Saturday, May 3, 2014

Keeping It Real

It's common knowledge I brag about many things about my neighborhood - the central location, historic architecture, walkability, proximity to so many art galleries.

And right up there is how I can walk out my door and go to dinner and the theater without ever going near my car.

So with a light breeze blowing and the sun still requiring sunglasses, I sashayed over to Bistro 27 to meet a fellow theater lover for some pre-dramatic dining.

We knew we wouldn't be the only ones with theater programs in our evening's future so the surprise was all the gowned teenagers with wrist corsages. Prom season is clearly upon us.

After regaling my friend with tales of the gothic furniture maker and nimble tapestry artist I'd met, we thought it best to get started on ordering so we could get back to talking.

New on the menu was a crab salad which spoke to both of us, so we ordered two, a wise choice given how light and summery it tasted.

Lump crabmeat sailed atop arugula, corn and pickled red onion in an avocado buttermilk dressing for a dish I can say with 100% certainty I will go back and order again. Soon. Very soon.

It was a hoot watching all the prom couples and crowds walking by the big picture window, the girls so dressed up and obviously enjoying themselves and the boys looking a full five years younger and hugely uncertain of themselves and the evening.

When my veal sweetbreads arrived, our server also brought salmon for my date, the only problem being he'd ordered one of tonight's specials, spicy crabcakes over potato hash.

Oops. Our mortified server went back in search of the correct plate but my friend insisted I eat while mine was hot, so I went ahead and enjoyed the sweet/salty contrast of creamy polenta and amaretto demi-glace with the crispy sweetbreads.

One thing I like about my friend is that he can always see a way to fit in dessert, even when he doesn't finish his tardy course until half an hour before curtain, so dessert menus were procured and we each agreed to try something new off the dessert menu.

His choice was bananas foster, hot off the stove and sticky sweet while I chose a napoleon of white and dark chocolate which I could only half finish.

Proud of our dessert expedience, we made it to the box office to collect our tickets and pat ourselves on the back with seven minutes to spare.

Tonight was opening night for Cadence Theater Company's production of "Detroit," a play both of us had purposefully not researched so as to be surprised.

I did know it was a finalist for the 2011 Pulitzer in Drama and won the Obie for best new play in 2013. That's what's great about Cadence; you can always count on them to bring the latest award-winning theater to Richmond.

This time it was a story about the current state of our middle class, where people get laid off from jobs (don't I know it? hello, 2008) and have to concoct a Plan B.

Where suburban neighbors are no longer Ozzie and Harriet, but maybe just out of rehab and trying to live for the moment.

The November Theater's theater gym is a tiny stage but managed to hold two contrasting houses, one with a backyard full of leisure furniture and the other barren, a metaphor for how different the two couples' lives are.

Except that over the course of the play, we learn that there's not all that much difference because no one really has a lock on stability anymore and few people are who they seem.

By the time the play ends and all kinds of unexpected things have happened, our suburbanites should be upset and angry and instead they're realizing that perhaps a new frontier has opened up for them. It's really all in how you look at it.

"You've got to live this moment, Mary. That's all you can do," the crazy character Sharon insists, played to perfection by Chris Lindsay-Abaire.

Do you worry because your future is unknown or do you embrace it? I know where I went with that one.

Cadence's strong production reminded me that things can be different, but only if you want them to be.

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