Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Joy of Blathering About Nothing

Yeah, yeah, I know you plan well in advance and it's not likely that you're available this evening but it never hurts to ask, right?

Friends wanted me to join them for a pre-theater supper in my neighborhood. They were going to see "Madama Butterfly" and, coincidentally, I was going to see "Waiting for Godot," so it couldn't have worked out better. We all had somewhere to be by 8:00.

We ended up at Black Sheep, four blocks from home for me and a place at which they'd brunched but never dined. That meant they needed some time with the menu, so I got Loimer Lois Gruner Veltliner while they went the white rioja route.

Given our tight schedule, we skipped appetizers but two of us couldn't resist soup. I had the Soup DJ, a white bean, collard and sausage combo in a clear broth and was not disappointed with its satisfying chunkiness. Her spicy Indian tomato soup with red lentils was just as good.

As a first-time diner, he went for the chicken and dumplings and she for the bacon-wrapped rainbow trout. The trout that pushed my buttons was the Spearfish: roasted asparagus spears under a salad of smoked trout, fennel and radish in a lemon-dill vinaigrette.

I know from experience that Black Sheep's chicken and dumplings are a comfort food staple and so popular they can't take them off the menu. I tasted the bacon-wrapped trout and it was excellent.

But the consensus was that I'd made the standout choice. As good as her fresh trout was, the smoked trout was to die for and the lemon dill vinaigrette made every green on that plate better. "I want to come back for that salad," she told her beloved.

Since it was their first dinner, we had to finish with the LaBrea tarpit, especially because these two are creme brulee experts and very discerning. They heartily approved of the Sheep's dark chocolate version, unlike any other in Richmond. That's two more tarpit converts I've made; I ought to get a commission.

Heading east to CenterStage, they dropped me on a street corner to collect my car so I could head to Pine Camp for Henley Street Theater's production of "Waiting for Godot," considered the most important English-language play of the 20th century.

For the uninitiated, "WFG" is the 1953 absurdist modern play about nothing. It was Seinfeld before there was Seinfeld. There are only four characters and mostly they talk. And talk some more. Which means the dialog is superb.

On another worthless day in the life: "What's the point of losing heart now?"

The better conversationalist to the less-skilled: "Come on, Gogo, return the ball, can't you, once in a  while?"

Trying to recall the night before: "We spent last night blathering about nothing. We've been doing that for half a century."

On making plans for the day: "We always find something to give the impression we exist."

The four-man cast was spot-on. Bob Jones conveyed the hapless, more easily discouraged of the pair and Bob Nelson the more hopeful mover and talker. Foster Solomon was his usual larger-than-life character, playing both lordly and helpless equally well; former dancer Jerome Weiss conveyed volumes through posture and movement.

For a nearly sixty-year old play, the evening felt surprisingly fresh and relevant. What must have seemed enigmatic about the play in the fifties is just post-modern life now.

As one who likes to lob, my Godot-inspired question would be, are there more or fewer people who can return the conversational ball these days?

I'd be happy to talk that through with anyone who's interested. And then talk some more.


  1. Hey Karen! Thank you for coming to Godot! Your review was wonderful - with you permission I would love to copy it and post it as a note on Facebook under the Henley page.
    Jacquie O'Connpr

  2. It was the play that was wonderful! Sure, post away!

  3. Thanks so much! I will post this tomorrow with a link to your blog.