Friday, February 7, 2014

Much to Chew On

You have to appreciate a man who requests your company for a meal that goes down easy and a play that doesn't.

We met at Rappahannock where the bar was full of suits, the tables full of diners and I was greeted by a guy I'd met at Patrick Henry's several summers ago.

Funny the people who remember you with full body hugs.

Seated at a table next to a rambunctious eight-top, we were greeted by our server who squints and remembers me from a recent lunch where my date had been an hour-plus late and he'd suggested I retaliate by ordering a bottle of Dom Perignon (ignoring his advice, I'd chosen Domaine Rolet cremant de Juca rose instead).

Tonight, I repeat myself by ordering a dozen Olde Salts but reconsider when he says, "You want all the same?" and split my order into half Stingrays and half Olde Salts, even though he is not the boss of me.

Without asking if my companion wants an appetizer, he leaves. When I'm finally able to get his attention so my date can order, he apologizes, saying he assumed we were sharing the oysters.

Do I look like I can't down a dozen by myself?

My companion goes with a special of scallop ceviche, finding it unexpectedly spicy near the center, while sharing the restaurant gossip he's heard.

For a person who works in the corporate world, he is amazingly adept at knowing what's going on behind kitchen doors.

With the clock ticking down toward curtain time, we order entrees which arrive surprisingly quickly.

He's more than happy with his pan-seared mahi, but I think my bowl of Olde Salt clams with merguez sausage-stuffed squid, braised shell beans and grilled Tuscan kale in an amontillado sherry and smoked tomato sugo kicks his mahi's butt.

But then, I'm  a sausage and beans kind of gal.

Dinner conversations runs the gamut from how the temperature affects my walking/his running, recent movies we've seen and Valentine's day plans.

By the time we finish, we have barely enough time for dessert but we order chocolate ganache buckwheat crepe cake anyway.

If we have to stuff it in our mouths as we put our coats on, we need some sweet to put the period at the end of our savory.

Which we get before scurrying the two blocks to CenterStage to see Henley Street Theater and Richmond Shakespeare's production of "Death and the Maiden," for which we have front row seats for tonight's preview performance.

Arriving at the very last minute, the usher teases us, saying, "There you are!" The shaming is justified and funny.

For a change, having heard what a powerful play this is, I have purposely done no research so that it can unfold for me with no foreknowledge.

Even so, reading the program prepares me for a story about the aftermath of unspeakable acts committed on an innocent woman. It seems likely that the play will be short given the intensity of the topic.

The award-winning, three-actor play has dramatic set design, with blood-stained work clothes making up the enormous back wall and bodybag-looking black plastic curtains on the side.

Set in Chile during Pinochet's brutal 1973 takeover, a story unfolds wherein a woman enlists her husband's assistance to get revenge on one of the men responsible for the tortures inflicted on her.

By the end of the brief first act, her captor is bound and gagged with a black hood on his head and there he stays during the entire intermission.

It's a plot device that has all of us feeling uncomfortable as the lights come up and he is still confined onstage.

In the ladies' room, I discuss the first act with several strangers, all of whom are experiencing knotted stomachs, tension and discomfort with the woman's plight and the depiction of it.

It's unanimous that being made to feel this way is not only superb theater but a unique opportunity to feel something so unlike what theater usually gives us.

The second act is, if possible, even stronger as acts too horrible to be forgiven are attempted to be put in the past.

Katrinah Carol Lewis all but spits out her lines and anguish as the one-time victim in a role that almost has to outshine the two men no matter how well-played theirs are.

Any way you look at it, the play was difficult, challenging, uncomfortable and mesmerizing.

Walking out, I asked my friend what he thought.

"I'm going to come back and see it again," he said, clearly having already made up his mind on that.

Right on. You want your meals easy to digest, but sometimes you need your theater to be just the opposite.


  1. Thank you Karen for coming to the show. You and patrons like you are the reason we keep doing this kind of important work.

  2. We were blown away by it and I am still thinking about it days later. You guys made a brilliant choice in sharing this play with Richmond. To Hen-Shakes!