Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Promised Saturday Night

Nonsense coming out of a pretty woman's mouth ain't nonsense at all. It's poetry.

Which begs the question, what does that make nonsense coming out of this ordinary woman's mouth?

Had you wanted to know, you needn't have gone any further than Graffiato tonight, where a favorite girlfriend and I landed in the middle of the Saturday night rush in search of nothing more than a pizza.

The only possible place to situate our backsides was at the community table, where we were surrounded by first-time visitors, suburbanites and couples who went to college in the '70s, one of whom observed, "When I was in college, I never expected to see such undesirable people running for the Presidency."

We gave her a round of applause.

While it appeared that there were at least three dozen black-shirted servers working, service did not come quickly, so when it did arrive and knowing we had a curtain to make, we wisely cut to the chase, ordering two Proseccos and a Porky's Revenge pizza in one breath.

Somehow or another, the pig-laden pizza (Soprasetta, sausage and pepperoni) arrived prior to the bubbles, don't ask me how. When our vino did show up, my friend immediately informed our server we needed two more in an attempt to jump-start what was clearly a  moribund process.

Given our time constraints, we'd no sooner polished off the stellar pizza when we requested the dessert menu, gave it a cursory glance and asked for the chocolate fudge cake with salted caramel gelato.

I mean, those second glasses of Prosecco were practically begging for an accompaniment.

As our forks slid into the cake, the foursome next to us turned their attention our way. The woman next to me leaned back and her husband leaned toward me, spoon in hand, eyes big as saucers. He didn't say a word, so I smiled at him.

"Don't you know what it looks like when a man begs?" he asked plaintively. I smiled again. Actually, yes, I do know what it looks like when a man begs, I told him sweetly.

The quartet roared. "Best retort ever!" the husband across the table from me laughed. "Good for you!"

Do I get extra points for quickness, for lying on the spur of the moment, for saying it convincingly?

Because we could see the theater from our seats, we lingered until 7:50 and still easily made our curtain for Cadence Theatre Company's "The Mountaintop," even having time to jump into a theater discussion before curtain time.

When we overheard the theater critic behind us talking about watching "the most Anglicized Italian family" and about "how foreign an ethnic family is to Richmond Baptists and Republicans," both of us swiveled in our seat, sure that he was talking about "Saturday, Sunday, Monday," a play the two of us had just seen and been underwhelmed by (where were the Italian accents, the hand gestures, the signature Neapolitan passion? All MIA).

Dissecting a disappointing play turned out to be an ideal segue to a fiercely powerful one without a weak link in the cast, albeit a cast of two.

"The Mountaintop" told the story of Martin Luther King's last night on earth, and his imagined conversation with a maid at the Lorraine Motel who brings him coffee.

During the time they smoke Pall Malls ("My Momma said those Winstons'll kill you") and talk, it gradually comes out that she's not a maid, but an angel come to prepare MLK for his final hour. But it's not all dour doings because along the way, she tells him how she'd lead the movement, informs him that god is a woman and engages him in a raucous pillow fight.

A two-actor play rests squarely on the shoulders of the talent and there was no shortage in such a compelling production.

Nailing the inflections and cadence of King's distinctive preacher-man speaking voice - when he answers the phone, it's always in a deeper, more heroic voice - Jerold Solomon conveys both the charismatic leader determined to leave the world a better place and the weary and worried Everyman who knows he's a walking target.

Commanding the stage in her turquoise blue uniform and white apron, Katrinah Carol Lewis plays Camea with all the passion of a deeply flawed woman who has a chance to redeem herself by doing this job for the woman upstairs.

She's sort of the Clarence to Jimmy Stewart's George Bailey in "It's a Wonderful Life," in that she's studied her subject - his file was thicker than the one the FBI had and thicker than the Bible - and she's just as determined to earn her wings.

Let me put it another way. You know how Ginger Rogers had to do everything Fred Astaire did, except backwards and in high heels?

Well, Katrinah had to portray not one, but two characters, perform a fiery monologue wearing men's shoes while standing on a bed and voice/sing a video montage of the future.

Oh, yes, and wear high heels.

While I've long been a fan of Cadence's top-notch productions, it was the first time for my friend - who worked in the theater business for years - although I'd assured her she'd be impressed.

When the play ended, she turned to me and exclaimed, "Now, that's theater!"

Neither nonsense nor poetry, that was just fact.

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