Friday, October 9, 2015

I Got a Blank Space

Only peer pressure could get me to be part of the "in" crowd.

Picking up my date involved more than driving to Church Hill, because there were beach supplies - a chair and two umbrellas - to be returned to their rightful owner before taking on a passenger. And while I'm happy to gets someone else's beach stuff out of my car, you can be certain my beach chair and umbrella are still firmly at the ready in the trunk.

You could say my optimism knows no bounds, but I've yet to rule out one last trip to the ocean this year.

With Pru riding shotgun, we drove straight to Castanea, ignoring available tables for seats at the more populated and generously-sized bar. Our bartender was affable and saucy - delighting in giving us a defiant "no" before granting every request - making for excellent patter as we selected what to sip and sup.

Wine arrived and we barely got through hearing a special  - cornmeal-dusted artichokes over heirloom tomatoes with Pecorino, pine nuts and mint - described before the two of us were nodding at each other, nudging each other, as in, yes, must have that.

At least we didn't resort to grunting at one another.

It must have been while we were moaning over the contrast of the rich fried artichoke and the bright end-of-summer freshness of the heirlooms, mint and was that a hint of basil (?) that the bartender set out to tempt us with more freshness, this time in the guise of today's cocktail.

Using local blood plums, they'd crafted a daiquiri garnished with a wedge of the gorgeous deep red fruit and while we surely didn't need one, our hesitation spurred commentary from the peanut gallery.

"We had them. Join the "in" crowd!" the guy next to us enthused. So while we didn't need blood plum daiquiris, we shared one anyway. I must not get offered blood plums enough, that's all I can say in my defense.

Meanwhile, the happy couple to our right get their dinner order and his was the cresto de gallo, a massive-sized portion ("We wouldn't have had, like, three things first if I'd known it was this big") of pan-fried chicken livers and rainbow Swiss chard in a Marsala wine sauce.

"I love a good Marsala sauce," Pru whispers, although significantly, without committing to chicken livers.

The guy who'd ordered it was large and muscular, but before long even he was lamenting the sheer size and richness of the plate of food in front of him. I told him he could probably sell bites to people at the bar, but he didn't take the bait. That said, it may be noted that he finished every bite.

Working on a theme after our first dish, we ordered skate wing in artichoke brown butter and ras al hanout with crispy roasted potatoes on the side. Despite occasional timidity with new foods and that it was Pru's first outing with skate, she embraced the dish as we talked about how its taste and texture falls somewhere between fish and seafood.

But mostly, we took our time savoring the buttery, spicy skate and then sopping the potatoes in artichoke butter. If you were trying to make a skate convert out of someone, this was the way to do it.

Another couple showed up and again decided on the bar for dinner, getting the bartender all excited. "It's a party at the bar tonight! This is what I'm talking about!" Maybe a memo had gone out to the "in" crowd without us knowing.

All of a sudden, we were just about out of time, necessitating decisions about gelato flavors and then choosing the exact same thing: double chocolate with coconut sorbet. Along the way, we tasted the melon as well as the fresh peach gelatos and felt like we were eating cream versions of fresh fruit.

"That's the idea," our server said.

Westward ho we went to Richmond Triangle Players to see a one-man tour de force: "Buyer and Cellar" starring Dan Cimo, a terribly talented actor whom I can attest from past roles is as able to play a woman as a man.

I know I'd gladly take his chiseled cheekbones.

That was particularly convenient given that in this play, he portrays someone very like himself (an actor), his boyfriend Barry (an underemployed and bitter screenwriter), Barbra Streisand (in all her idiosyncratic and vainglorious magnificence) and her housekeeper, Sharon (whose voice reminded me of Marge Simpson's sisters).

The first few minutes of the show were devoted to ensuring that we knew that this was a work of fiction, in no way related to real life events. "The premise is preposterous! None of this ever happened." Oh, and P.S. Barbra is known to be rather litigious.

"Enough people do her. Not me," Dan as Alex says. "When I tell you conversations that didn't happen, I'll just become her and you can fill in the blanks."

Ooh, the cattiness was just oozing from his handsome face.

The story took place around the time Babs' book "My Passion for Design" (in which she was also principle photographer) came out and revolved around her building a shopping mall in the basement of her Malibu house, a place to store the accumulations of her wealth. Th hook was Alex being hired to "work" in the shops, not that anyone but Babs ever visited them.

Meanwhile cultural references - Chloris Leachman in "Phyllis," Bea Arthur, Marcus Welby, Shirley Booth in "Hazel" - abounded. Good luck with those, millennials.

Seamlessly throwing out references to Babs and her roles that any fan would recognize ("You know, wearing a mink hat for tugboat travel" and, you bet your life, I know exactly what scene he's talking about) and the outfits in her dresses shop ("Irene Sharaffs and Cecil Beatons"), he establishes his diva expertise.

Things got even more hilarious the first time La Streisand visits him in the doll shop. "What can you tell me about these dolls?" she challenges in her distinctive Brooklynese, throwing down the gauntlet to the new employee.

"Okay, so Mama wants to play," Alex says smugly, garnering a huge laugh from the crowd.

The script was full of clever lines like that ("I'm not bothered by the shameless manipulation, like in "The Prince of Tides"), even playing off stereotypes for laughs (Babs: "How can anyone not like the Jews?" Pause. Alex: "I'll have to ask my grandmother next time I see her").

Cimo was masterful at switching characters, each person's voice and mannerisms so distinct that there could be no doubt who was talking at any given moment.

After various tentative conversations with his employer, Alex is invited upstairs, first to see the recreated Connecticut barn and yard and then to the Big House. "This was 'Hoarders' on a higher plane," Alex marvels. "This was relentless acquisition with no financial restraints."

Can't say I've ever experienced such a thing. I mean never. Ever.

And I don't want to spoil the play for you, but if you've been wondering all these years why such a star stayed so long with a bully like Jon Peters, I now know the answer. Babs claims he could always figure out what to do on Sundays and she never could.

Which probably means that Jon Peters was part of the "in" crowd and Barbra was only nouveau cool.

You'd think a mink hat on a tugboat would have done it. Somebody should've told her all she needed was a blood plum daiquiri to qualify.

You can fill in the blanks from there.

No comments:

Post a Comment