You know you’re literally in for a treat when, as soon as you enter the appropriately-named Celebration of Whimsy Theatre (The C.O.W.), you are greeted by an extremely perky, polka-dot-apron’d Bakeress who immediately bombards you with a detailed description of the kind of baked good you remind her of (for instance, this critic was described reminiscent of “one of those buttery British cookies with a chocolate drizzle on top — a little bit exotic, but still a little bit classic”). The Bakeress in question is Daliya Karnofsky, and the aforementioned “treat” she is serving up is an interactive live performance experience called And She Bakes, Live — in which, as the title suggests, Karnofsky cooks up a ravishing dessert in front of our eyes. Originally written, produced and conceived by Karnofsky in a kitchen, And She Bakes, Live grew into a YouTube web series and eventually developed into the live performance which ran at the New York International Fringe Festival (FringeNYC), in conjunction with terraNOVA Collective.
Once everyone is seated, The Bakeress finally gets down to business, setting out to soothe the aches of our hearts through the aches of our stomachs. Throughout the show, the Bakeress answers fan mail from lovelorn women who email her and ask for advice, prompting the Bakeress to answer by demonstrating each step of the baking process and using it and its corresponding ingredient to signify the steps to a relationship. According to Karnofsky, a relationship always starts off Sweet (honey, the first ingredient), with a generous helping of Comfort (peanut butter — natural, fake or otherwise). Next, you should never forget to add a little bit of Naughty to spice things up (“pure vanilla extract, and accept no substitutes!”), while also fully embracing the little Quirks sprinkled here and there, no matter how annoying they might be (perfectly exemplified by Rice Krispies, of course). Also, you can never have enough Passion (chocolate chips in all its ooey-gooey wonder), with a note of Nuance to balance things out (just a touch of salt). Between every other ingredient or so, while waiting for them to come together nicely, the Bakeress dazzles us with a dance break, ever-so-gracefully prancing around the stove-top centerpiece on the stage in a dizzying whirl of polka-dotted elation. For the show’s final dance break, two dancers who seem to pop out of nowhere (or rather, from under the stove contraption) even join her as she gets her groove on to Ke$ha’s “C’Mon”!
As a performer, Karnofsky is one that revels in the awkward moments, using it to fuel improvisation without batting a sparkly eyelash. Indeed, even as we take our seats at the beginning of the show, she ever-so-considerately asks each of us whether we are allergic to peanuts, to which a lone member of the audience answers with a resounding “YES!” At this moment, Karnofsky fully takes advantage, delighting in playfully panning over to said audience member at every mere mention of legumes over the course of the night (“You might ask, ‘well, why bend over backwards for people who have dietary restrictions by choice, rather than people who can’t do anything about it and have suffered and been left out their whole lives?’ I can’t answer this.”). Her hilarious stream-of-consciousness dialogue and onstage antics had our bellies full of laughter long before those gluten-free peanut butter vegan treats (which turned out to be really good, too) reached our hands. Just as with the act of baking itself, Karnofsky’s own act has all the right ingredients, resulting in something just as unexpectedly delicious.