Thursday, January 21, 2010

Rx: Stronghill Dining Co.and Theater

When I was discharged from the hospital last night, it was with prescriptions for steroids, breathing treatments and antibiotics.

But what I really needed was a fattening dinner out and some culture to make up for missing that reading at VMFA last night.

Treating the physical is required, but treating the spirit is just as essential.

The evening began at Stronghill where I enjoyed the Wedge Salad with blue cheese and bacon, followed by coffee-braised short ribs over foccacia with apple-smoked Gouda sauce.

Particularly worthy of mention is that the foccacia was fried, so it was a thin, crispy crust around a soft almost potato-like interior about two inches thick.

While it was like no foccacia I've ever had (btw, one of my absolute favorite breads), it was divine.

During their 5:30-7:30 happy hour, all wines under $9 a glass are a flat $5, so I went Sicilian with the Villa Pozzi Nero d'Avola and later, the chocolate mousse.

I told the bartender I had theater plans and she presumed I meant the Bowtie Cinema, so I explained that I was on my way to Pine Camp to see Henley Street Theater Company do A Servant of Two Masters (and for preview night, so it was only ten bucks!), which led to discussion of how she loves theater and never makes the time for it.

Her best friend is a director and playwright; she had all kinds of theater friends who nag her about not attending and still she doesn't go. But she misses seeing live theater.

We talked about the upcoming run of Wicked, which I'd seen three years ago in Baltimore and she'd never seen, how she's never been to Agecroft for Richmond Shakespeare Company, how the last thing she saw was at Theater VCU, so at least there was that.

We discussed Tom Stoppard, for goodness' sake!

I might have given her a bit of crap about her laziness in not doing something she clearly loves, resulting in her finally saying, "When I get home I'm, going to call my girlfriend and insist we see a play soon. And then she's going to give me shit for listening to a convincing stranger and not her all these years."

A server interjected with, "Sometimes you need to hear it from the outside to actually pay attention."

But she did thank me for the theater pep talk.

I also got into an enthusiastic discussion of Honeybells with another server, but unless you've had one, there's no describing them, so we'll just end that there.

Let's just say we shared the same opinion.

A Servant of Two Masters was written in the eighteenth century by Italian Carlo Goldoni, but the themes of a character evolving, hunger for love (and food) and the differences in generations are timeless.

It's a commedia dell' arte, partly scripted and partly improvised and has lots of physical humor, including breaking wind, breast-ogling, spanking and good old slapstick.

Despite being 300+ years old, the play's language has been adapted and should not put off those uncomfortable with the likes of Shakespearean verse. It's nothing like that. Don't believe me?

Love is our sickness and men the only medicine.
The patient is ready to be given her medicine.

Love makes one do remarkable things.

Everyone else is getting a happy ending. (followed by the servant's saddest face).

Not too tough, huh?

So much of the dialogue is laugh-out-loud funny and the clearly defined characters in their magnificent costumes are each delightful in their own way.

The main character, the servant Truffaldino (played by Richard Koch), with his malleable face, quick quips and physical agility, is hard to take your eyes off of.

A night of hilarity was just what the doctor ordered, my internal doctor that is.

The theme of hunger for food and love didn't hurt its appeal any, either.

I'd have to say that it was ten dollars well spent, so, if like the bartender at Stronghill, you're overdue for some theater, you could do a lot worse and spend a lot more than this rollicking good time.

And it's so satisfying to see everyone end up with their true love.


  1. Ahhh... If only it could happen that way for all of us in real life. That would be satisfying. Hope your prescription worked and you are feeling better.

  2. IF only! But until we're dead, we can keep hoping, can't we?

    I am doing so much better. I blew 400 last night, so I'm much closer to normal lung capacity than I've been in ages. Thanks for your concern.

  3. think i'm going to see this play since you made it sound so great! thanks for sharing,for a change i won't miss out!