of a dozen people in the town, with the townspeople played by the 6 fellow cast members doing double  or sometimes triple duty (well, all except for Suzanne). Kodachrome is a play that definitely has many parallels to Our Town with its snippets of longing, look at love in various stages, and appreciations for small moments that are universally recognizable to us all. I think the play does better then Our Town in that there are excellent use of certain props though – especially the super effective use of flowers and petals, and over-sized symbols of love like a ring or perfume bottle.

The backdrop of the basic stage scenery are multiple screens showing photos, and is the nod to Kodachrome, the special Kodak film. I definitely liked the idea where at some points we would see and hear Suzanne snap a photo of a particular detail of what was happening on stage, and we would see it appear on one of those screens, captured to remember the moment. It seemed to promise two art shows at once – performance art with the play and art gallery.

Kodachrome at Portland Center Stage, L-R: Lena Kaminsky as The Photographer, John D. Haggerty as The Perfume Maker and Tina Chilip as The Waitress. Photo by Patrick Weishampel/blankeye.tv courtesy of Portland Center Stage at The Armor
L-R: Lena Kaminsky as The Photographer, John D. Haggerty as The Perfume Maker and Tina Chilip as The Waitress in Kodachrome at Portland Center Stage at The Armory. Photo by Patrick Weishampel/blankeye.tv courtesy of Portland Center Stage

This action photography took place a few times, but I was expecting to happen throughout as a consistent theme, rather then mostly towards the beginning and at a couple fun interactions with the audience. Other times, the screens would switch to almost stock photos that helped establish the environment of the scene, from Perfume Lab to Diner or Hardware Store etc. But the photos didn’t noticeably connect to the interactions happening on stage with a new photo added to the repetitive stock mix representing the moment. So I was a little disappointed that wasn’t carried throughout, given the name of the play.

When it came to the various interactions of the character pairs falling in or through or out of love, you can totally believe the same actor or actress is embodying a different a character in the tow. This is true even as they interact with essentially the same castmate in multiple circular love triangles but as another character.

For particular standouts, Ryan Tresser draws a clear line between The Gravedigger and The Young Man and is able to demonstrate the humorous physical moments but also the poignant hurt of each of the men distinctly. Sharonlee McLean also wonderfully draws the perfect picture of the different kinds of yearnings, and how those yearnings change through the course of the play, in both her portrayals of her placid, still waters run deep Mystery Novelist, and in contrast with her passionate Florist. Even when she’s saying nothing at all, you know which character she is.

My favorite part was that love can be awkward – and Kodachrome doesn’t shy away from how crazy but adorable those moments can be. Love can be painful, and cause exquisite suffering, and as Kodachome shows us, also tenderness, boldness, dwelling in the past, plans for the future, laugh out loud moments, questioning of what is the best way to live life and what kind of love is enough to be happy, and how it connects everyone.

As always, there are a couple additional events available related to Kodachrome at Portland Center Stage if you want to have a more active experience then just watching in the audience. Check the Upcoming Events Calendar for full listing of all events.

  • Tuesday, February 20 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. Happy Hour with Blue Sky Gallery viewing photographs with some complimentary snacks and drinks. FREE
  • Sunday, February 25 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. Happy Hour with Portland Darkroom FREE
  • Saturday, March 10 1 – 3 p.m. Film and Darkroom Printing Workshop is not free, but it’s $25 and each workshop attendee will have the chance to take a portrait, have a portrait taken of them, learn how darkroom enlarging works, and create their very own “The Armory” branded gelatin silver postcard to take home

Kodachrome runs for 90 minutes with no admission, and is performed Evenings: Tuesday – Sunday at 7:30 p.m Matinees: Saturday and Sundays at 2 p.m., Thursdays at noon, but check their schedule for exact times.

You may also want to book tickets for a new exciting play coming up called The Magic Play running March 3 – April 1 that promises a hybrid of a play and a magic show, literally with the cast including an actor who is also a magician and illusion designer!

 

 

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Events First Week of March 2017 in PDX

If you read this blog, you probably love food – it’s mostly what I write about. But once in a while I review a book, or a theater production. This post is a heads up about one performance show and one movie, both are limited engagements, both events first week of March 2017 in PDX already have tickets online if you are interested.

Cuisine and Confessions

The first is about a combination of food and theater: namely, the production of Cuisine and Confessions that is coming to the Newmark Theater in downtown Portland in a few weeks Thursday March 2 – Saturday March 4, 2017. This is a visiting show from the company 7 Digits from Montreal.

I haven’t seen the production yet, so I can’t review it, but the high level overview is that it is a combination of Cirque du Soleil (which if you haven’t seen before, is itself a combination of circus and dance theater – some of the original founders of 7 Digits were originally performers from Cirque du Soleil!) and takes place in a setting that actually is a working kitchen and the stories/settings behind the performances are themed around food and family and food memories.

One of the descriptive lines of the show promises “acrobats who cook and bake before your very eyes”.  Members of the cast are from all over the world, and I look forward to seeing how despite different languages and upbringings, food can bring everyone together while also being witness to amazing feats of athleticism and visual beauty.

The performance is for all ages, and includes evening shows at 7:30 on the three nights and a matinee on Saturday at 2 PM. The doors open 30 minutes before the show, which some reviews highly recommended you get there when doors open as performers are already on the stage having discussions and interacting with the audience before the show itself begins. The show itself is about 90 minutes – and there will be freshly baked banana bread at the end!

You can purchase tickets from White Bird with a range from $26-$64. I bought my own tickets to the show and was not asked to promote it, but I thought this was a fun event to share.

The Movie Kedi

The other future event that I am really looking forward to is the movie Kedi, a subtitled Turkish Documentary about the cats in Istanbul. also playing that timeframe of Thursday March 3- 9. I like how this review by Todd VanDerWerff at Vox summed it up,”Kedi, a documentary about cats in Istanbul, is expectedly adorable and unexpectedly wise. Cats. Cities. God. Life. Humanity. This new film covers it all in just 80 minutes.”

By the end of its trim, 80-minute running time, Kedi is asking questions like “How do we live in society without destroying each other?” and “Could you ever prove God exists?” without straining under the burden of those questions — a remarkable feat for a movie that spends so much time on cute kitten footage. Our relationship with the animals around us that we can destroy casually and easily, the film suggests, is our relationship with everything.

There is also a much detailed longer review from RogerEbert.com here though it had more spoilers of what you’d see. “What (Ceyda) Torun really captures in her unexpectedly powerful film is kindness in its purest form.” You can also look at the original movie site to see when and where it is playing near you in your city. You can purchase advance tickets to the Cinema 21 screenings now.

What upcoming shows or movies are you looking forward to?

 

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Portland Center Stage: Pianist of Willesden Lane

The latest play to hit the US Bank Main stage at Portland Center Stage is the April 2 – May 1 2016 run of The Pianist of Willesden Lane. So far, it’s the most emotionally moving play I’ve experienced in Portland. I cannot recommend this play highly enough –  it’s not often theater can be such a powerful, and memorable, experience.

The description for the play reads

Set in Vienna in 1938 and in London during the Blitzkrieg, The Pianist of Willesden Lane tells the true and inspirational story of Lisa Jura, a young Jewish musician whose dreams are interrupted by the Nazi regime. In this poignant show, Grammy-nominated pianist Mona Golabek performs some of the world’s most stunning music as she shares her mother’s riveting true story of survival. Pianist is infused with hope and invokes the life-affirming power of music.

It’s both simple and complicated. The Pianist of Willesden Lane is a daughter telling the story of her young mother during wartime. It’s a connection of love between them you feel from beginning to end of the performance, and you can palpably sense the admiration and respect a daughter has for understanding her mother as a person, not just as a parent. So often parents don’t think to share all the details of their lives to their children, and we’re so fortunate that Lisa not only passed on her stories to Mona, but Mona recognized what a remarkable story it is and how important it is to further share it with the world to not forget the past, and also influence the future.

The Pianist of Willesden Lane is history, but also has parallels and lessons to our current times and about people in general. World War II and the Holocaust may be over, but unsafe and unlivable horrible circumstances, fleeing refugees, and having compassion and reaching out to strangers as a fellow human is still very now.

It’s about loss, and hope, being a survivor, the unsung heroes among everyday people whose small and big kindness and actions can help make a difference in a life.  Most of all, The Pianist of Willesden Lane is about the power of music to be a human lifeline that grounds an individual’s inner storms, connects people effortlessly of all backgrounds, and is timelessly inspirational.

That use of music here is what is most magnificent here and makes this a must see show. As purely a theater performance and story told on stage, it’s certainly adequate, but you are getting essentially a giant bonus where you also receive a classical music concert from a gifted musician.

Pianist of Willesden Lane demonstrates to the audience by taking us along with it to experience it firsthand instead of just telling us about the power of music.  It shows and reminds us the way music has this magic that is universal and can touch you and move you in an indescribable way nothing else can in life.  Even as some of the musical selections may be classics you recognize, the way they are interwoven into this retelling of a memoir presents them in a fresh way emotionally that is impactful and engaging for the entire show. Prepare to be moved.

The Pianist of Willesden Lane Based on the book The Children of Willesden Lane by Mona Golabek and Lee Cohen Adapted and directed by Hershey Felder Photo ©mellopix.com April 2 - May 1, 2016
The Pianist of Willesden Lane Based on the book The Children of Willesden Lane by Mona Golabek and Lee Cohen. Adapted and directed by Hershey Felder. Photo ©mellopix.com At Portland Center Stage April 2 – May 1, 2016

Inspired by her mother’s life, Mona Golabek also established the Hold On To Your Music Foundation to expand awareness and understanding of the ethical implications of world events such as the Holocaust, and the power of the arts, especially music, to embolden the human spirit in the face of adversity.

The Pianist of Willesden Lane at the US Bank Main Stage of Portland Center Stage runs until May 1, 2016. The performance runs for approximately 90 minutes with no intermission. All performances are at the Armory (128 NW 11th Avenue, in the Pearl District). See more details and other ticket specials for groups, students, military, or learn about rush tickets here.

  • Tuesday – Sunday 7:30 PM. ($25-69 for adults Tues, Wed, Thurs, Sun, $25-75 for the Fri-Sat evening performances)
  • Saturday and Sundays at 2 PM and Thursdays at noon  ($25-58 for adults)

You can enjoy $10 off select tickets using promo code “SOCIAL”. Note that the promotional code valid only on seating areas 1-3 and is not valid on previously purchased tickets, student tickets or in combination with other discounts and is subject to availability. Also be sure to like Portland Center Stage on Facebook as there are additional promotions that are often listed there.

PCS is also still hosting special Social Hour events. These are events that allow you to connect with Portland artists prior to a performance on all Thursdays in April from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. (includes a beer or glass of wine on PCS) and the Sundays of April 10, 17 and 24 and May 1 from 1 to 2 p.m. (includes a complimentary mimosa on PCS). The April 7 event features a conversation about the universal language of music and life of a pianist while the April 10 and April 24 events feature Third Angle New Music. You can find out more at the PCS website.

As always, the bar before the show (since there is no intermission) has interesting specialty cocktail choices to select from featuring local ingredients and themed to match the show for your consideration. Don’t feel the pressure to drink it all before going to your seat – you can bring it in with you if it’s in a plastic cup with a lid!
Specialty cocktails for The Pianist of Willesden Lane at Portland Center Stage

How much do you know the story of your parents before they were parents? If you have children, how will you pass on your stories to them, is there a certain coming of age or turning point you are aware of?

Disclosure: I was invited to see this production, but I will always provide my honest opinion and assessment of all products and experiences I may be given. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are entirely my own.

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Stupid F***ing Bird at Portland Center Stage

When I saw last year that Stupid F***ing Bird was on the list for Portland Center Stage‘s season, I was pretty excited. Around this time last year I attended the PCS production of Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike which was a fun modern take with references to famous Russian playwright and short story writer Anton Chekhov as well as a bit of meta mocking and mashup of theater and modern times. I really enjoyed the production. Stupid F***ing Bird is similar, but focuses specifically on having fun with Chekhov’s The Seagull. Stupid F***ing Bird at Portland Center Stage is running now until March 27.

Art by Julia McNamara poster for Stupid F***ing Bird at Portland Center Stage. By Aaron Posner Directed by Howard Shalwitz
Art by Julia McNamara presenting Stupid F***ing Bird at Portland Center Stage. By Aaron Posner Directed by Howard Shalwitz

You don’t have to know anything at all about Chekhov to enjoy Stupid F***ing Bird. It addresses things we can all relate to as a human being- loving someone and wanting to be loved back, wanting to be meaningful, wondering about the point of life. And as you can tell right away from the title, it does so in a cheeky way that doesn’t hold back from expletives and strength of feelings.

If you want to know a little background though, Chekhov spotlights how the everyday includes opposite moods and emotions occurring simultaneously.  Overall, his works reflect that life is comedic and maddening and fascinating in being sorta terrible. I believe Chekhov inspired Leo Tolstoy in showing how unhappy families are all unhappy in their own way.

Kate Eastwood Norris as Emma Arkadina, Ian Holcomb as Conrad Arkadina, Charles Leggett as Eugene Sorn and Cody Nickell as Doyle Trigorin in Stupid F***ing Bird at Portland Center Stage
(l-r): Kate Eastwood Norris as Emma Arkadina, Ian Holcomb as Conrad Arkadina, Charles Leggett as Eugene Sorn and Cody Nickell as Doyle Trigorin in Stupid F***ing Bird at Portland Center Stage. Photo by Patrick Weishampel/blankeye.tv

Similar to The Seagull, in  Stupid F***ing Bird not a lot of action happens onstage – instead, the audience experiences the conversations and observations that lead before and in the aftermath of those offstage events – and this script follows suit. You are an observer of a group of people and their relationships to each other because drama is people in the everyday, rather than big events. Thankfully, Stupid F***ing Bird trims down the original play to a manageable number of people and acts, and their names are a lot more normal to make it a lean and more effective and clear story.  It doesn’t follow the The Seagull directly but more takes inspiration by carrying forward all the intended sentiments but into more current times, and distills it into bigger emotions.

The play brings the weight of the inner turmoils and longings within each of its characters quickly and succinctly – each of the actors and actresses were perfect in completely embodying who they are even without words. Each person is complex – with a positive trait as well as a negative trait that helps you empathize but at the same time shake your head a little.

Con, played by actor Ian Holcomb is the energy that propels the people through the story with his desperation for love and meaning. I don’t know how as an actor he digs in every night to find the emotional energy to pour into portraying the brash ambitions of that kind of young man so well. He really makes it real, helping everyone feel for his “I want to change the world” hopes while also feeling exhausted as he takes himself so seriously. You can relate to the bemusement, patience, and exasperation reactions of the other characters to him.

Meanwhile, you can understand his obsession with the radiant Nina played by Katie deBuys whose presence is like a breath of fresh air compared to all the glass half empty viewpoints everyone else has. She does a wonderful job of presenting that lightness at the start that contrasts sharply as she hardens, with a great assist from wardrobe from floaty ethereal garments to being all wrapped up in layers from coldness at the end.

Katie deBuys as Nina, Cody Nickell as Doyle Trigorin, Kate Eastwood Norris as Emma Arkadina, Charles Leggett as Eugene Sorn, Darius Pierce as Dev and Kimberly Gilbert as Mash in Stupid F***ing Bird at Portland Center Stage
(l-r): Katie deBuys as Nina, Cody Nickell as Doyle Trigorin, Kate Eastwood Norris as Emma Arkadina, Charles Leggett as Eugene Sorn, Darius Pierce as Dev and Kimberly Gilbert as Mash in Stupid F***ing Bird at Portland Center Stage. Photo by Patrick Weishampel/blankeye.tv

I most fell in love with Kimberly Gilbert’s Mash through her brilliant physical presentation with her body language, fully taking advantage of stage presence. While Con and Nina may be the center of the story, it’s the tragedy and comedy as represented by Nina, or the perfect timing of observations by Charles Leggett as Sorn, that I think are the heart of the play. They experience a quieter, parallel addressing of Con’s and Nina’s yearning for love and meaning, and I think Masha and Sorn serve as the author and audience surrogate. The script also breaks the fourth wall immediately, including us the audience as observers that those on the stage are conscious of and sometimes directly address and interact with at times, and getting meta with it’s source material as well as theater in general and us!

After the play, it’s interesting to chat with others who have seen the play on your order of who you liked the most to least, in order. I won’t give away the end, but it’s one that leaves it open to us and ensuing conversation to decide what it all means, if anything at all…

There is some mature language and sexuality so PCS recommends it for ages 16+.  The play notes that “Contains mature language (surprise!) and content, fleeting nudity, fog, loaded guns and theater people.”

Stupid F***ing Bird at Portland Center Stage run until March 27. The performance runs for approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes, including one 15 minute intermission. All performances are at the Armory (128 NW 11th Avenue, in the Pearl District) on the U.S. Bank Main Stage. See more details and other ticket specials for groups, students, military, or learn about rush tickets here.

  • Tuesday – Sunday 7:30 PM. ($25-64 for adults Tues, Wed, Thurs, Sun, $25-70 for the Fri-Sat evening performances)
  • Saturday and Sundays at 2 PM and Thursdays at noon  ($25-53 for adults)

You can enjoy $10 off select tickets to Stupid &?@#!*% Bird using promo code “SOCIAL”. Note that the promotional code valid only on seating areas 1-3 and is not valid on previously purchased tickets, student tickets or in combination with other discounts and is subject to availability.

As a special for March, PCS is hosting a special March series of Social Hour events featuring local performance companies Hand2Mouth, Performance Works NW, PETE and Shaking the Tree. These are events that allow you to connect with Portland artists prior to a performance on all Thursdays in March from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. (includes a beer or glass of wine on PCS) and all Sunday’s in March from 1 to 2 p.m. (includes a complimentary mimosa on PCS)!

Disclosure: I was invited to see this production, but I will always provide my honest opinion and assessment of all products and experiences I may be given. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are entirely my own.

 

 

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Review of Sex With Strangers at Portland Center Stage

From October 10 — November 22, 2015, at Portland Center Stage (PCS) the production of Sex With Strangers will be playing at the intimate Ellen Bye Studio, which seats about 200 people (the seating is flexible based on how they arrange it to fit the stage)  and seating is first come first serve when doors open.

Play description:

A raging snowstorm traps strangers Olivia, an unsuccessful yet gifted 39-year-old writer, and Ethan, a tech- addicted and wildly successful young blogger, in a secluded cabin. Opposites instantly attract, and undeniable chemistry ignites. As the dawn rises, however, what could have just been a one-night-stand transforms into something more complicated when online exploits interfere with their real-life connection.

"Sex
Sex with Strangers Art by Julia McNamara

As soon as I read the premise, I was intrigued how it takes on the topic of relationships and definition of self and how you see someone else in this digital age with internet searches and social media stalking. It asks questions about how you present yourself and how others present you, as well as impressions of you in person versus through other mediums like writing and technology. It also includes themes such as how the field of writing is both personal about how your voice goes out to the world but at the same time, is a commercial product that others use that then define the writer as a person.

And it’s all wrapped up in witty smart banter of a love story  –  will they or won’t they work?

The playwright of Sex With Strangers is Laura Eason, who also has written for the Netflix show House of Cards. Per the helpful A Practical Guide to Sex With Strangers, it’s revealed that the writing sample that helped Laura get the job on House of Cards was from this play. Similar  to the show, the characters are likable but flawed, brilliant but also ambitious and asking a lot and naturally focused on themself, and in all ways interesting enough that you want to know more. There are thoughtful questions asked, but also lots of sprinklings of humor.
Portland Center Stage presents Sex with Strangers

The PCS production of Sex with Strangers stars cast members Danielle Slavick and Christopher M. Smith and is directed by Brandon Woolley, Tony Cisek is Scenic Designer and Christine Meyers as the Costume Designer. Christine, I don’t know where you got the clothes for Danielle in Act 2, but I loved them all.

I loved how the production used the space to really make it feel like the interior of a home in both acts –  warm and cozy almost like continual flickering fireplace light in the cabins of Michigan in Act 1, then a high rise city condo in Chicago in Act 2.  I admire some of the quick change of clothes that happened, and how movements expanded the space beyond center stage. The blocking somehow seems normal for an interior while always shifting to make sure there is not a bad seat in the house to watch the scenes.

Danielle and Christopher do an incredible job in portraying the strengths and weaknesses of their characters. You can believe the conversation and thoughts as completely natural for a normal person you might meet in real life, even though we know all along it’s scripted and can be pretty wordy in exposition at times. You can’t help but be both charmed and frustrated by them, just like a real friend as you witness them help each other and grow but also hurt each other.

The conversation back and forth is smart, quick, and works both to further the story and theme in a believable way while continually revealing of who Olivia and Ethan think they are and how the world judges them and thus affects they see themself and the other person. The play is asking us the audience questions on who we think they are based on what they say in their written works, what is said about them by others via reviews of their work (and how much of that is truly representative of them as a person), and what we see said in front of us to each other and how they act expressing who they think they are or want to be. Based on that, will Olivia + Ethan work?  Portland Center Stage Sex with Strangers Danielle Slavick as Olivia and Christopher M. Smith as Ethan in
Portland Center Stage Sex with Strangers Danielle Slavick as Olivia and Christopher M. Smith as Ethan in “Sex with Strangers” at Portland Center Stage. Photo by Patrick Weishampel

Sex With Strangers run is from October 10 — November 22, 2015.

Performance Times and Prices (Wheelchair and youth/student tickets $25-30. Rush tickets are $20. See more details and other ticket specials for groups or military here) are

  • Evenings: 7:30 PM on Tues, Wed, Thurs, Sun ($50) or 7:30 PM Friday or Saturday ($55)
  • Matinees: 2 PM Saturday ($40) or Noon on Thursdays ($40)
  • Note: Tickets to show in the studio are general admission: a ticket reserves you a place for a specific performance, but not for a specific seat so it’s first come first serve as you enter the theater. They open the doors about 20 minutes or so before the showtime. In the Ellen Bye Studio, which seats about 200 people,  the seating is flexible based on how they arrange it to fit the stage and in this case you sit on left, right, and center facing the stage. Still, there isn’t a bad seat.

The run time of the play is about 120 minutes with 1 intermission. Sex with Strangers is recommended for ages 16+; contains mature language  (a lot of it!), brief nudity and adult situations. Sex is imminent. Children under 6 are not permitted at any PCS production. Because of the small nature of the Ellen Bye Studio, there is no late seating or re-entry.

As a special treat, for the Saturday October 24 production, there is a special show afterward called Booty Call: Outrageous and Funny Stories after the show where for $5, you can further explore the topic of getting together along with music by DJ Blind Bartimaeus.

Also in the lobby is a pretty fun Eat Me Desserts machine loaded with yummies like

  • Black Velvet Cake Parfait with Mocha Whipped Cream
  • Sweet Potato Cake Parfait with Mascarpone Whipped Cream and Lemon Curd
  • Toasty Dark Chocolate dipped Coconut Macaroons
  • Brownie Cookie-wiches filled with chocolate whipped cream (Gluten-Smart!)
  • Ginger Bacon Cookie-wiches filled with Whipped Cream Cheese
  • Peanut Butter Pie Parfait
  • Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta topped with Salted Caramel and Candied Filbert hazelnuts
  • Salted Caramel Apple Cake Parfait with Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting

Each treat is priced around $5.  The Eat Me Desserts Machine is scheduled to live in the PCS lobby throughout the season, but it is also available to rent for parties and special events. You should check it out!
Eat Me Desserts machine Eat Me Desserts machine loaded with yummies like Black Velvet Cake Parfait with Mocha Whipped Cream, Sweet Potato Cake Parfait with Mascarpone Whipped Cream and Lemon Curd, Toasty Dark Chocolate dipped Coconut Macaroons

Disclosure: I was invited to see this production, but I will always provide my honest opinion and assessment of all products and experiences I may be given. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are entirely my own

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