You never can Tell

Last night, we caught the latest at Calshakes Theatre in Lafayette, California – George Bernard Shaw’s “You never can tell”

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A story about how first impressions, original thoughts, and pretenses aren’t always what they seem, it was witty and captivating from start to finish.  As usual, fantastic ensemble including our favorite, Danny Scheie.  Loved the creative set of a California boardwalk in the early 1900’s and their costumes.

For our picnic before the show, we grabbed sandwiches from Ike’s Place (aka Mike’s Place in SF) to share.  On the bottom, my half of the “3 Way” (BBQ, Cheddar, Halal Chicken, Honey Mustard, Pepper Jack, Real Honey, Swiss) and on the top is my half of the “Stupid Eggplant Sandwich” (breaded eggplant, Marinara, Provolone):

image  Delicious and really hit the spot.  The blend of the flavors from the “3 Way” was so yummy and messy that it was given that I licked my fingers clean..

And for a side, homemade gazpacho from Williams-Sonoma “Soup of the Day” recipe for July 25:

image  Chunky and full of flavor, it was delicious and refreshing on a warm afternoon.  And an easy soup to pack to go!

Book of Liz

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Playing right now is the Altarena Playhouse in Alameda is David and Amy Sedaris’ “The Book of Liz”.

I have griped a lot about the productions at the Altarean this year but this was fantastic.  A story about a “Squeamish” (a tongue and cheek nod to the Amish) woman named Elisabeth Donderstock and her quest to find herself and her purpose in life.  Frustrated with her routine and underappreciated life of making cheese balls on the Squeamish farm, she runs away to discover “the real world”.  Experiences told over twelve scenes, she comes to the realization that if you try to measure your worth through the lens of someone else, you will always fall short.

Witty writing by the Sedaris’ coupled with a great ensemble.  My only complaint was that the accent of the two characters from the Ukraine was more British than Russian.  But otherwise, well done, Altarena.

Latin History for Morons

Last weekend, I checked out John Leguizamo’s “Latin History for Morons” at the Berkeley Rep Theatre in Berkeley, California:

image  It’s a one man play with the premise of a Latin American man trying to understand Latin history so that he can teach his son about his roots.

The two lines that stuck out the most to me from the play were 1) “Why is Latin art called ‘folk art’ while European art is called ‘fine art’?” and 2) “Why is ok to melt the gold in Mayan art for coins” and not ok to turn “Michelangelo’s statue of David into marble counter tops?”

It is a dark humored portrayal of the obliteration of natives people during the colonization by Europeans of South America.  It jabbed at “the man” as the protagonist tried to fine a Latin hero for his son to be proud of.  I laughed a lot but I was also quite moved with some of the hard questions of racism and discrimination laced throughout the play.

The reviews were not great but I enjoyed it a lot…and so did my audience, as we gave John a standing ovation!

With my ticket, I got a free drink.  Berkeley Rep’s main theatre is “Peet’s® theatre”, named after Peet’s® coffee, their main sponsor.  So, I couldn’t resist getting one of their Peet’s® cocktails!  In particular, Peet’s® with Bailey’s®!

image  This was weird at first, but after giving it 30 minutes to meld together, this was a delicious drink!

Cabaret

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I caught the matinee of the Roundabout Theatre’s production of “Cabaret” via SHNSF this past weekend.  It was a revival of a classic, one that I saw over 15 years ago when I was a student in New York City.  All I remembered about this musical was that it was dark and thick with sexual angst.

This production is a creation of Sam Mendes and Rob Marshall.  The music was pretty much the same and the set was simple.  Exotic dancing and racy songs here and there, but the focus was more on the impending war and the personal pain of the characters.  Identities of the characters were torn between how they felt, where they come from, and what was expected of them.  My heart went out to all of them – a real testament to the directing and writing.

The musical was much darker than I remembered from the last time I saw it.  It was so dark that I found the setting of the Kit Kat Klub very ironic.  Overall, the talent was great – especially the emcee, who deserved the amazing ovation he received at the end.

Fences

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Last night, I caught a production of August Wilson’s “Fences” at the Calshakes Theatre in Orinda, California.  It is a play about the life of an African American family in the late 1950’s – Troy, the father, trying to make ends meet and provide for his family as a garbage collector after failed dreams as a pro-baseball player;  Rose, the mother, trying to keep the peace and protect her family; Lyon, the eldest son of Troy and stepson to Rose, trying to survive as a musician and comes often for monetary support from his father; Cory, the younger son, trying to win praise from his father and reach goals that seem impossibly out of reach; Uncle Gabe, the schizophrenic brother of Troy and retired vet, who spent time in out of hospitals and his delusions; and Bono, Troy’s best friend, who is considered part of the family.

This was fantastic production and the talent was outstanding.  Aldo Billingslea plays Troy, an ass of a man, but was portrayed so well, I had chills down my spine.  Rose was played by Margo Hall and she nailed that too (someone needs to give her an award!!).  The subject matter was quite deep and dark – more than I would bargain for on a Saturday night – but I enjoyed every minute.  Bravo!

If you have read my other posts from my experiences at Calshakes, you know we always get there early for a picnic dinner before the show.  Last night, I made some spiced rubbed fish sandwiches from a recipe I found in the Life and Home section of Instyle® Magazine’s August 2016 issue.

image  I took whole tilapia fillets and used a BBQ spice rub I had in the cupboard (after all, it contained the same spices as listed in the spice rub for the recipe).  I then baked them instead of grilling because that was much easier for me.  The slaw on top is an interesting mix of red cabbage fennel, red onion, mint, pumpkin seeds and green apple – loved the flavor and textures.  The best part was the yogurt tartar sauce, made with a cup of greek style yogurt, dijon mustard, gherkins, capers, and herbs.  Altogether with a fresh roll from the bakery, this was super duper yummy!

For dessert, I made the pear ginger and thyme tarte tartin that was found in the same issue of Instyle®.  I was trying to save time by not carmelizing the sugar but it made for a blander tart:

image  And hard to share at a picnic!  So used the same recipe and made some turnovers, since the crust was just puff pastry:

image  And added some caramel on top!

Playing My Hand

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Last night, I caught the one woman play “Playing My Hand” at the Altarena Playhouse in Alameda.  It was a story of a middle aged woman struggling with a gambling addiction and all the emotions that go with it.

I hated this.  The actress was also the writer and she was way too dramatic for my taste.  The story told over 1.5 hours centered around the angst of a middle age woman as she juggled her duties as a mom, a wife, and an elementary school teacher.  Her only excitement had been the occasional gamble during family vacations to Lake Tahoe.  But when a local indian gaming casino opened up closer to home, her occasional pension for gambling became a full blown addiction.  I didn’t find her to be endearing at any point of the story.  Instead of sympathy, I felt pity for her.  Many people in the audience were laughing but I couldn’t stop checking my watch.    I was so glad when it finally ended.

While I applaud Altarena’s effort to support local artists, this was terrible and glad that it wont’ be coming back.

The First Supper

There was a short run of a play entitled “The First Supper” by Karen Schiff at the Altarena Playhouse last month.  Ms. Schiff is a local talent from Alameda, California and I was excited to support her in this production.

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This was a interesting tale about two types of people who identify themselves as Republican.  Two families are brought together by the surprise pregnancy of their teenage children and the differences in their beliefs come to light as they meet for the first time.  The son was from a Jesus loving, gun loving, anti-big business, pro-life, homeschooled, family of 8 who are republican mainly for the “Christian” way of thought.  The daughter is from a rich upper class family, who’s father is the owner of a newspaper conglomerate and their personal chef is a gay black guy.  They are self made millionaires and vote republican because it protects their money but are more moderate on issues of abortion and gun control.  In the end, it was a witty way to poke fun at the conservatives – how divided they a really are and confused on what is “right”.  From a very liberal playhouse and community, I wouldn’t expect anything less.

Down the street, there is a Feel Good Bakery and their fruit tart that day was with figs and berries!

image  It was so good, I finished it in my car before I got home!

What a way to support Alameda!

the Mariinsky Ballet in St. Petersburg

While traveling through the Russian Federation last month, I had a chance to catch a production by the world renown Mariinsky ballet company in St. Petersburg.

The Mariinsky theatre in St. Petersburg has been around since the 1800s and was expanded into a second stage a few years back.  It was all lit up as we headed in for a once in a lifetime production:

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The interior was all glam and glitz:

image  But the way the seats were arranged was horrible.  They were not staggered and heads blocked your view any way you looked.  The audience also had no manners or respect for the theatre – they were drinking soda, eating stacks, taking photographs (despite many announcements that recordings of any kind were not allowed), using flash with photographs, and talking throughout the production.  I was appalled.

But, the Mariinsky is the most celebrated ballet company in the world.  And having a chance to see Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake” performed by them was an amazing treat:

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The dancers were flawless.  The corps were perfectly coordinated and did not waver for a second.  The principal dancers were so strong and graceful.  The lead ballerina, Anastasia Matvienkov, was amazing.  They allowed photographs at the end of each act, so I took advantage of the opportunity to capture the moment:

imageimage  Bravo!

Much Ado About Nothing

Last weekend, my 2016 season at the California Shakespeare (or “Calshakes”) Theatre in Lafayette, California started off with a rendition of William Shakespeare’s “Much Ado about Nothing.”

It was a gorgeous Saturday evening in the California sun and we picnicked with this pizza from Ragazza in San Francisco (http://www.ragazzasf.com/):

image  Love the chewy crust of this Amatriciana pizza w/ tomato, pancetta, chilies, pecorino, and an egg on top.  YUM.

This production was updated by playwright, Kenneth Lin (“House of Cards”), with director Jackson Gay.  True to all of the CalShakes productions, the sets and costumes are all modern.  The language started out in modern language as well, like “how’s it going”, but went back to Shakespearean prose by the middle to the end.  That was confusing to me – I would have preferred for them to stay in either one prose or the other.

image  That being said, I got lost a few times in the production.  Actors were playing dual roles and mixing up genders, which they often do at Calshakes, but it was a little too much that day.  All in all, not a bad production or a way to start the season.