Sunday, January 17, 2016

A Conversation to Be Wished

A carefully scripted evening delivered a surprise ending with intermittent attention below the waist.

For the second night in a row, I had the pleasure of being ferried, this time by a right-brain friend, a person from whom I get a Google calendar reminder that he'll be picking me up at 5:45 so we can make our 6:00 reservation at Rappahannock. So personal.

Seated next to the kitchen, my couple date got their winter on, indulging in hot gin punch and a hot buttered rum while we noshed on a pork and pickles plate of Soprasetta, Prosciutto, pickles and and apple mostarda, a piquant pork preamble to our meal.

When I inquired about tonight's oysters, our server (who was apparently untrained in silverware placement, having reversed knives and forks at all three place settings) surprised me by announcing a "guest oyster" from Tangier Island. Oh, boy, where do I sign up?

I didn't forgo my usual Olde Salts (puh-leeze), I just added in Tangiers for contrast since they were described as "buttery and meaty," two qualities I admire in my food. Naturally, I began with the Tangiers since they were milder (and as decidedly meaty as promised), so when I slurped my first Old Salt afterwards, it was especially like getting a mouthful of ocean after being knocked down by a wave.

Exquisitely delicious, in other words.

After being invited to dip into Beau's colorful ceviche studded with beets and grapefruit, I went straight to my Chincoteague clam chowder which boasted an appealingly and unexpectedly light hand with cream and was chock full of house bacon and crispy fingerling potatoes. I don't know that I've had better.

Our server expressed difficulty in grasping "theater time," asking if we needed the check by 8 for an 8:00 curtain (a bit of travel time would be helpful, my dear), but we we made it out in time to collect the car and have a short adventure along the way.

Waiting downstairs by the parking lot attendant for Beau to fetch the car, the attendant looked over at me and without missing a beat, observed, "You have some nice legs!" no doubt due to my magenta lace tights. In a fine mood, I got cocky, informing him he wasn't going to see a better pair tonight.

"You don't need to tell me," he said, taking a seat on a stool in front of his booth. "I'm a leg man." He went on to explain that he'd bought his wife some lacy tights, "But then she got big and they didn't look the same."

And since I always introduce myself to a leg man, I met Alvin, who seemed quite happy to chat with us between dealing with arriving parkers.

When Pru cracked wise about his name, Alvin asked if we remembered Alvin, Theodore and Simon, the chipmunks. Duh. "I had a friend named Theodore," he says. " We used to run the streets together. Then one time, he decided to rob a bank on Broad Street. Who'd have thought the boy had it in him? Tripped me out," he finished, shaking his head.

Whoa. I didn't even want to ask if he'd known anyone named Simon.

It was a sold-out crowd at Richmond Triangle Players for Quill Theater's production of "Stupid F**king Bird," a crowd that included the play's actors in costume mingling with patrons. I did a double-take standing next to Audra, whose dark make-up rendered her almost unrecognizable.

Walking by a small group, my tights again got noticed, this time by a couple of award-winning actresses, one of whom declared, "You look fierce!" about my ensemble. Not bad for an old lady, eh?

Is it wrong to admit that I've always wanted to be called fierce, at least once?

Beau had procured seats in the "sky box," that is, the uppermost tier of RTP, with the bonus of a cocktail table and a commanding view of the immersive set containing life-size trees and a wooden walkway with the audience seated all throughout.

The play, a riff on Chekov's "The Seagull," was as navel-gazing as a Seinfeld episode with everyone absorbed by their own reality and problems. Emma was the worst kind of mother, self-centered and un-involved, and her son Con's psyche was deeply bruised from it.

Only Trig, the successful writer who alone manages to die happy, is able to see himself "in a complicated mirror, not a fun house mirror," a difficult appraisal for all of us.

Mash is in love with Con (who aspires to create a new form of theater rather than re-imagining the old way), who only has eyes for the vapid Nina, but Mosh's misery over unrequited love necessitates boundless misery, black clothing and make-up.

When challenged about her somber attire, she shoots back, "Black is slimming. I'm in mourning for my life, I'm that unhappy."

And she's one of the ones who finally throws off the shackles of misery and embraces life, marrying and starting a family with the devoted Dev, a gem of a guy who's loved her for years while she ignored him, but never given up (the kind of male character women dream of).

Plenty of the play's lines resonated with me ("You can be happy if you're poor"), some of it mirrored a time I well remember ("It was sexual harassment that worked out at the time") and some stated truths I'd willingly attest to ("A love so profound my thighs ache").

Interactivity was key to the story as the actors actively engaged the audience for opinions. Con, seeking to figure out why ambitious Nina doesn't love him, queried a man who advised that she'd love him if he was successful because "cute doesn't matter."

The over-riding theme was that it was time to make some fresh choices, and who among us wouldn't agree with that, no matter what point we're at in our lives.

"I wanna be 27 again," 60-year old Sorn says. "I think I'm ready to do my late twenties really well now." Couldn't we all?

Like on Seinfeld, it wasn't easy to like all the characters given how baldly they wore their neuroses and issues on their sleeves ("You all are so hopelessly f*cked up in so many ways"), but the cast made these unhappy people come alive in a way that balanced comedy and drama as if on life's see-saw.

Deny it if you want, but all of us have, like Mash, wallowed in our unhappiness while squirting a can of whipped cream into our open mouth (okay, if you're a guy, maybe it was EZ-Cheese), a scene that read like a page from anyone's story.

Love and life are discussed endlessly (add clouds and you'd have Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides Now"), as is art and the issue of whether anyone will care about what you're creating in 100 years (personally, I hope my blog is an informative chronicle of Richmond's 21st century scene and that's enough), making for endless soul-searching.

As we all learn in the journey of life, too often "all the bullshit stifles all the possibilities." Sadly, when we allow that to happen, it's easy to wake up one day and realize most of your life is over and you've never really lived it. I see no point in that.

The creative staging of the play meant that from our sky box seats, we were often looking at actors' backs as they spoke, not a bad thing since part of Con's goal as a playwright/director was to create new forms of theater, aka happenings, not boring actors playing others in scripted traditional theater, which he hoped was going the way of the dodo and bell-botttoms.

Tonight's production proved that Quill is masterful at staging a thought-provoking happening that expands the definition of theater. I only wished I'd been in a seat that allowed one of the actors to ask my opinion of life and love because I could have talked.

But you don't go see fascinating theater and not allow discussion time, so we left Scott's Addition for Belle & James' DJ night, where, as it turned out, I was happy to run into all the young dudes, or at least plenty of my male friends.

My favorite shoegaze guitarist was playing DJ, so the soundtrack (which, appropriately, included multiple obscure Bowie covers) was killer, but there was also the unexpected delight of running into the history nerd, the heavily bearded former bartender now construction hero, the fashion expert leaving tomorrow for Cancun, the liquor rep now transplanted to the beach and up for a tasting and, of course, the friend in charge of B&J's comestibles.

Once we finished our drinks, he was so kind as to take us on a tour of the soon-to-be-opened hotel. It was like being on a set, kind of eerie looking at rooms completely devoid of humans, but already with touches such as fragrant lilies in vases and piles of fruit in bowls.

The scene was set for people to begin arriving and living their lives, whether enthusiastically or miserably, exactly like the characters in "Stupid F*cking Bird."

Except I don't want to do my late 20s again. Truth be told, I'm more than happy throwing myself into living out all the possibilities of every decade.

Something's lost, but something's gained, in fiercely living every day.

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