I wish I’d liked it better

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Sunday afternoon we had our annual outing to Cal Shakes with Mike and Linda. We saw a brilliantly directed play that somehow failed to create any lasting emotional engagement.  I really wanted to like this, and have spent the last 2 days trying to find something wonderful to say about it.  Now I realize that I can’t.

The Mystery of Irma Vep is a hilarious romp through genres, wherein 2 men play 8 roles, both male and female.  The author, Charles Ludlam,  was a prolific gay writer in the turbulent 1980’s, who eventually succumbed to the AIDS plague.  The play includes themes of sexual identity and gender identification that are very up to the moment despite being over 30 years old.

The two actors, Danny Scheie and Liam Vincent, provide a tour de force performance, whisking through 35 costume changes, different voices, different personas, song, dance and farce.  Their stamina is as important to the production as their very evident talents.

Reviews usually talk about the plot, but not this one, and that’s probably why I’m felling so empty about Irma Vep. The plot is gibberish. wandering all over the place in support of the characters, rather than the other way around.  The play roves from rural England to Egypt and back, providing an excuse for many things to happen but no real reason for any of it.  Then it strays off into werewolves and vampires, raising the important question: who would win a fight between the two?   I’m betting on the vampire.

The play is brilliantly directed by Jonathan Moscone, in his final outing for Cal Shakes.  He leaves after 16 years with the company to take a position at the Yerba Buena Center. His deft touch and impeccable timing will be missed.

So go see Irma Vep if you want a good time with lots of laughs.  The acting is superb, the sets and costumes are inventive and the directing is sparkling.  But if you can find any depth, meaning or significance here you must have been an English major.

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After the play we had dinner at The Cooperage, the ordinarily excellent restaurant in central Lafayette owned by a scion of the McCormick and Schmick restaurant group.  It just wasn’t their night.

First, we got seated inside, near the kitchen, instead of outside on the lovely patio.  The noise here is deafening–I don’t know why they don’t try to tone it down.  Lafayette isn’t the center of the hip young crowd, excessive noise isn’t a virtue here.

We ordered the smoked salmon flatbread.  They were out.  And it was only 6:30 in the evening.

Gail and Mike both ordered the prime rib–but they only had one prime left, so Mike got it and Gail ordered the daily special rib eye.  More about this later.

I ordered the fettuccine.  They were out of fettuccine, would I like linguine?  Sure.

Gail and Linda both had the rib eye, and were both surprised to find it came covered in a non-wonderful demi glace, which was decidedly NOT mentioned in the description.  Neither was amused. The waiter said he was surprised, too. The kitchen hadn’t told him.

The waiter came by and was picking up the bread plates.  I pointed out that we didn’t really need them because we had no bread.  He asked if we wanted bread, and the answer was yes.  He still picked up the bread plates, then brought bread.

The bill arrived, and I found it surprisingly high.  Turns out that the prime rib is a reasonable $32.  The off-menu Rib Eye special?  An unmentioned $48.  Do I feel screwed?  Yes.

I guess we’ll go back to The Cooperage sooner or later, but I don’t think I’ll like it quite as much in the future.  And I’ll sure as hell ask about the price of the specials.

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