Saturday, July 30, 2011

Dinner at the theatre: not just for retirees and Sunday afternoons

I think there's a stereotype that says dinner theatre is generally horrible, and the demographic that attends this type of entertainment tends to be geriatric in nature. I recall a scene from one of my childhood favourite movies, Soap Dish, where Kevin Klein's character, a fallen-from-grace-soap-actor is stuck doing Death of a Salesman in Florida and has to yell his lines so the hearing-aid wearing crowd can hear him. This image, I'm glad to say, bares no resemblance to our experience at the Mayfield Dinner Theatre last Thursday night. We were definitely at the younger end of the crowd, but both the food and acting were quite good. As I believe I indicated in a previous post, we won the tickets in the silent auction fundraiser held as a part of Firefly Theatre's Let There Be Height show.

We arrived at the theatre shortly after 6:00 pm and joined the crowd waiting to get in. After a couple of minutes of standing in line we were shown to our seats, a semi-circular booth located on stage right. We had a pretty good, straight on view to the stage, although still three or four rows back. There were no curtains to hide the stage, so we were able to pre-appraise the set, which I think we both approved. It was multi-layered, with a set double set of steps leading to a platform in the back half of the stage. It was made up to look like a swanky hotel with funky metal wall hangings, a collage of mirrors and not only a chaise longue, but a shiny gold, round ottoman too.

At any rate, this was shortly after 6:00 pm and we still had 2 hours before the show started so we hit the buffet. It's been a long time since I've eaten at a buffet--which is a probably a good thing since I love to eat and buffet's definitely encourage eating. The salad bar had an excellent variety from standard lettuce salads, to potato salads, chickpea salads, chilled veggies in vinaigrette-type dressings, there was also sushi, smoked salmon, and shrimp. We also helped ourselves to cheese from the desert table at this point (people were scooping up deserts at this time too). The hot food also varied, with several different types of meat, although I opted for the vegetarian mushroom ravioli, roast veggies, and potatoes. I was s little disappointed with desert, but only because I wished I'd picked more of the best (in my mind at least) selections, and left the just 'okay' treats behind.

The evenings performance was a 2-actor play called Sexy Laundry about a couple who'd lost the 'spark' in their marriage and had booked a night in a fancy hotel to try to get it back. It featured Eddie Mekka who was a regular on the show Laverne and Shirley (I'm aware the show existed, but I'm pretty sure I've never seen more than 5 minutes of it) and as it turns out, he was an excellent actor. The play, I believe, was billed as a comedy, and there certainly were a number of funny bits, but I actually found it quite touching and at times a little heartbreaking as the couple acknowledged that neither were happy with the way their lives had evolved (or devolved?) into. Sometimes things struck close to home as Andrew and I have had discussions about happiness, what it means and how we can have more of it in our lives. It's on going subject that we haven't found the answer to yet.

During the course of an hour and a half the couple, Alice and Henry (I think, I can't remember his name for sure), managed to wade their way through various suggestions on how to reconnect with each other physically (via 'Sex for Dummies'). They tried to tell each other fantasies (Henry's first attempt turned out to be a monologue on how he comes how from a rewarding day at the office, is greeted at home by his loving family--included a fully covered daughter--a delicious dinner, and curling up in bed with a good book, his wife at his side--I thought it was pretty hilarious), come up with sexy nicknames, argue, discuss the 'D' word (divorce), nearly split, and finally realize they still truly love each other. I rather enjoyed it.

The new season at the Mayfield Dinner Theatre starts in September with a Beatles tribute. We're considering getting seasons tickets as at least 3 of the 5 shows intrigue us greatly...and the remaining 2 sound all right too. Plus, they're going through renos right now (I thought the theatre decor was fairly attractive and not horribly out of date, however...) so everything will be new and spiffy if we go again.



Sunday, July 10, 2011

Running away to the 'Crique-ous'

I didn't know that Crique du Soleil was preforming in Edmonton until Wednesday night when we were at our latest Firefly class (contortion and stretching for beginners). Of course being in a class full of circus enthusiasts someone would have to know that Crique was in town and asked if anyone was going. On a whim at work on Thursday I decided to find out when the show was on, if there were tickets, etc., then emailed Andrew to see if he wanted to go. Within the half hour we'd purchased tickets for Dralion on Saturday night. One thing I'd neglected to do while investigating Cirque was find out what the show was about...but as we discussed on our way to the LRT, does it really make a difference? Do people go to Cirque shows for the story, no, probably not. They go to see people fly through the air in crazy costumes with crazy flexibility to lively music (interestingly enough, there was a Debaters show about this recently--the pro Crique side won).

So, the show. As I've learned in the course of writing this post Dralion is a combination of 'dragon' (representing the West) and 'lion' (representing the East), which would explain Andrew's comment that many of the performers appeared to be of Asian origin--I'll get to that in a bit. The show started with a set of modern day clowns (i.e. rather than wearing big shoes and red noses they wore vaguely suit-like outfits) goofing around with the audience. They had sort of a 'Sims-like' speech where they made vocalizations that sounded something akin to Italian, but I doubt were proper words. Eventually they pulled an 'assistant' up from the audience to read the safety warning for the show--except they then proceeded in interrupt him at every turn. They poked, prodded, and teased the poor guy before finally stealing his wallet and running off to the back stage area. Yeah, must have been a plant, right? And then the show began with a group number introducing the themes of the different groups (East v. West).

I don't remember all the details of the order of the show, so I'll just touch on the the individual featured artists, and couple of the group numbers without going into the long and gory details (after all, the order/storyline isn't that important, right?). I think I'm most impressed with balance/strength performers and so the first solo artist was probably my favourite of the night. The performance was done on what was essentially a five or six foot tall pole with a flat top on which the artist balanced. She probably spent the first half of the number on her right hand, showing incredible control and flexibility, then hopped to her left hand. Wow. Another performer who really impressed was a juggler--but also at the same time was something of an acrobat/gymnast. He juggled with up to 6 balls or clubs at once, using his feet at times, and performing various jumps/moves in between catches. He had a couple of bobbles, but carried on and covered over the mistakes well. A third solo artist performed on an aerial hoop. She demonstrated incredible flexibility, and at different points hung from just the back of neck and by her feet.

Most of the group numbers were presented by what I'm assuming was probably a Chinese troupe. They came out three times to present different skills. The first was very much a Chinese marshal arts-type number, combining the use  of tall (several metres) standards, flags, and acrobatics. Again there were a couple of small bobbles, but considering one performing did a back flip, while attempting to keep his standard upright, and managed to keep it from flying into the audience, I'd say it was still pretty impressive. The second number with the troupe had an African theme with tribal-like music (i.e. lots of drum beats) as they performed a series of flips, somersaults, etc., through hoops (probably all of less than a metre in diameter). The last one was different, it was a skipping number. Some times is was a single rope, sometimes double dutch, sometimes there were 3 ropes going (although not intertwining). Most impressive was when they did a 3-layered stacked human pyramid while skipping over a single robe, it was pretty crazy.

Another really interesting number used 2 trampolines, which were positioned against the back wall of the set. The wall had a couple of shelves (plus numerous handholds), one positioned on the lower 3rd of the wall, one in the upper third. The performers would dive from these shelves to the trampoline, and the male artists would even start at the very top, drop to the trampoline, then fly (sometimes with a single step to help them) right up to the top again. They even bounced from one trampoline to the other. It was quite neat--although at times difficult to track everything that was going on.

Before signing off, remember the group of clowns? The audience member did turn out to be a plant, although it took us a while to figure it out for sure. At one point he returned to a seat in the audience before being pulled back up on stage to assist the smallest (he was really short) of the clowns. The plant did a really good job of pretending to be flustered/embarrassed by being pulled up, which is part of why we couldn't figure out whether or not he was a part of the show. The clowns had a little number where they pretended to copy various performers who had been out all ready. They were ridiculous of course, prancing about pretending to be elegant, yet be incredibly clumsy. They were as much of a crowd pleaser as they other artists in the show.

Overall, we had a good time, and Crique was definitely much more fun than staying at home and watching a movie (not that there's anything wrong with that either). I also can't wait until the next time I can get on the trapeze, which will unfortunately be a couple of weeks since our class is now over and we'll have to wait two weeks before we're able to attend another drop-in session.



Thursday, July 7, 2011

Balcony garden 2011: Update!

To be completely honest, Andrew does most, if not all of the gardening. I'll occasionally water the plants, or offer my thoughts if requested, but otherwise it's pretty much up to him. It's not that I don't want/don't like to garden, it's that right now I have a major editing task, and whenever I'm home I pretty much want to be on the computer working (I haven't stopped cooking yet, but depending on how things go over the next couple of weeks...I might). Regardless of my lack of attention to the garden it's pretty green out there. This spring/summer has been a bit weird (cool-ish temperatures, lots of rain) but the vegetation around Edmonton doesn't seem to mind (nor do the mosquito). Let's hope things dry out and warm up a smidge so things can keep growing.

Our parsley taking over the box with our garlic.
I hadn't realize how much the parsley had flourished until Andrew pointed it out earlier this week. I figured I better start using it, so in it went to both lunch (lentil salad) and dinner (pasta) on Saturday.
Our red onions with something else sprouting in the box, I think it looks like a tomato plant.
We should probably to do some weeding given there are foreign plants growing in just about every box on the balcony. However, just because I think something needs to get done, doesn't necessarily translate into actually doing it. Besides the maybe tomato in the onion box, there are some other smaller sprouts that might be peppers...I guess that's what we get from using our compost soil (besides really healthy plants).
Can you see it, the strawberry? I don't think we're going to have too many to harvest.
I'm not sure we'll be able to do much with the strawberries besides pick them as they ripen and eat them. Oh well. The hanger bags seem to work reasonably well, but some of the strawberry plants started out scraggly, and being hung 12 floors above the ground, exposed to the wind doesn't seemed to have helped. Not surprisingly the plants that came from a local nursery are doing much better than the ones that came from Canadian Tire.
Our pumpkins, surrounded by lettuce, which we should probably start using.
Our pumpkins are growing, the zucchini is not and I have no idea why. The zucchini grew no problem last year (until it drowned...). Oh well. I've got pumpkin recipes for pastas and a super delicious cake, so if we get a few small-ish ones I'll be happy.
Our peppers are sprouting!
The peppers are coming along nicely. I don't think we'll do anything special with them besides cook and eat them. We planted a hot pepper variety as well, so if by chance they succeed we'll save them for something...not sure what as I'm not a big salsa fan.
The rubbarb growing like a weed, as it's apt to do.
The rhubarb totally makes up for the strawberries in my mind. I really need to harvest some of it soon and at least freeze it until I've got a nice big supply then make jam or pies or cakes or muffins or, or...I can't wait.
Our potato blue box, filled to the brim. I really, really hope we get some more potatoes this year.
Look at that, just look at it. If that box isn't full of potatoes this year I will break right down and cry--just watch me. I'll video tape it. We hilled them, and the foliage looks as happy as can be, so maybe? I guess only time will tell.
Beans! I honestly don't remember which ones, but they're starting to climb.
And finally beans. We planted a bunch of different varieties and don't remember which one's which--I'm hoping it will become more apparent when we harvest and eat them. They're looking pretty happy right now and they're starting their accend up the trellises. Hopefully they won't get too much sun in their spot and fry like we've had happen in our earlier attempts to grow peas.



Sunday, July 3, 2011

A Latin-inspired season finale at the ESO

I'm falling behind. In previous years I've been pretty good about keeping up with the ESO concerts (and other theatrical events) I've attended. I completely missed blogging about one earlier in the season, and I'm a couple of weeks behind on this one. I didn't want to let the season finale of the Friday Night Master's concert series go without a mention--it was an excellent concert. Full orchestra, great selections, both Bill and Lucus took the conductors stand, it was pretty darn awesome. However, since my memory is getting a bit hazy around the details, I'm going to make this blog post short and sweet.

The first half of the concert had a Latin flavour to it, which was delightful. I would imagine that when many people think of a symphony orchestra, they think stodgy, boring music with grand overtones, not Latin rhythms. The first selection by Spanish composer Manuel de Falla was anything but boring. Bill played the piano for this, Noches en los Jardines de Espana (“Nights in the Gardens of Spain”) while Lucus conducted. As explained later at the after thoughts, Bill was going to conduct from the piano until he remember the last time a someone conducted and played this piece where things fell a part and the orchestra members were missing cues. The ESO performed it splendidly and I think I might like to get a recording, definitely a new favourite.

The remainder of the evening featured music by Ravel. To follow the Latin theme the first half featured Rapsodie Espanole then in the second half, the full score of Daphnis and Chloe. I have exerts of Daphnis and Chloe on CD (on the same one with Bolero--which I requested after discovering Torvil and Dean when I was about 12), but had never heard the whole thing. I understand the whole Daphnis and Chloe suite is rarely reformed (the exerts are far more common) and I can understand why. It required a full orchestra--I think I tried to count at one point and there were close to 100 performers, including 2 auxiliary percussionists (something like 6 or 7 in total). One got to operate a 'wind machine.'* And the melodic themes were constantly changing; however it's a beautiful piece and I think it's considered Ravel's masterpiece, even if he didn't enjoy writing it.

I think that's all I'm going to say. Sorry, no comments on the Rapsodie Espanole, as I started off by saying, this concert took place more than 2 weeks ago, and my memory is waning. It was a fantastic end to the season; however, and I'm looking forward to next year. Andrew and I will be moving from our dead-centre row seats to a loge. We decided we've had enough of crawling over knees, but I'm sure everything will sound just as good from the side.



*We wondered for a good chunk of the evening what on earth the thing sitting at the side of the stage was, and I'm not sure I can adequately describe it now. There was a cloth draped over a wood frame and there was a crank on one end. It made what could be best described as 'wind sound effects' and was constructed by the head percussionist.