Friday, April 24, 2015

Steady as She Goes

If you're going to borrow someone's beau, better to begin barefoot and buck naked.

It's not as tawdry as all that; I had two theater tickets and he had no plans. All I had to say was "Hey, handsome, wanna go?" to get a response of "All you have to do is call me handsome and you've got me for the evening."

Now I know why his girlfriend calls him easy.

He was gracious enough to pick me up and let me choose where to eat, so I'd say he's not just easy, he's chivalrous, too. I kept it close by directing him to the Rogue Gentlemen, a place he hadn't been before, knowing he likes a well-crafted cocktail.

So while his main squeeze is dining in Paris tonight, I'm broadening his horizons (and eating Chef Aaron's food, of which I'm quite fond), all in the name of friendship.

With an early curtain to catch, we got started as soon as he got off work, nabbing a parking space directly in front of the restaurant and becoming only the fifth and sixth customers inside.

Few places in town make an effort visually with their menu - L'Opossum and Perly's being the exceptions that come to mind - but I'm going to have to put the Rogue Gentlemen's cocktail menu right up there in the running.

Resembling a fan magazine, on the front was a photograph of an impossibly young Richard Gere with headline teases all around, while inside was a fold-out of a more mature Gere in bed, strategically draped with a sheet, each body part numbered to correspond to a cocktail.

That's when my companion succumbed to the passion flower-infused gin-based "Barefoot and Buck Naked" (corresponding to his toes) while I did the usual pink with Jean Luc Columbo "Cape Bleue Rose," a complex pink his sweetheart would have loved.

With the Raconteurs and the like playing overhead, we ate our way through a succession of small plates until sated while he regaled me with tales from his college days and tales from the Treehouse Apartments.

Food-wise, his first choice was roasted artichokes, getting the star treatment with guanciale, dots of saffron custard, fava beans (but no nice Chianti) and hazelnut while I dove right in the deep end with fried chicken skins drizzled in harissa honey, chives and cilantro.

While he might have initially been a tad appalled at my less than healthy pick, he was also soon raving about how well the two dishes complemented each other.

Dare I say my mouth knows what I'm doing?

Once we stopped eating with our fingers (it's fried chicken, for crying out loud), I was treated to photographs he'd been sent of the Alps (coincidentally enough, her comment had been about what a schlep they must have been for the von Trapps to cross; hello "Sound of Music" last night) and my friend's opulent Venetian and Parisian hotels, the latter with a round bedroom.

Much as we adore her, we could only ogle and envy for so long before returning to the business at hand: stuffing our faces.

Sea bass crudo got both our attentions with asparagus and tarragon gremolata, but it was piquancy of the pickled red onions and the creaminess of the roe aioli that made it one of the finest raw dishes I'd ever had.

Salt cod dumplings in fish head broth with pickled shrimp, soffrito, potatoes and olive oil dazzled us least despite the savory broth.

With only a half hour left before we needed to be at the Singleton Center and the restaurant now almost completely full (must have happened while we were gabbing), it was time to move on to a sweet course.

Even from her perch inside a round room in Europe, Pru would have known what I was going to order off the dessert menu and I didn't disappoint.

My dark chocolate cremeux got a savory twist with pickled rhubarb, whipped ricotta and vincotto, nothing more than cooked wine, but sounding much so more exotic in Italian.

Being a man, he somehow preferred his red miso panna cotta with crushed Virginia peanuts, caramelized white chocolate, black sesame honey and lime butterscotch but we both agreed that it was the butterscotch that lifted the custard to something special.

Then, like the wind, we were gone.

Finding parking was challenging because of an unexpected event at the Siegel Center (wait, I thought basketball was over?), but we snagged a spot and he did a pretty decent job of parallel parking for a guy who's lived too long in the hinterlands (can you say Ladysmith?).

High-tailing it to the theater was a trip down Memory Lane for him since it had apparently been eons since he'd walked through campus, not that much of it could look the same as it had in the '80s.

We arrived at the theater just as the ushers had closed the house so we were led upstairs to enter from the top and back so as not to disturb anyone. "Frankenstein: Dawn of a Monster" was about to begin.

The set could not have been any simpler or more central to the stage. Four long sheer drapes hung from a circular metal rod on the ceiling and were used to create a bedroom, a lab and even the great outdoors. It was brilliant.

So was the story, in many ways, which wove together the saga of Mary Shelley's life and that of her literary creation, the monster in "Frankenstein" with many of the themes of her life being transferred to her fiction.

Sad lives make the best stories, of course, and hers was plenty tragic. She was madly in love with the married Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley but he eventually lost interest. She didn't want children but got pregnant only to have her baby die. Her father all but disowned her when she got knocked up, leaving her destitute.

Plenty of fodder there.

Meanwhile, the story of the monster created and then abandoned by its creator had all the inherent tragedy of her own life: abandonment, lack of love, sorrow.

Comic relief came courtesy of Dr. Frankenstein's simple-minded assistants who supplied fresh corpses and drinking songs to wile away the time. Chandler Matkins as Benjamin was notable not just for his excellence in projecting but for his seamless shifts from comedy to drama.

And, speaking of projection, the dapper one and I opted to change seats at intermission, the better to hear the actors with our middle-aged ears (he allowed as how he'd forgotten his ear trumpet). Choosing a seat next to a woman, I commented on the obvious:  she had a record album (no cover) on her lap.

Glancing down at it, she said, "They gave it to me when I came in."

"There has to be a story there," my companion said, offering her an opening. Silence. Clearly she had no intention of telling us what it was. Pity.

We passed the time instead talking about how little our perceptions of ourselves have changed since college. How impressed we are when we open the refrigerator and see food and realize we're the ones who made that happen. How we may look older but feel much like we did when we were 20.

That's a story there, too.

It was in the second act that it really became obvious who the standout in the show was: Brandon Sterrett as the Monster. From his early physical awakening as a living creature (limbs awkwardly twitching and falling) to his development as a thinking, feeling being resentful of his lot in life, he was riveting.

That he projected like a pro was icing on the cake to those of a certain age.

We walked out busily discussing the film, which was exactly why I'd invited him to join me for it in Pru's absence. Had she been with me, we'd have been doing the same.

But she's in Paris and I had custody of her easy boyfriend for a night. The barefoot and buck naked part will just be our little secret.

No comments:

Post a Comment