Theater In The Ground

Last night Kish and I joined Dr. Science and the GV Jogger at the Franklinton Playhouse for the world premiere performance of Dirt, a play by Creighton James.  Dirt tells the story of two brothers who return to the structure where they killed and buried their father, needing to dig up his remains to avoid their discovery when an immediately impending construction project requires tearing down the structure and excavating the area.  The two brothers clearly have been affected by the killing of their father, and let’s just say that, as the play progresses, they end up discovering a lot more than dear old Dad’s bones.

But the purpose of this post isn’t to discuss the curious psychological journeys of Rusty and Jimmy in Dirt, but rather to note what interesting and flexible performance space is afforded by the Franklinton Playhouse.  When we last visited the Playhouse, for a play featuring a debate between Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens, and Leo Tolstoy about Christianity, the theater was configured so that patrons sat around a small, spartan, raised stage.  For Dirt, the former stage had been torn down and a completely different, much bigger and more elaborate stage and set had been constructed.  Instead of the former theater in the round, you might call the current configuration theater in the ground.  The stage and set included doors, windows, and an area where the characters could dig, patron seating on three different sides of the stage, and dirt — lots and lots of dirt.  (In fact, one of the “special thanks” in the program went out to Kurtz Bros. Mulch & Soils.)

Red Herring Productions, which is presenting Dirt as part of its ambitious, 10-play production schedule for 2019, tore down the prior stage and built, and then dirtied up, the current one in only 18 days.  That’s pretty impressive, but the fact that the theater itself could be so radically reconfigured is pretty impressive, too.  It makes you want to come to a future Red Herring performance of a different play, as much to see what the theater looks like as to watch what’s being portrayed on stage.

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The Random Restaurant Tour (XXIII)

Kish and I are lucky to live in one of the great “walk to a restaurant” zones in Columbus.  We’re surrounded by great food options at virtually every point of the compass.  Last night, we walked a few blocks to the west on a cold, blustery night to check out Ambrose and Eve, a new place that opened recently on High Street.

Ambrose and Eve is one of those places that offers an intimate dining setting, with a seven-seat bar and tables positioned in different room-like segments of what looks to be a converted house.  It’s got a snug, welcome feel that is much appreciated on a frigid winter evening.  The place was hopping, so we sat and ate at the bar, which is dominated by the painting of the two people shown above.  We like eating at the bar from time to time — you always get great service, because the bartender is right there, and it’s also got a more urban, communal feel than sitting at your own table.

(To digress for a moment, sitting at the bar encouraged us to spend some time enjoyably analyzing the painting.  It’s interesting because the two people — we’re taking a wild guess that they are Ambrose on the right and Eve on the left — almost appear to be from different eras.  Eve’s got that ’40s coiffure and wide-shouldered look, and Ambrose looks like he stepped out of a bowling alley in, say, 1970.  But they looked very happy together, and we were very happy discussing them.)

The restaurant has an interesting menu, which can be found at the link above.  I ignored the “Eat Your Veggies” section, of course, but was a bit perplexed by the array of choices, all of which looked quite good.  If you’re sitting at a bar, the logical course is to ask the bartender.  He strongly recommended the chicken and dumplings, which I promptly ordered and is shown above.  I got the sweet bread nuggets as an appetizer, and Kish went for the wedge and the eggplant parmesan.  The food was great.  You don’t often get the chance to have veal sweet breads, and they were served with a scrumptious, light breading and two very tasty dipping sauces.  And the chicken and dumplings, which featured a delicate ricotta gnudi, will probably become Ambrose and Eve’s signature dish.  I ate it all with pleasure, and Kish reported that her food was also excellent.

When you really like a restaurant’s food, its ambiance, and its nearby location, you’ve pretty much covered the waterfront.  Ambrose and Eve means we’ve added another terrific option, at the west-by-southwest point of the compass.

Deploying The Mad Bomber

The weather app on my iPhone cautions that it’s 2 degrees Fahrenheit outside, on its way down to a low temperature below zero.  There’s a brisk 14 miles per hour wind blowing steadily from the west that, combined with the temperature, has created a wind chill factor of minus 16 degrees.  And the National Weather Service has issued a warning that the extreme cold and wind could produce wind chills as low as 40 below zero, which could cause exposed skin to experience frostbite in as little as 10 minutes.

That kind of scary cold is an assault on all that’s holy and everything warm and pleasant in the world.  But nevertheless, in a few minutes, I’ve got to take an exuberant, cold-loving dog out to do her business.  What to do?

Alert the armed forces!  It’s time to deploy the Mad Bomber!

The Mad Bomber is easily the warmest hat in the house.  In fact, it’s easily the warmest hat in any house.  Made in China, it features a nylon shell, natural rabbit fur trim and interior lining. It even has a little clasp that allows you to lock the hat around your chin, the better to protect those delicate, flabby neck wattles by swathing them securely in fur.  When you don the hat, your encased head immediately begins sweating.

Of course, it’s not a stylish piece of headwear, as a bit of doggerel I composed some years ago acknowledges.  The Mad Bomber belongs on the head of a rustic villager trudging across the windswept Siberian tundra, or perhaps your high school janitor out salting the teacher’s parking lot on the coldest day of the year.  But then, no one turns to the Mad Bomber for style.  It’s deployment is purely a defense mechanism, designed to give humans a chance at surviving the most brutal temperatures and crippling cold.

Brace yourselves, Columbusites — it’s Mad Bomber time!

The Random Restaurant Tour (XXII)

In a community called German Village, there should be a German restaurant or three.  We’ve got Schmidt’s Sausage Haus, which has been a German Village landmark for decades, we’ve got Valter’s at the Maennerchor, and now we’ve got the Alpine German Restaurant and Bar, which opened recently in the building formerly occupied by the Juergen’s Restaurant and Bakery.

On Friday night Kish and I had our first dinner at the Alpine.  We figured a cold winter evening was a good time to try the place, because we’d only have to walk a few blocks to get there and because, let’s face it, German food is well suited to frigid temperatures.  The Alpine has a snug little dining room — I’d recommend making reservations if you’re going there for dinner — and offers a full range of German fare.  That means lots of different meat, potato, cheese, and bread dishes.  It’s what my grandmother would have called “stick to your ribs” food.

I’m a traditionalist, so I went for the veal weinerschnitzel with mushrooms, cheesy spaetzle, and a bread dumpling.  The veal was lightly breaded and tender, the spaetzle was like macaroni and cheese nuggets, and the bread dumpling was delightfully moist.  It was the kind of meal that encouraged you to get as many items as possible onto your fork and into your mouth at the same time, and it went perfectly with a full-bodied glass of red wine.  I ate every bit of it.  Kish got a cucumber salad and the goulash, which was too much for her to finish.  She took home the rest and I happily reheated it and had it for lunch on Saturday, and it was great, too.

I’m pleased to report that, after careful deliberation, we decided not to have dessert, because we’d already maxxed out the carb meter and wanted to demonstrate some semblance of moderation.  But I can also report that, with that meal under our belts, we were properly fortified — you might say Alpinized — as we walked home in freezing temperatures.

 

Dueling Pianos

Last night we had a mid-winter, get out of the house night on the town with family members. After dinner at the Tip Top, we Ubered down to the Big Bang Bar in the Arena District for a Dueling Pianos performance arranged by Sister Rocker. I wasn’t even aware of the place, but then the Arena District is full of surprises.

When Sister Rocker first suggested a trip to see Dueling Pianos, I initially thought it would be like Ferrante and Teicher, or perhaps cocktail lounge piano music. I could not have been more wrong! This was about as raucous as piano music (and a drum set) can get, with three guys rotating on stage in staggered one-hour shifts and pounding away at the keyboards of two grand pianos. They took “suggestions” (song requests unaccompanied by money) and “requests” (song requests submitted with moolah) — guess which ones were going to get played, and which would get crumpled up and tossed? — and they played everything from vintage Jerry Lee Lewis to country to ’80s MTV staples to last year’s hip hop hits. And there’s a lot of audience participation, both through singing along and through birthday and anniversary celebrants and bachelorette parties going up on stage to dance and perform.

It makes for a rollicking time and it’s obviously popular, because the place was packed — as crowded a venue as I’ve seen in years, in fact. If you reserve a table, as we did, expect to feel a bit like a sardine, because they really pack people in. It’s a young crowd, too; we were the oldest attendees by far. And the amount of alcohol consumed by the patrons — the better to lubricate the vocal cords and loosen up lascivious onstage dance moves, I guess — was colossal. This was a crowd that was ready to rock out and fight the mid-winter blahs with some liquid-fueled entertainment.

Dueling Pianos isn’t something I’d do every weekend, but it’s a nice entertainment option to have on a cold winter night.

On The Shores Of Lake Schiller

Thanks to the melting of the snow we got over the weekend, followed by the persistent rains that fell more recently, Schiller Park had become Lake Schiller this morning, with many of the pathways completely flooded.  The whole area had a certain ghostly beauty under the light fixtures, with the watery areas just beginning to freeze as the temperature dropped.

I imagine the Columbus water reservoirs are full to bursting, given the amount of precipitation we’ve received already this winter.  If California wants to bring an end to its long-standing drought, I’m sure the water-logged states of the Midwest would be happy to work out a trade in which our excess water is swapped for the Golden State’s excess sunshine.