On My Boyfriends’ Bicycles

Our friend Shannon Mayhall appeared in a play reading. What is a play reading? The playwright wants to see it performed, see where we laugh and don’t laugh, before everything is locked in stone. So we trucked down to Elgin to eat our fave Shanghai Restaurant in downtown area a block from Hemmens. Good dinner, nice iced coffee. Mmm.

Then drive two blocks to park and walk to the historical Professional Building and up the elevator to the 8th floor and in a lovely old room with white pillars. The event is free, but first-come and we sit in end seats on the second row. There is free wine and cheese in the back, and water, and the playwright is selling her Whiskey Mattimoe mystery paperbacks in the back. I bought the first, Whiskey on the Rocks.

When the players come out, they are on bikes. Not bikes, but music stands which they carry around and dismount from. The director, Richard Pahl, explains beforehand that this is to simplify the reading, not having to balance, and you can put the script on the music stand. Most of the actors are pros, and don’t really need the script.

The play was a nice one about a wild woman who rides helmetless thru a bunch of boyfriends and steals bicycles from them. She is in an accident. Shannon was the main female, and was magnificent. I talked to Richard at intermission and he said if she was available, she could easily work downtown. I agree. She has presence.

Afterwards, the playwright, Nina Wright, came out and talked, and commented on how different the Saturday and Friday audiences were in their reactions. Richard said the cast knew where the audience would laugh on Saturday, so were able to play up their parts a bit more.

Lots of fun. A neat way to see a play-in-training.

Bangkok House & Shanghai Restaurant 11 Douglas Ave, Elgin, IL
Elgin Art Showcase, 8th floor of the historical Professional Building, 164 Division St., Elgin IL
Newspaper Article

This American Life – Live

Drove down to the Chicago Theatre on Sunday. Traffic not too bad inbound, horrible outbound. Lucky.

We paid top dollar ($50.50 ea) for these seats on the main floor, about 15 rows back to the left. We could see Ira at his desk perfectly.

Mike Birbiglia told a good story. Several movies, one with David Rakoff and Dave Hill which was fun, but would have been funnier if we ever watched CSI. A very Felix-the-Cat-ish (or maybe Steamboat Willie-ish) cartoon by Chris Ware. I loved the post-it note illustration of Starlee Kine’s story. Joss Whedon (yes, him) did a song from his musical DVD director’s commentary track. Interesting and funny.

Dan Savage came out to tell a very moving story about his mom. They showed home movies of an early TAL live show where both Ira’s and Dan’s mothers, now both deceased, are talking real dirty. It was very neat.

The preview of the DVD looked real good too – no Showtime here, so have not seen it yet.

I just love the show. This show is the best thing on the radio today. Fun. Now go see it at the HD theaters. And buy the t-shirt. Support them! My only complaint was the audio – sometimes it was hard to hear. The HD version might be better.

This American Life

Look Homeward Angel

We went to see this play, adapted by Ketti Frings from the book by Thomas Wolfe at Johnsburg High School. They were presenting it as a warmup on their way to presenting it at the Illinois High School Theater Festival downstate.

The auditorium is in the round; we sat in the 3rd row. The sets were comprised of several platforms to represent the bedrooms, and other areas of the boarding house, and the stone shop and yard.

Wow. These “kids” are good. The Eugene Gant character (by Steve Guardi) was haunted, the mother, Eliza Gant (Mandi Soos) was insane, the father W. O. Gant (James Anderson) was kind of good hearted but a raging alcoholic, and according to Bette, the family was consistent with an alcoholic family. The brother Ben (Jeff Leber) coughed so hard we thought he would lose a lung.

If they don’t win something for this play, it’s a crime. Good luck y’all.

High School Musical – Woodstock Opera House

Bette and I attended the Woodstock Children’s Summer Theatre performance of HSM at the Woodstock Opera House in Woodstock IL. We have attended many events there, by far this was the loudest — not the show, but the audience. We went to the 2PM show with two young friends, Raea and Keefer, and to fit into their schedule we went to the same show that was a prize for reading library books. Translated — lots of younger kids, and they mostly don’t shut up for most of the show. We were in the center balcony, good seats, really. We were usually on the main floor for past shows, but these were the hottest tickets in years…

We knew Daniel Rausch, the youngest, and sadly the last, of the uber-talented Rausch boys; he was the lead. We enjoyed the PA announcer. The cast was good. Although they were miked up, sometimes the audio was not good, especially given the bad signal-to-noise ratio. But we got the jist of it, and the dancing was wonderful.

Two 10-ish-year-old girls behind us were talking and one mentioned (while the show was going on), “I don’t like this one — they are not the real people.” True, but perhaps she missed the point a bit. It was a fun visit to a new play for us, and for $6 apiece, much better than paying some adult troupe to pretend they are high schoolers for $70 each.

The young thespians constantly amaze us with their talents.

Afterwards, we headed to the Club for a nice dinner, where the kids were well behaved and enjoyed the piano player, Dean Malsack, where he regaled us with stories of his Baldwin piano with black keys.

Rosebud, Indy and Tosa

Sara and Ryan gave us a gift certificate for $25 for the Rosebud Cinema Drafthouse last year. We finally got around to using it at the 4PM show of “Indiana Jones & The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull“. (The certificate had expired but Bette had called to confirm we could still use it). It looks like a small neighborhood theater, but in the lobby is a snack bar that sells *GASP* beer and wine. I ordered a Spotted Cow, Bette got some wine, Sara had some Mike’s concoction. We ordered the appetizer sampler plate with garlic cheese bread, fried mozz, onion rings and chicken fingers, took a plastic number ala Culver’s and headed into the theater.

We saw rows and rows of black velour loveseats, with nice side tables between each one to perch drinks and eats. We sat, set our number on the back of the sofa and waited. In 15 mins, our food came, delivered to the sofa. Way cool.

The movie was OK, typical Indiana Jones, he and Marion Ravenwood a bit older from when I first saw them, but with lots of crashing and smashing about. Bette liked the romantic angle. The ending was a bit bizarre, but on the whole it was fun. Especially on the sofa. With beer. I can deal with a much lower quality of movie in this environment.

We then headed out to find dinner. We started to head back to the expressway, but Sara mentioned the Chancery in Wauwatosa (or Tosa as those in the know call it), and we were driving right by. We parked, and walked across the street to check out the other restaurants along State Street. There was a brick oven pizza joint that looked good, but we walked to the corner and looked into Ristorante Bartolotta. Italian, nice bar, white linen tablecloths. Bette was all about this place. We went in, and found they were booked for dinner at a table, but we could get full service at the bar. I hesitated but Bette did not, and we joined up with Tim at the bar.

Tim set us up with white linen napkins (baby tablecloths) and knew good points and bad points of all the dishes. Bette and I got wine, me a Barbera “Le Orme” and Bette a Sauvignon Blanc. Sara wanted Riesling, but in Italy? Nein. Tim set her up with a rose colored “Bigaro”, a more dessert wine. She seemed to like it. Tim brought around the tongs and dug hunks of bread out of the bread bucket, and dished out the olive oil.

I had the Beef Filetto ($35) with nice garlic mashed and veges. Done medium rare, pricey, but good. Bette got the Pomodoro tomato/cheese salad (which we split, and Tim brought it out on two plates – nice touch) and the small order of Gnocchetti di Semola al Ragu di Crostacei ($16) for the main course. Mmm. Sara had Braciola di Maiale ($23), a huge pork chop on the bone. Nice. She had a heck of a doggy bag (for her dad). Tim answered some questions about Grappa I had from San Francisco, and let me sample one.

For dessert we had coffees and a Sundae di Gelato ($7), which was vanilla bean gelato and caramel sauce. Simple but wonderful.

Tim got a great tip, sitting at the bar was more fun than a table, and I could not think of one thing wrong. Great place, and worth the trip. Highly recommended.

Rosebud Drafthouse 6823 W. North Ave Wauwatosa, WI 414.607.9446
Wauwatosa Chancery 7615 West State Street Wauwatosa, WI 414.453.2300
Bartolotta Ristorante 7616 West State Street Wauwatosa, WI 53213 414.771.7910

Forum at Woodstock Opera House

Mom, Dad, Bette and I went to Bull Valley Golf Club for dinner, and then were off to see “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” at the Woodstock Opera House.

The play was good. It is a bawdy farce, and some of the door slamming etc. seemed to go on too long, but the cast was great. Standouts were Kyle McCoy as Pseudolus, who mugged to the audience and Jim Crow as Hysterium. Without players for these roles of this caliber, I can see the 2:30 running time as a huge snoozefest. They engaged the audience and each other with insane energy. After seeing these two drive the show, I don’t feel like I need to see it again. I think I saw it once in high school.

“Seussical” at Wheeling High School, Wheeling, IL

Went to see Katherine as a bird girl in Seussical at Wheeling High School. The show was good, the costumes were great, and it was fun to see Kat up there. I am constantly amazed at how talented high school kids are.

Note: see the “Horton Hears a Who” movie or read it and “Horton Hatches an Egg” or you won’t know what is going on. We saw Horton in FL on vacation…good thing.

Fireside Dinner Theatre

Drove up the beaten path to Whitewater to the Fort to see the Christmas show. We had heard the Theatre was fun, so picked a free night. We picked a bad night to go — Fridays are hard. Needed to leave by 5PM. Stressful. Bad planning on our part. We are tired people come Friday night.

Signs directed us to the theater off of WI89. Buses waited to dump people off. We went in, checked Bette’s coat, and walked past the bright shops to the fireplace, bordering the bar and restaurant, a large, but homey space. Everything is clean. Cool sculpture in the center of the bar.

Service was excellent, though the bread girl was the liveliest server out of the bunch. Table setup was diner quality paper napkins & china. Food was good fish fry food — not spectacular, and for gratuity sake they specify that the food value is half the ticket price. For a ticket of $63, that is the most expensive $30 fish fry I ever had — compare to the excellent Crandall’s in Hebron at $14.

The meal starts out with fresh baked bread, somewhat boring for homemade bread, more like light white bread. On the table is a dish of yummy applesauce with a heavy cinnamon flavor and a huge dish of coleslaw. I don’t like coleslaw, but that was the salad, so I tried some, and kept eating. Good thing I like cabbage, and the dressing was much lighter that other coleslaws I have tried.

The fish was fried nicely, done, but still moist and not overcooked. Batter good. Fries good. Hey if you can’t have fries with your fish fry, why bother? Bette had the steamed fish and loved it, and the small red potatoes. Served with stir-fried vegetable medley. And the bread girl came around again.

They served good if generic wines for a reasonable $5.50 per glass, good large pours. The manager walked through once to ask us how things were going. Excellent.

Several small shops inside for browsing before the show and after dinner. We got a wooden “decoy” of a loon to join our ducks on the mantel. Neat Christmas tree displays with different themes, my favorite was the blue-green one based on peacock feather colors.

The show is dinner theater in the round. Lively, well sung and staged, with the obligatory small children. A “Santa’s Elf” named Snowflake stole the show with magic tricks and snappy patter. The center of the stage has a 10 foot diameter elevator through which props and cast members entered and left. Very cool. A lovely choral rendition of O Holy Night with the attractive cast dressed in evening wear ended the show. If you are looking for secular entertainment, this ain’t it — the second act was a Christmas pageant, complete with the readings, just like in church. Better props, though. We wondered if any of the cast was Jewish.

Biggest complaint — starting time of 8:30P. The show was out at 11:20P, and we had a 1.5 hour drive home. Late nite. Should have stayed with Sara in her condo in Fort, but we have a dog to think about.

Fun and high quality. Recommended, perhaps for a matinee, check out some of the other shows. If I went again, I might try the other meal.

1131 Janesville Ave, Fort Atkinson, WI, (920) 563-9505