Friday, November 18, 2016

Ginger Ale for Two

Some people I know have a "dressing drink" but I'm of the opinion that the "dressing soundtrack" is even more essential...and occasionally educational, too.

Tonight's began with hearing the Carpenters do a husky-voiced cover of "Masquerade," a song I'd always associated with George Benson, at least up until I read those Leon Russell obituaries last week and discovered it's his song, which only means now I need to hear his version.

And so the tangents began...

Listening to Karen Carpenter had me recalling a Chrissie Hynde interview from the 90s(?) where she was saying how much she idolized Karen's breath control and singing ability and tried to imitate it, a musical homage that made sense to me the moment I read it.

And sensibly is how you make your pre-theater dinner plans to ensure making an 8:00 curtain.

I never tire of taking first-timers to My Noodle and watching the look of delight on their faces when they experience the semi-privacy of the multi-level tiki booths. That they can also dish up a green curry to he who swears that he's never had a decent green curry in this town speaks volumes.

The schizophrenic soundtrack - Benny Goodman to the XX - won points with the music obsessive, while the fake fireplace just looked silly, but there's no question, I made another convert.

Of course, some would call me an idiot for turning so many people on to my fave neighborhood Chinese joint, but to share is divine, no?

My date was surprised to hear that Heritage Ensemble Theatre Company's production of "Ceremonies in Dark Old Men" was happening at Pine Camp because his only memory of it was 20 years ago and all he recalled were sports fields.

And now? Galleries, classrooms, an auditorium. Just goes to show some people don't get out quite often enough.

We got there early enough to have a good blather first, although we didn't get to the really juicy subjects until three minutes before curtain, leaving an unknown ending for the listener when a key anecdote had to be curtailed abruptly.

Cards on the table, please.

Given the small Thursday crowd, we had our pick of seats for the Pulitzer Prize-nominated 1969 play, a classic from the Harlem Renaissance according to the program. Set in 1958, it reminded me of "A Raisin in the Sun" with the same sort of characters and issues of striving and surviving.

That's how you won her. Kept her laughing.

It was all about a black family after the mother (who supports all of them) dies, telling the story of what happens once the sole employed family member, the daughter, tells her unemployed father and two brothers they have to find work or move out of the house where she pays the rent.

You can't just go around killing people and getting away with it. Who does he think he is, white?

Watching the tragicomedy unfold, I couldn't help but wonder how I'd never even heard of this important play before. Just as perplexing was seeing talent onstage that I'd never seen before, despite being a regular theater goer.

It was impossible to take your eyes off of Foree Shalom as deeply damaged and ultimate bad guy Blue Haven (in blue suits, naturally), while Toney Q. Cobb ( know, best name ever, right?) effortlessly inhabited the lazy father content to play checkers and relive his glory days on Vaudeville instead of attracting customers to his empty barber shop.

Ain't nothing meaner than an American-born cracker.

Watching a play like this, I couldn't help but be grateful to Heritage Ensemble for satisfyingly producing a classic piece of black theater that deserves to be seen by audiences of all colors still dealing with the same racial issues 47 years later.

Who the hell ever told every black woman she was some kind of goddam savior?

For that matter, who the hell doesn't have an "undressing soundtrack" when possible? "And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out" winds up being Yo la Tengo's extended goodnight. Fitting.

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