Saturday, November 28, 2015

Endless Package of Possible

Christmas 2016 begins, as all good Christmases do, in a bar. Because when life isn't working out the way you'd hoped it would, where better to go?

I met my date at Bistro 27, where we were mostly surrounded by theatergoers who, like us, were trying to finish eating by 7:30 to make a curtain. But while most of them were headed across the street to see a strip show - "Gypsy" - we had our sights set on "Christmas on the Rocks."

As we all know, occasionally alcohol trumps sex.

Food trumped both to start and I arrived to find my date occupied with a Cosmo, which he willingly schlepped to a table so we could share an artichoke and pancetta appetizer in the big, comfy chairs.

When it came time to order, I surprised the hell out of him by choosing an entree - the rockfish filet with lump crabmeat - instead of another appetizer, ably demonstrating that he doesn't know me as well as he thought he did, despite years of eating together. I know because he said so.

A girl's got to keep a few surprises up her sleeve, if for no other reason than to prove that she can.

Moist and flavorful as the rockfish was, the stars of the plate were the lumps of crabmeat as big as my thumb and the toothsome glazed carrot slices, which were the first thing I ate before I even touched anything else. They were that good.

Because we had time and don't always when we're going to a play, we both got dessert instead of sharing one. When our server inquired how our chocolate tortes were, my date raised an eyebrow and stated the obvious. "It's chocolate."

By the time we got to Richmond Triangle Players, the lobby was full of people already in line at the bar to score drinks before curtain time. Such is the beauty of RTP. It makes sense - if you need alcohol to make it through actual Christmas, of course you need alcohol to make it through a play about Christmas.

David Allan Ballas had crafted a most excellent set, depicting Mac's Bar fitted out with the attention to detail that indicated he'd been in a few, from the framed dollar bill on the wall to the bar's name painted on the window to the jukebox and oddball things (oars, antlers with a Santa cap) adorning the interior.

The premise was simple. It's Christmas Eve and a succession of loners walk into the bar and overshare with the bartender, played by David Millman as a second generation bartender.

The hook was that each was the grown-up version of someone from an old Christmas movie or TV show. I'm not even sure your standard issue millennial would have recognized all the characters, given that the most recent source was 30+ years old. Horrors, one even had black and white roots.

First came Ralphie with a patch over the eye that had been shot out, not by himself but by a student. You see, Ralphie was now a certified firearm instructor teaching classes for the NRA. He was also a plushie, with all the attendant problems of needing furry clothing and stuffed animals to get off.

Little Susan Walker from "Miracle on 34th Street" had grown up to be a realtor and no-nonsense career woman similar to her mother and, like her, was still convinced that Kris Kringle could work miracles and deliver real estate.

Far funnier was Hermie, the elf who wanted to be a dentist, from "Rudolph." Walking in wearing yellow pants, an orange fanny pack and sporting fabulous blond bangs swooping out under his cap, he asked the bartender if he knew where he'd come from.

"Provincetown?" the barkeep guessed.

Using the exact cadence and voice of the original actor, David Clark nailed Hermie, as he went on to explain about "the oral hygiene that dare not speak its name." I was rolling on the floor he was so funny.

Kimberly Jones Clark had a ball playing naughty Cindy Lou Who with pink bows in her platinum blond hair, pink shoes, belt and choker, her story told in the distinctive rhyming pattern of Dr. Seuss.

How was I to know he was vulgar and crass?
He gave me some water and patted my ass!

Who'd have expected her to wind up marrying the Grinch, but as she put it, "You think black men are hung? Try going jade!"

Coming in for a pint, Tiny Tim, all grown up and wearing a patched coat, was now cured of his afflictions by a generous Scrooge (whom he called the "Warren Buffet of his time") after his "psychotic break." Only after doing a shot with the bartender toasting Scrooge did he begrudgingly say, "God bless us, everyone," without sounding like he really meant it

Russian-accented Clara from "The Nutcracker" arrived wearing her nightgown and demanding vodka and to be carded to prove how young she looked. Sure, she'd fallen for the nutcracker ("No one fills out white ballet tights better"), even married him, only to find him in bed with her brother Fritz.

Again with the innuendo. "Once you go crackin', you can't go backin'." It's absolutely true: If RTP didn't do it, who would?

Sad sack Charlie Brown was the last to wander in, desolate after having had to put down Snoopy IV on Christmas Eve. When the bartender offers him some peanuts, he says he's allergic. "I'd rather not spend Christmas Eve with an Epi-pen in n my neck."

Turns out he's in a loveless marriage with Lucy, but brings us up to date on the rest of his gang ("Peppermint Patty and Marcy, now that's gay!") before the little red-headed girl all grown up wanders in lamenting never having met the round-headed boy she'd fallen for years ago. "I think he was the love of my life."

When she says she wants to dance, he backs off until the bartender pushes him toward her, saying, "Go kick the football."

So maybe life does occasionally work out. Give me some water and pat my ass and I'll let you know.

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