Friday, March 11, 2016

Hook and Ladder

Unintentionally, we had a front row seat to a situation.

Sitting at Cask Cafe with the garage doors rolled up to this gorgeous evening, a car sped by at a terrifying speed, especially considering it was Robinson Street. Moments later, a fire truck did the same, followed by four or five more fire trucks.

So many vehicles continued tearing down the street that the capacity crowd at Cask barely even registered the sirens or lights after the first.

Or maybe they were distracted by the noisy Saison pop-up happening inside.

Fortunately we'd managed to nab the last open table when we walked into a sea of humanity milling around the bar. A restaurant friend spotted me from across the room and gave a thumbs up to the pastrami taco, shouting her recommendation over the heads of the crowd.

Given how busy the servers were, it seemed wisest to just order most everything on tonight's pop-up menu and go from there.

Mildest in flavor profile was the achiote grilled shrimp taco with avocado crema and cilantro slaw. Most flavorful was chicken tinga, crunchy with onion and radish. Spiciest was Chorizo-potato in a corn tortilla. And, yes, most distinctive was pulled brisket pastrami with Swiss, pickled cabbage and mustard seed and Russian dressing on a rye tortilla.

A side of chunky guacamole had us adding a schmear to everything.

Our only issue was the thickness of the housemade tortillas, which supplied too much breadiness, proportionately speaking, to the fillings. That said, the rye tortilla was nothing short of brilliant in combination with the usual suspects inside.

When we left Cask, we could see that a police car blocked access to Idlewood, confirming where the fire must have been, but all looked calm now on the southern front, so we drove on to Richmond Triangle Players to see their offering for the Richmond Acts of Faith Festival.

"Lazarus Syndrome" dealt with Elliott, a now-middle aged man taking a cocktail of drugs twice a day to combat his HIV-positive status, his "cheerer-upper" actor boyfriend, Steven ("You'll always be younger than me. I hate that'), brother Neil, who swears he's happy no matter how it looks otherwise, and father Jack, there to remind his sons of their family history and Jewishness.

At its most basic, it was a play about grieving for the losses we all experience, except that it was also told in an often humorous way, such as when Jack tells son Neil, "You name my grandchild Katelynn? It's like a knife in my heart!"

Better he should have named her Rachel or Esther?

The action centered around a big Jewish meal that Jack makes and brings over after taking cooking classes when his wife died. The joke is that he hadn't resorted to that until he'd eaten every last bite of food she'd left in Tupperware containers in the freezer for him.

I have no doubt that my mother will do the same, continuing to feed my father from the grave long after she's gone.

Playing brother Neil, Andrew Boothby was the standout, my friend and I agreed, with his easy conversational tone (even when speaking through a full mouth of sandwich) and perfect timing. We'd liked him in "Gypsy," but we loved him in this.

He never seemed to be acting with a capital "A."

The play was a terrific choice for the AoF festival, dealing with how we as humans go on after those around us are gone, whether in the Holocaust, the World Trade Centers or simply through age, disease or tragedy.

We do it through faith, because we have no other choice but to affirm life, preferably with a little humor.

Discussing the play afterwards, my friend compared how people who experienced the disasters in the play handled life to the post-Civil War era when soldiers who'd made it through battle and disease had to return home and jump back into farming again in order to survive.

She thought there was something about digging in the dirt and looking forward to future crops that represented a kind of therapy they desperately needed.

Everybody hurts, REM famously said. The people whose home went up in flames tonight are undoubtedly experiencing that right now. I know from my own catastrophic loss many years ago that life goes on, assuming you embrace it.

Of course, being a cheerer-upper myself, I couldn't have done anything else.

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