This review was written by David B. Witwer.

We shuffle up the scarlet steps to find the stage already set for us. There is no curtain; sitting down we are transported from the city into a kitchen—marked by a long, simple table and wooden beams standing sentry. Bits of glass dangle overhead, awaiting the light.

We are greeted by many voices. The ever-shifting chorus reveals Berlevåg to us, a quaint town led by a minister who preaches that “God’s paths run across the sea and the snowy mountains, where man’s eye sees no track.” We find that, astonishingly, the villagers have interpreted this as a call to isolation. But it is also a call to hospitality, or at least a recognition that God can and will surprise. When Parisian Babette arrives seeking sanctuary, Berlevåg accepts her.

Still, charity is no stranger to disdain. After twelve years of patient cooking, Babette asks to prepare a feast—a French feast—for the town, paid for by her fortuitous lottery winnings. At first her holy hosts recoil, haunted by visions of simmering snails and flayed frogs, but they remember the grace and service which Babette has shown to them and they consent. When the feast is set, the many lives of Berlevåg gather as never before, finding delight in new and different tastes (like wine!) and celebrating one another. The feast is an overwhelming gift, reminding each villager of the forgotten wonder and vitality of the world.

Babette receives the greatest gift, however, for after twelve years in exile she is given back her self. She is, as she says, “a great artist,” and through her feast this refugee chef feeds the soul of the community. She has recovered her voice, much as this story has been given new life by its most recent adaptation. There is incredible playfulness in the performances and the staging itself, especially a climactic cooking scene prepared without any props. The lack of food onstage merely shifts one’s gaze to the eager faces of these excellent players.

Babette’s Feast is an invigorating triumph and a bold proclamation that God can and will work anywhere through anyone, lavishing grace in surprising ways, even to those with reluctant hearts.

Its creators’ passion is palpable and their energy and warmth held me in rapture. It was a sacred night, my imagination illumined like the suspended bits of glass, aglow like miniature stars.

Babette’s Feast plays through the summer at the Theater at St. Clement’s.