Sunday, June 23, 2019

Island Girl

I stick with my original answer.

When friends started asking me if I was going to see "Rocketman," my answer was nope. I knew it was inevitable I wouldn't be able to buy into someone else's voice as Elton's. I felt the same way about the Queen biopic and instead watched a 15-minute clip of Queen at Live Aid that said more than any 21st century film could. I had a sense - having seen Elton in '77 or '78 and his music having been a thread through the soundtrack of my youth - I'd not be satisfied.

I wasn't.

I saw it at Cinebistro, although it wasn't even my first time there, to everyone's surprise. Lady G and I'd gone years ago. And sure, having a server take your order when you sit down and food delivered before the movie starts, it's a unique experience. Usually I'm just downing buttered popcorn. My arugula salad had enough interesting platemates, although my side of crispy Brussels sprouts was saltier than buttered popcorn. More like a salt lick. But the salad scored.

Random thoughts: The story fleshed out a lot of what I already knew just living through those years. Taron Egerton pulls off the mental Elton better than he does the physical. A little too 21st-century musical for my taste. Costumes never look like clothes really looked then. The lack of chronology in the songs was distracting. And mostly, since EJ was the executive producer, the presumption that there's some truth to the way things are shown as happening.

But I was right. Didn't need to see it and now I'll just have more rationale to decline when I'm asked to do the music biopic thing. Not being crotchety, just know well enough what I like.

Besides, the trip down Memory Lane was just prelude to an evening of musical memory talk on Pru's screened porch.

Looking at it that way, I saw "Rocketman" for the post-film discussion. Like I do.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

A Tempest in a Wine Glass

Summer has arrived and the Roundhouse has redeemed itself.

Or, more accurately, I now know the drill. So after dinner at Garnett's we knew enough to be at the Roundhouse before 7 p.m., arriving to find the band set up and having a relaxed chat about the set list. What makes me think others had not yet learned their lesson was how few people had their butts in seats when Quatro na Bossa started playing shortly thereafter.

And, honestly, why on earth wouldn't you be on time for Brazilian Bossa Nova music from the '50s, '60s and '70s? I mean, really?

The evening's performance was extra poignant because it was guitarist Bruno's last show with the band now that he's moving to South Carolina as a doctor of music theory. His exquisite guitar playing and lovely voice will be missed, at least until he realizes he wants to return to Richmond (like they all do).

During the first song, an instrumental, singer Laura Ann stood off to the side listening, eventually making the executive decision (like women do) that we didn't need no stinkin' overhead light and turning it off. She was right, with sun pouring through three windows (unfortunately not open, though, like last week) behind the band and the door wide open to light, we had all the early summer sunlight we needed.

Let's just that when she joined the band onstage, it the lighting was much more appropriate for Brazilian music.

Because the syncopated sounds Quatro na Bossa play are so danceable and because we were all sitting in folding chairs, there was a lot of toe-tapping and seat dancing going on as Laura Ann and/or Bruno's voices rose and fell with each samba or Tropicalia song.

Happily, people kept arriving to give the band the audience it deserved.

Once the sun finally got near setting, a firefly found its way into the Roundhouse, flying around and reminding us of its presence periodically with a green glow before then showing up on the far side of the room to dazzle someone new.

It says so much about the music that despite not being able to understand a word of the lyrics, everyone was rapt listening to the music.  All except the big galoot sitting in front of us, taking up three chairs by extending his arms across the two on either side of him and repeatedly staring at the ceiling, rubbing his face and looking bored out of his mind. Luckily, his date got the hint and they cut out early.

We stayed until the last note, reluctant to leave the magic of bossa nova and fireflies before retreating to J-Ward.

When it comes to Summer Solstice, that was celebrated outdoors by seeing Quill Theatre's production of "The Tempest" at Agecroft on a night when the weather could only be described as glorious. Breezy, low humidity and just warm enough, it was a night meant for being outdoors with just the right person, savoring the longest day of the year (also a bittersweet one now that days begin getting shorter).

We stopped at Goatocado to get dinner, bringing along birthday wine courtesy of my best friend in Texas (thanks, Buns!) and a slice of cake - my personal fave, chocolate with white icing - to celebrate multiple occasions. Spreading a quilt under a row of massive shade trees on Agecroft's back lawn, we had a view of the river, a breeze from multiple sides and live entertainment.

Four of Quill's costumed Young Players showed up, offering a song or a monologue for our pleasure. The first we chose was that of the melancholy Jacques from "As You Like It" and afterwards, they offered us another. The young man offering to do Puck in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" seemed especially animated and eager when he offered up his monologue, so I capitulated, telling him that it was obvious he was dying to dazzle us.

At several points, he was crouched on one knee or leaning forward looking about to spring onto us, so his antics were worth it.

Once inside, we chose seats in the third row center for best possible view. In the 20 past years of seeing Shakespeare at Agecroft, I have never tired of being close enough to see the actors spit, not to mention scale the nearby stone wall and deliver monologues. Translation: I like to be in the thick of things.

Sitting just behind us was a familiar acting face who now graces L.A. with his acting chops, but is back in town for a few. Last time I'd seen him at Agecroft, he'd been playing Sir Andrew Aguecheeck dressed in a brown suit. Hearing his guffaws throughout added a nice touch to tonight's show.

My standards for "The Tempest" are unusually high, only because back in the '90s, I saw Richmond Shakespeare (Quill's predecessor) do it on Fulton Hill with an approaching thunderstorm as backdrop and that's tough to beat.

This production got its points other ways, since the weather couldn't have been more un-tempest-like. The always-impressive Adam Turck made Ariel his own in gray-blue body paints, nervous tics and aim to please. Just watching him stand on the stone wall and react to what was happening onstage could have been a master class for a younger actor.

Jeff Clevenger has made a career of milking the humor in any character, making him the ideal person to play the jester Trinculo, besotted with wine and fearful of spirits. My fandom for Adam Valentine was born when I saw him in "Heathers" and tonight's turn as Alonso's butler "Stephano" showed that his take on humor is equal parts visual (that sad sack face he calls forth!) and gangly physicality. The scene of Trinculo and Stephano "hiding" in plain sight had the audience in stitches.

Sitting in the courtyard of a building that stood in Shakespeare's time, watching a time-honored play under a brilliant blue sky on the longest day of the year may take the cake in terms of exquisite ways to wile away the summer solstice a deux.

But then, anyone as stupidly happy as I am would think that. Just ignore me...

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Victim of Circumstance

You know it takes a lot to lure me to the suburbs.

But that's exactly what I did when I headed to Chesterfield County in rush hour, during a thunderstorm and why? Because Modern Richmond was opening up a 1978 house originally designed by NOVA architect Joseph Boggs. And while Northern Virginia in general makes my skin crawl, I admit I was curious to see the house.

Besides being honored by the American Institute of Architects not once but twice - in 1978 and again in 2012 after a renovation - I was intrigued at seeing the state of modern architecture at a time when my top priority was college and clubs and not necessarily in that order.

Translation: I wasn't paying attention to residential architecture being built at that point and now I am.

Just as I was overcoming my distaste for the entitled-feeling neighborhood and the lackluster houses in general, I came to the one in question. Situated into a one acre lot that rose much higher in the back, it at least had character that I hadn't seen in other houses I'd passed.

Right away, I gave it points for the fish pond in an island in the driveway and the fact that the concrete walkway had been poured with an opening for a large, existing tree. Inside the house, I was struck by the large expanses of glass, the abundance of skylights, vaulted ceilings and clerestory windows (so Frank Lloyd Wright, but what did I expect?).

Standing near the kitchen, I overheard a woman tell her husband, "I don't know about those windows," referring to the rectangular windows located between the counters and the kitchen cabinets. "I'm good with them," her husband opined and kept walking.

Looking through one of the large expanses of glass - the windows were a mixture of the opening kind and not -  several of us spotted a Mama deer and two babies just behind the plastic playhouse in the elevated backyard. I guess they have lots of nature in the county.

A narrow, carpeted spiral staircase seemed dated, but I gave it a few points for how it reminded me of climbing a lighthouse because of the extremely tight fit making my way up and down. At the top was what seemed to be a playroom with toys on shelves, although a full box of rolled up blueprints indicated otherwise. Bookshelves contained books on Gaudi, Impressionism and Frank Lloyd Wright, the latter no surprise.

After having been through a lot of Modern Richmond houses old and new over the years, this one fell somewhere in between the distinctive mid-century styles and the lackluster creativity of newer modern construction we've seen. Vintage details like cypress tongue and groove paneling on walls and ceiling certainly elevated this one.

I couldn't stay to hear the current owners talk, but on the way out, I ran into a gallerist I know coming up the driveway and we immediately bonded over the schlep from the city (she's in Church Hill), agreeing that the suburbs are not for us.

Happy to be headed back to my natural habitat, I made a bee-line for the Byrd to meet Mac for another pre-code movie from 1933, just like last week. This time, it was "Baby Face" with a young Barbara Stanwyck. In the introduction, Byrd manager Todd told us that this was a very salacious film for the time in that it showed a woman taking control of her own life. "nowadays, we call it reality TV," he joked.

Granted, she did it by sleeping her way to the top long before Madonna was a gleam in her Daddy's eye, but, come on, it was the Depression and a woman's options were limited. Except that the story used a kindly cobbler character to introduce our heroine to Nietzsche and his theory that all life is exploitation. He tells her to exploit herself by using men to get what she wants.

You never saw an Erie, Pennsylvania girl get the hang of using men so fast, resulting in fur coats, an expensive apartment and lots of bling. Along the way, one of her ex-lovers kills her present lover and then himself, so that gets a bit messy, but our girls keeps going anyway, landing a job in Paris and, ultimately, the grandson of the bank's founder. He's smitten and sends her a note at work: "Pick you up at 8. We are dining and dancing." A bit blunt, but a solid plan, if you ask me.

But it's still 1933, so ultimately, she tells him all she really wants is for it to say "Mrs." on her tombstone (aim higher, honey!), so he marries our little go-getter.

This pat Hollywood plot twist is how the studio placated the New York board of censors before it was allowed to screen there. Even so, he winds up shooting himself (this girl was rough on men's hearts), but he lives so there can be a happy ending.

You want to know how happy? He told her he wanted to buy her a house in New York City and one in Paris, which means she'd never have to live in the suburbs.

Now, that's true love, Nietzsche-style.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Real Man

When a man promises you you're going to get a boatload of him, he'd better come through.

And, no surprise, Todd Rundgren did. It's not like I hadn't seen him before cause I had, once in the mid-aughts at the Canal Club with probably fewer than 50 people - an amazing show I know I'll never top for sheer intimacy - and then in 2015 at the National. The problem with the latter show had been that it involved a flashy, LED-lit performance with Todd, a DJ and two wig and costume-changing female dancers/back-up singers and almost none of the classic Todd I craved.

In what was either a nod to the aging crowd or perhaps Todd's preference (he is, after all, turning 71 Saturday), this was a seated show, although that was news to me upon arrival. When I'd bought my ticket at the box office back in mid-April, I'd not been given a choice of being seated, so perhaps I was late to the game.

As part of steerage class, I was herded into one of three cordoned-off areas to stand, not a problem since I've stood at every show I've ever been to there except for my first (Lou Reed) because I didn't know any better, the seated shows (Henry Rollins, Joanna Newsome) and the couple of times I'd been in the VIP section.

With me in the corral was a woman who was as jazzed to see Todd as me, as evidenced by the fact that she'd been to both the shows I'd been to (and the odds of meeting another human who'd been at that Canal Club show was tiny) plus one at the Birchmere. Together we staked our claim at the front railing right behind the sound booth, not far from my usual spot directly in front of it.

Promptly at 7:30, Todd and his five-piece band came out to show us what his Individualist Tour would look like, with a giant video screen behind them. Explaining that the set was based on his recent book detailing his life and music from the '60s to the mid-'90s, he proclaimed, "You're going to get a boatload of me tonight."

Looking around at the decidedly middle-aged crowd dressed up and out on a rare Tuesday night, I didn't think anyone would have a problem with an overdose of Todd.

And just to make sure he had us eating out of his hand, he started at the beginning when we'd first fell hard for his sound with "Open My Eyes" from his Nazz days. The collective excitement/moans of pleasure/elation of those first few notes of "Hello, It's Me" were electrifying, and that's not even counting how good his voice  and the song still sounds.

I could have done without him exhorting the crowd to sing along (I hadn't come to hear them) but I also know people couldn't help themselves.

After thunderous applause, he shared that it was the first song he'd ever written, a sign if ever there was one of musical genius. After struggling for an idea (and stealing the chord changes from an older song), he'd settled on that most reliable of inspirations: breaking up with his girlfriend from senior year of high school. "Her Dad turned the hose on me," he said.

Next came "We Gotta Get You a Woman," a joy to hear since it was a well-played part of my collection of 45s in 1970. Even better, while the band played it, the video screen showed images of women from the '60s and '70s dancing in that distinctive way that could never be mistaken for any other era.

And, yes, there were white go-go boots and girls in fringed bikinis dancing, if that tells you anything. It was almost too good to be true.

It just kept getting better. Next they did "I Saw the Light in Your Eyes" and I was just one of the many dancing in place and absolutely in musical heaven. These songs were my youth and hearing them live was incomparable.

Saying that his guitar - a seafoam green Stratocaster - was sad about being ignored during all those piano ballads, he picked it up to introduce a guitar-based song. He reminisced about playing the blues "in the corners of the subway as only a white man can do" before making his guitar very happy with some screaming guitar work.

Talking about his future as a highway of black vinyl, he quipped, "It's amazing what you can accomplish without children around!" What made it even cooler was that as he played, the screen showed images of not only his albums, but albums he'd produced: Grand Funk Railroad's "We're An American band, " Badfinger's "Straight Up," the New York Doll's eponymous album, Meat Loaf's "Bat Out of Hell" and that's just what I recall.

And, if I'm honest, I had no clue he produced any of those, though I knew he produced his own stuff.

He talked about getting stuck artistically, so he remedied that by buying a round the world ticket "where as long as you keep going in the same direction, you're good" as a way of having new experiences. As he sang, images of old Pan Am tickets, itineraries (Kabul, Calcutta, Madras, Tehran, Bangkok, San Francisco, NYC) and postcards showed onscreen.

Throughout the evening, the once-young crowd didn't hesitate to sing and dance along, although those in the front seated row had to be repeatedly told to sit down by Security.

The 1978 song "Can We Still Be Friends" was accompanied by old photos of Todd with everyone who mattered in the '70s and '80s: Ringo, Alice Cooper, Elvira, Little Richard and Bowie.

Although Todd made sure neither of his guitars got ignored for too long, he sang many songs like "Real Man" either with microphone in hand stalking the stage or standing in front of it on the stand and pantomiming gestures as he sang. His hands went to his eyes, ears, heart and outstretched to convey lyrics winningly, even when old photos of him performing in enormous bell bottoms, spandex, sequins, shorts, plaid shirts with the sleeves cut off, a suit, satin pants and a whole lot more were screening overhead.

And because Todd's a huge fashionista, we also got photos of his wardrobe highlights: a pumpkin orange velvet suit, red satin pants, a brocade suit with a big polka dot shirt and small polka dot tie, a fringed jacket, a spandex catsuit, a space suit, a fat suit, as a woman and lots and lots of glam. I'm guessing that the point of those photos was to show us Todd's wardrobe obsession and it was as good a look at fashion history as a fan could hope for.

His fashion advice was simple, though. "Get a guitar and wear it. Doesn't matter if you can play it, you'll look sharp."

And while tonight's ensembles (yes, there were two) were less flashy, the man's still a snazzy dresser and proud of it. I can say that because the view from the cheap seats, um, cheap floor was stellar. Even so, during the 20-minute intermission during which the Todd nerds compared notes, I took the opportunity to slide into an empty seat to take a load off and get a tad closer.

For the section labeled "Digressions, Dreams and Dissertations," Todd took pre-recorded video questions from audience members lucky enough to have approached the tablet that recorded them.

Asked about his favorite song to play in concert, he denied having one, saying what he didn't want to play was a far shorter list (and includes "Bang the Drum All Day," which made some in the crowd moan in sadness). When he mentioned that he wasn't popular anymore, a drunk woman yelled out, "You're still popular!" to which Todd responded, "Shut up! I'm not soliciting answers from you."

Asked about his other guitar, he said it was a belated birthday gift from a restaurateur who also granted him oysters for life after he did a short set at his restaurant.

If only I had a skill set that could get me raw oysters for life.

After he finished answering dumb questions from middle-aged men, the band went on to play deeper cuts from all his bands and solo work, causing much whispering between Todd nerds as they marveled at hearing things they'd never heard in years of going to Todd's shows.

I only recognized a few (1973's "I Don't Want to Tie You Down"), but I could listen to Todd sing the phone book and be happy. And ending with 1978's "Fade Away" was practically perfect, even when it means putting up with seeing assorted exes dating back to the '90s.

"This is your love life" aside, when a man like Todd promises a boatload and delivers at least twice that, a girl can't ask for much more.

Except maybe a seated ticket next time he comes through town. And, if not, you can be sure I'll stand for Todd any day.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Strike a Pose

The best thing the Byrd Theater ever did - besides installing new seats - was going thematic.

I used to be such an occasional Byrd-goer. I mean, other than "It's a Wonderful Life" every Christmas Eve, I mostly went to the Byrd for film festivals - French, Environmental, whatever. But all that changed once they started doing a different theme every month.

Hello, variety, we Geminis love to mix things up.

You better believe I got on board with that. I saw my first Miyazaki film, "My Neighbor Totoro," as part of Miyazaki Mondays, also discovering how many Miyazaki film fans there are in Richmond. I did a month of Hitchcock movies because you can never see too much Hitchcock on the big screen. Currently, I'm going to see their "Pre-Code" series showing films made before the Hays Office came up with their Puritanical production code and began dictating morals to moviegoers.

Hell, I even put up with kids and a 10 a.m. screening to attend one of their Family Classics, though it's not likely I'll do that again.

So when I saw the Byrd was doing Mon-Gays, a month of films about LGBTQ lives, I naturally wanted to go. The director of the Afrikanna Film Fest always said that she screened films made by blacks "for blacks and black-minded people." I like to think that Mon-Gays are intended for gays and gay-minded people.

And I'm one of them.

Tonight's offering was a queer fairy tale, unexpectedly done musical-style and complete with scenes of young people dancing and vogueing to bass-heavy music and you know I loved that. The sensitively-told story of Ulysses, a black 14-year old boy trying to figure out his sexuality and identity, was all the more engrossing for the many trans actors used in the film and it's not often you see that.

Some of the early scenes were especially painful to watch because they involved Ulysses being bullied at school by the jocks, who mock him, call him faggot and deposit his gym suit in a toilet full of urine. His salvation arrives in the form of Saturday Church, a once-a-week community program for queer young people and where for the first time he sees LGBTQ people able to be themselves.

It's life-changing. It's enough to make a boy start vogueing as he walks down the street and eventually buy himself a pair of studded stilettos to catwalk in.

This means that later on, when the same jocks who've been ridiculing him for ages do it again, he's in a different head space. Rather than feel intimidated by them, Ulysses blows them off with a vogue-style kiss as he glides past them down the hall at school. Yaaas, queen.

Appropriately, the audience at the Byrd erupted in cheers and applause.

Not all of the story was so life-affirming, particularly several scenes after he ran away from home because his crazy Christian aunt was beating and berating him for who he was. But the overall tome was sweet, making for a strong film with low key charm and a major message: just let everybody be who they want to be.

For me, that's a black-minded, gay-minded independent film lover who's a familiar face to the concession staff.

No shame in being a Byrd regular.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Roxanne, Meet Karma Chameleon

With musical opinions to spare, I admit I was curious.

What could a Facebook algorithm tell me about what kind of high school stereotype I was, based solely on my choices of '80s music? So I took the quiz and got my grade.

The way you've covered every '80s genre makes us think that you were the studious type in high school. You may not have appreciated the label when you were young, but being a nerd paid off. You are intelligent, well-rounded and all the awkwardness has disappeared. Though you were a nerd back then, you're a nerd no more.

Hold it right there. I am still very much a nerd and no wanna-be judgement calculator is going to tell me otherwise. But if you're going to fit me into a high school box, I'll be the first to admit that nerd is where I belong.

Straight As? Check. National Honor Society? Check. Graduated a year early? Check. No question, I was a nerd, even if we didn't have that word back then.

The way I see it is, apparently if you're a nerd in high school, you're smart enough to listen to a broad range of music. If you're smart enough to have teachers asking what they can do to challenge you, it seems you're open to the Police and Culture Club. it's that simple.

Of course, this wasn't news to anyone at my parents' house, where I'd gone today to celebrate Father's Day with the man who produced this nerd. Also in attendance was Sister #2, along with her two sons, both of whom are teachers. The one who teaches high school had brought along the school's yearbook and offered me a look-see.

"I still have mine from Parkdale," my sister noted as I opened the surprisingly hefty book. I still have mine, too, but it's nothing like what I was holding now. Besides being in full color, every senior not only had a senior portrait but right next to it was each one's baby picture, too.

Seemed a bit much to me.

But what gave the yearbook so much more heft than my own wasn't the baby pictures, it was page after page of candid shots of kids at school. Now mind you, my high school had close to 3,000 students, exactly the same number as the school where he teaches. But no one was documenting our every move on a daily basis, much less combining them into photo-montages that seemed to go on for dozens of pages at a time.

The other thing taking up untold pages was documentation of the sheer number of clubs and groups at the school and I'm talking everything imaginable and then a bunch that never would have occurred to me. Like the Dr. Who Society, a group that watches their favorite episodes and eats snacks. A Millionaire's Club (don't ask). An Environmental Defense Club to teach the importance of up-cycling. And don't get me started on the Do Something Club.

Maybe all this struck me as a bit much because I didn't belong to any clubs in high school because I was too busy being a nerd doing homework, studying, reading and wondering if my life was ever going to start.

You know, like nerds do.

Meanwhile, my Mom mentioned that the mother of my childhood best friend had died and insisted on pulling up the obituary on her tablet to show me. The picture I saw looked nothing like the woman I remember from childhood, although my Mom insists that only her hair is different in the picture.

Well, that and she's 50 years older than the last time I saw her.

Far more interesting than a photo of a woman I didn't recognize was the listing of survivors, which included my childhood best friend, Cindy. She'd applied for the job by showing up at the side door of our new house on moving day, inquiring of my Mom, "Do you have any little girls I can play with?"

At the time, she only had four to choose from: a 4-year old, a 3-year old, a 2-year old and a 3 1/2 month old (two more were yet to come). Guess who she offered up?

But what caught my eye scanning the obit was that Cindy now spells her name Cyndi, which she most definitely did not do when we were children.

Now that I think about it, Cindy and I parted ways even before we were out of elementary school as it became painfully clear that she liked boys and breaking rules while I was perfectly happy being teacher's pet and helping with bulletin boards.

Which leads me to believe that her taste in '80s music could never be anywhere near as broad as mine. Spoken like a true nerd.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Music and Its Hapless Victims

"You don't seem like the kind of person who'd care, but it's a whole fish including the head and tail."

So what kind of person do I seem like?

It was our server at Stables on Belmont who'd offered the information when I'd ordered the grilled rainbow trout with mustard greens, blistered tomatoes and lemon poppy basmati rice. I assured her I'd have no problem with the entire fish and I didn't. In fact, when she returned later, there wasn't much left besides the head and the tail.

One hand outstretched for the plate, she paused. "Unless you're going to eat the cheeks," she observed, mentioning her fondness for fish cheeks and collar, an affinity I share. Let's just say that she held off on clearing the plate until there was nothing left in the fish's head except eyeballs.

And I have before, but I didn't tonight.

And that was after my theater posse- Pru, Beau and Queen B - started the meal with country pate and its sidekicks: pickled red onion, grainy mustard, oiled bread and cornichons, accompanied by a lovely Sancerre.

Although we'd gotten there early so we could make a play, it wasn't long before other groups started coming in, too, including a young couple that could have been poster children for the West End, or, better yet, UR. I can make derogatory generalizations about UR to Pru because that's where she graduated from and always considered herself an outlier.

She caught what I was kicking, brilliantly noting, "The white entitlement is blinding," and shielding her eyes while I cracked up.

A couple Pru and I knew also came in and stopped by the table to chat. They've been married something like 24 years, so when he dropped one of his stock jokes, his wife rolled her eyes, saying she'd heard that old chestnut dozens of times (Bumper sticker: "I don't mind if you're straight as long as you act gay in public").

"It's Joke #23," he said defensively.

While I opted for bourbon chocolate mousse and a glass of Penfolds Grandfather 20-Year Tawny Port (an especially civil ending to a meal, I thought) and Queen B had butter cookies with lemon curd (so veddy British), the happy couple ordered coffee and a cheese plate. We'd nearly finished our desserts and Pru and Beau were sipping their coffees and still there was no sign of their fromage.

When our server stopped by, Beau was succinct. "Cheese?" he inquired, raising an eyebrow. Leaning down to answer him, she announced, "I think he's cutting it now." Everyone cracked up like we were in middle school and, voila, it soon showed up.

Talking about what had been going on in our lives lately, the subject of several of Beau' recent nincompoop moments came up, apparently after a good long while with none. "Nincompoopery builds up," Pru explained of the recent spate.

"It's like bile," Beau posited, ever the savant, setting Pru and I off again.

One of the restaurant's staffers had commented on several of our ensembles, prompting Pru to tell him that she'd had a hand in them all: choosing Beau's shirt, gifting me with the orange Italian shrug and giving Queen B the fantastical necklace she was wearing. I shared that we were en route to Richmond Triangle Players for "Grey Gardens," causing his face to light up. "You all look perfect than!" he crowed. "Take me with you!"

We didn't, of course - who's got an extra ticket to "Grey Gardens," after all - but the compliments were nice.

The play laid out the weird lives of Edie Bouvier Beale (both mother and daughter have the same name, necessitating "Big Edie" and "Little Edie" monikers) through song and occasional dance, detailing how they went from rich to ruins living with dozens of cats and raccoons, lots of poop and no running water in the Hamptons (referred to as a "mean, nasty Republican town").

I mean, Little Edie was engaged to Joseph Kennedy, Jr., at least until her crazy mother Big Edie told him stories about her nudity and promiscuity that scared him off ("It was my sobriquet, Beautiful Body Beale!"). After all, had he not been killed in WW II, he was the Kennedy who was supposed to end up President, remember?

All the songs allowed Big and Little Edie to show off their singing chops (and goodness knows, Susan Sanford and Grey Garret have them), but Pru and I agreed there was something deeply disturbing (as I'm sure was intended by the playwrights) about hearing Big Edie sing a racist ode like "Hominy Grits."

Next to watermelon
There ain't no tellin'
Dem's da bestest vittles
Us colored folks gits!

When the scene ended with the keys cover being slammed on the pianist's fingers to stop it, some guy in the audience called out, "Dah-licious!" for the scene's high camp. At least that's what I'm hoping he meant.

There was also an awful lot of humor like, "He lost both legs at Iwo Jima. Romance was inevitable," not to mention a gospel choir singing and testifying all over the stage. A Norman Vincent Peale  character singing "Choose To Be Happy." And, of course, the tragedy of Little Edie being called back from NYC once she does finally escape, only to resign herself to spending the rest of her life doing her demanding mother's bidding.

Because real life often doesn't end neatly or happily.

Afterward in the ladies' room, one woman announced that she now needed to see the cinema verite documentary to better understand these weird characters. Pru, Beau and Queen B had watched it again just last week in preparation, Beau for the first time.

Her friend shot back, "I saw it when I was eight. My mother showed it to me on VHS or something." I looked at her askance. Why on earth would your mother have shown you something so disturbing at such a young age, I had to ask.

"To mess me up?" she guessed, not exactly smiling at having to dig that deep.

Hominy grits aside, that's the Grey Gardens legacy for you.