Sunday, June 16, 2019

Music and Its Hapless Victims

"You don't seem like the kind of person who'd care, but it's a whole fish including the head and tail."

So what kind of person do I seem like?

It was our server at Stables on Belmont who'd offered the information when I'd ordered the grilled rainbow trout with mustard greens, blistered tomatoes and lemon poppy basmati rice. I assured her I'd have no problem with the entire fish and I didn't. In fact, when she returned later, there wasn't much left besides the head and the tail.

One hand outstretched for the plate, she paused. "Unless you're going to eat the cheeks," she observed, mentioning her fondness for fish cheeks and collar, an affinity I share. Let's just say that she held off on clearing the plate until there was nothing left in the fish's head except eyeballs.

And I have before, but I didn't tonight.

And that was after my theater posse- Pru, Beau and Queen B - started the meal with country pate and its sidekicks: pickled red onion, grainy mustard, oiled bread and cornichons, accompanied by a lovely Sancerre.

Although we'd gotten there early so we could make a play, it wasn't long before other groups started coming in, too, including a young couple that could have been poster children for the West End, or, better yet, UR. I can make derogatory generalizations about UR to Pru because that's where she graduated from and always considered herself an outlier.

She caught what I was kicking, brilliantly noting, "The white entitlement is blinding," and shielding her eyes while I cracked up.

A couple Pru and I knew also came in and stopped by the table to chat. They've been married something like 24 years, so when he dropped one of his stock jokes, his wife rolled her eyes, saying she'd heard that old chestnut dozens of times (Bumper sticker: "I don't mind if you're straight as long as you act gay in public").

"It's Joke #23," he said defensively.

While I opted for bourbon chocolate mousse and a glass of Penfolds Grandfather 20-Year Tawny Port (an especially civil ending to a meal, I thought) and Queen B had butter cookies with lemon curd (so veddy British), the happy couple ordered coffee and a cheese plate. We'd nearly finished our desserts and Pru and Beau were sipping their coffees and still there was no sign of their fromage.

When our server stopped by, Beau was succinct. "Cheese?" he inquired, raising an eyebrow. Leaning down to answer him, she announced, "I think he's cutting it now." Everyone cracked up like we were in middle school and, voila, it soon showed up.

Talking about what had been going on in our lives lately, the subject of several of Beau' recent nincompoop moments came up, apparently after a good long while with none. "Nincompoopery builds up," Pru explained of the recent spate.

"It's like bile," Beau posited, ever the savant, setting Pru and I off again.

One of the restaurant's staffers had commented on several of our ensembles, prompting Pru to tell him that she'd had a hand in them all: choosing Beau's shirt, gifting me with the orange Italian shrug and giving Queen B the fantastical necklace she was wearing. I shared that we were en route to Richmond Triangle Players for "Grey Gardens," causing his face to light up. "You all look perfect than!" he crowed. "Take me with you!"

We didn't, of course - who's got an extra ticket to "Grey Gardens," after all - but the compliments were nice.

The play laid out the weird lives of Edie Bouvier Beale (both mother and daughter have the same name, necessitating "Big Edie" and "Little Edie" monikers) through song and occasional dance, detailing how they went from rich to ruins living with dozens of cats and raccoons, lots of poop and no running water in the Hamptons (referred to as a "mean, nasty Republican town").

I mean, Little Edie was engaged to Joseph Kennedy, Jr., at least until her crazy mother Big Edie told him stories about her nudity and promiscuity that scared him off ("It was my sobriquet, Beautiful Body Beale!"). After all, had he not been killed in WW II, he was the Kennedy who was supposed to end up President, remember?

All the songs allowed Big and Little Edie to show off their singing chops (and goodness knows, Susan Sanford and Grey Garret have them), but Pru and I agreed there was something deeply disturbing (as I'm sure was intended by the playwrights) about hearing Big Edie sing a racist ode like "Hominy Grits."

Next to watermelon
There ain't no tellin'
Dem's da bestest vittles
Us colored folks gits!

When the scene ended with the keys cover being slammed on the pianist's fingers to stop it, some guy in the audience called out, "Dah-licious!" for the scene's high camp. At least that's what I'm hoping he meant.

There was also an awful lot of humor like, "He lost both legs at Iwo Jima. Romance was inevitable," not to mention a gospel choir singing and testifying all over the stage. A Norman Vincent Peale  character singing "Choose To Be Happy." And, of course, the tragedy of Little Edie being called back from NYC once she does finally escape, only to resign herself to spending the rest of her life doing her demanding mother's bidding.

Because real life often doesn't end neatly or happily.

Afterward in the ladies' room, one woman announced that she now needed to see the cinema verite documentary to better understand these weird characters. Pru, Beau and Queen B had watched it again just last week in preparation, Beau for the first time.

Her friend shot back, "I saw it when I was eight. My mother showed it to me on VHS or something." I looked at her askance. Why on earth would your mother have shown you something so disturbing at such a young age, I had to ask.

"To mess me up?" she guessed, not exactly smiling at having to dig that deep.

Hominy grits aside, that's the Grey Gardens legacy for you.

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