Monday, July 16, 2012

What is the City but the People?

Never let it be said that my tastes aren't diverse.

There's the emo lover in me.

She's the reason I was at Plan 9 for an in-store performance by Derek Evry, a pop/punk musician from Arlington.

Think Jimmy Eat World or even Green Day.

The first half of his set was just him and an acoustic guitar and included a stellar cover of A-ha's "Take on Me."

As my companion noted, "He's brave to do an acoustic cover of this."

And yes, I love No BS Brass band's instrumental cover of the '80s classic, but slowed down and with only acoustic accompaniment, it was a truly beautiful song.

He even got the crowd to join in on the chorus and a surprising number of people did.

Drummer Ben joined him for the second half of the set and it was then that I turned around to see it pouring rain through the open door.

We hadn't heard a drop over the music.

The music got louder and fuller with Ben's drumming and included a song about playing shows ("Tell Everyone") and Derek's comment, "On this one I get to play riffy stuff instead of just rhythm guitar."

You know, riffy stuff. It's a musical term.

Both guys were excellent musicians and despite the volume, sounded terrific.

By the time the music stopped, so had the rain. I picked up a couple of albums and we were off to 821 Cafe for eats.

Although I am devoted to 821's black bean nachos, I went renegade and got the smoked salmon instead.

I thought it would go better with my iced tequila since 821 isn't much of a wine place.

Delivering my plate, my server (a former Sprout favorite) apologized for the absence of pita.

Instead I had wheat toast points, which were a fine vehicle for the enormous slab of smoked salmon, dill cream cheese, capers and red onions on my plate.

Really, it was an appetizer for two and I was only one.

So, nutritional needs met, we moved on to Virginia Repertory Theater at Willow Lawn.

Okay, let's just call a spade a spade: Barksdale.

Tonight was a gender-reversed exploration of "Coriolanus," a Shakespearean tragedy I'd never read, much less seen produced.

Nay, your wit will not so soon out as another man's will; 'tis strongly wedged up in a blockhead.

The story of a celebrated warrior who refused to exploit his war wounds and victories for political gain was fascinating on a number of levels.

First, there was the A-list female cast playing all the male roles.

Twenty five women and four men.

It's not the odds I'd want in the real world, but onstage for Shakespeare, it made for a singularly distinctive theater experience.

He is a lion that I am proud to hunt.

Susan Sanford was commanding and funny in the tile role, much as she was "Spring Awakening," which I'd seen for the second time yesterday.

Having seen her perform and enjoy herself at the Ghost  Light Afterparty several times now, I had to laugh out loud when her line was, "Have we no wine here?"

Her occasional "huh?" added contemporary touches to her couplets.

But then so did the cell phone exchange between her and her enemy.

Let her alone, lady, as she is now, she will but disease our better mirth.

The story of a disgruntled people who cast out their warrior leader because of the way he treats them had particular resonance during this, an election year.

No Shakespearean tragedy is short, but the pacing on this one kept things moving and never lagged for a moment.

Before I knew it, Coriolanus had been victorious, dumped by his people, embraced his enemy (Molly Hood, as always strong, as Aufidius) and won back over by his tearful mother (a magnificent Alan Sader as Volumnia).

For certain, drops of salt have always been part of a woman's arsenal.

I know; I grew up with five sisters.

So, while I've seen some first class female drama in my lifetime, last night's was right up there.

I can only hope that director BC Maupin continues to charge ahead with his intent to produce the Bard's entire canon with gender-reversed explorations.

Count me in for watching girls take over boy parts.

You can take that any way you like.

The evening ended with music at Balliceaux because after great tragedy, I needed a little Brazilica.

Amazingly, I got world class stuff with Quarteto Olinda, four Brazilian guys on their first tour of the U.S.

That's right; they'd payed the Kennedy Center and Lincoln Center and now they were in Richmond.

I won't even bore you with my usual "is this a great town or what?" lecture, but there it is.

Kudos to the Virginia Center for Latin American Art for sponsoring the event.

The group's music, forro de rabeca, is based on the Brazilian folk fiddle, which I was surprised to see is played not on the shoulder and under the chin, but from just in front of the armpit.

And tonight it was played by Claudio in a vibrant orange flowered shirt, singing in Portuguese and moving his hips most seductively.

My partner in crime and I got our cold beverages and took seats on the back of the second booth so as to see all the dancing and the energetic band.

The four piece had that fiddle, a drummer, percussionist and, most surprisingly, an electric bass.

The percussion was zydeco-like and all four musicians traded vocals which were almost like chants.

And the crowd responded by dancing up a storm.

Toward the end, pairs of dancers would lock hands and other couples would dance through the "tower" of their arms.

After that, boys lined up on one side and girls on another, and people danced through the middle, Soul-Train-like.

The best way I can describe it is to say I felt like I was at a Brazilian hoedown.

I especially liked a song called "Carolina" maybe because I could imagine them singing "Karina" instead.

But at the end of their exuberant second set, it was time to bring the party to a close.

Reading phonetically from a piece of paper, bandleader Claudio said, "This is the last song. Thank you very much.We will see you next time."

But they gave that last song their all, blending traditional, rural Brazilian music with the unmistakable strains of "Eleanor Rigby" throughout.

Frickin' brilliant.

It was a closing masterpiece that put an exclamation point to a day that began with exuberant emo, fought its way through an estrogen-soaked tragedy and spit us out on the other end with a Brazilian dance party.

And all without having to disease my better mirth by driving to the Kennedy Center.

What blockhead wouldn't take advantage of such a smorgasbord on a Sunday night?

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