What's cookin'?

Augusta “Gus” Richardson is cooking up a busy life.

She’s a successful food columnist who has penned 14 cookbooks and there’s another “in the oven.” She’s been the head chef judge at the Betty Crocker bake-off for five years in a row, and now she’s being offered her own television cooking show.

“I could be the next Julia Childs,” she exclaims.

Problem is, this cooking star has stage fright. Microphones and cameras — both plentiful in the world of television cooking shows — make her freeze like gelato.

Get ready to tag along and see whether Gus is able to cook up her dream in the Whidbey Playhouse Production of “Cookin’ with Gus,” which opens Friday. The tasty comedy features cooking columnist Gus Richardson (Jennifer Skiff) her longtime spouse Walter (Dave Myers), Gus’ slick-haired, overly tanned agent Bernie (Jim Otruba) and the Robertson’s free-spirited neighbor Carmen (Julie McNutt).

Director Linda Walbeck said that, at the heart of it, “Cookin’ with Gus,” has little to do with cooking at all.

“It’s a love story,” she said. “It’s a story of romance in which people are trying to get to where they can realize their life dream.”

It’s what happens when those dreams collide that brings the humor to this lovely comedy tale.

“She’s happy doing what she’s doing,” Skiff said of Gus. “But she has to take a look at her life and what she could be missing.”

Skiff is making her stage debut in “Cookin’ with Gus.” She decided to take the plunge after discovering a few years back that her mom had done community theater.

“It’s been delightful,” Skiff said. “I couldn’t have asked for better people to spend my time up on stage with.”

Walbeck said playwright Jim Brochu makes the actors’ jobs easier thanks to characters who are so believable.

“Bernie’s kind of like the alter ego of me because he says what’s on his mind and gets away with it,” Otruba said. “He just expects everyone to listen to him.”

He’s so fast-talking he prefers single letters over using whole words.

“Who’s the BLCITWWW?”

Translation: “Who’s the best little cook in the whole wide world?”

Then there’s Carmen (Julie McNutt), Gussie’s neighborly advisor whom Walter advises can’t be shuffling a full tarot deck.

“Authentic gypsy princesses do not wear polyester,” he said.

While Gussie claims Carmen is “uniquely in touch with the universe,” Walter retorts that “she’s uniquely in touch with our liquor cabinet.”

When it comes to cooking, Gussie’s got a one-track mind — all cooking, no Walter.

“Now it’s always Julia first and me later,” Walter said of Gus’ infatuation with famed cook Julia Childs.

Gussie is quick to point out he’s also changed since their early dating days.

“Your ties got skinnier and your wasteline? — not so much,” she laughs.

After 18 years together, Gus continues to change the topic when the subject of marriage is brought up, and Walter continues to change the topic when the subject of his net worth is brought up.

“How much did you make on the patent of that valve you invented anyway,” she asks.

But Gus is about to get even more caught up with her career as she receives an offer for her own cooking show. She agrees to try out making a test shoot for the television big wigs, but ends up choking on her own stage fright. So, with her TV hopes on the line, what’s hypnosis-knowing Walter supposed to do? Let his girl flounder? Or is their relationship the bigger fish to fry?

Skiff said the show is full of laughter and romance — all delivered with the flavor of slapstick and the energy of physical comedy.

“The cast members have all meshed well and theatrically they have all expanded and stepped out of the box,” Walbeck said. “It’s definitely going to be a fun show.”

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