Monthly Archives: January, 2013

The Most Earnest Looking Person

I’ve never met Oscar Wilde. Heard of him, sure. Dorian Grey, the indecency trial, that’s hard to miss. But I’ve never read any of his work or seen one of his plays. Whether good or bad, I went into the Neptune Theatre’s production of The Importance of Being Earnest with fresh eyes, no expectations. Well, maybe one. This is Neptune after all. We know they will knock it out of the park. It’s just becoming a question of how far.

That famous Wilde wit is rapier sharp here, and he stabs society with it and makes them like it. Nothing is off limits, from family to non-educated daily newspaper critics(one wonders if Wilde was thinking of any in particular here). He pokes holes in the idea of someone being important merely because they have a name and nice clothes but otherwise destitute. Hell, he even made cucumber sandwiches sound good.
If you don’t know the story, it introduces us to Algernon Moncrieff and Ernest Worthing. But Ernest is really Jack. Ernest is a persona, the profligate brother Jack goes to see in London whenever he needs to get away and have some fun. Which is something Algernon understands well, being a Bunburyist himself. What is a Bunburyist one may ask? Why Bunbury is the invalid (and fictional) friend Algernon visits whenever he needs to leave the city and his aunts interminable dinner parties. Nothing as horrible as a married couple flirting with each other, you know.
Jack is love with Gwendolen, who loves Ernest. And Algernon, pretending to be Ernest, meets and falls in love with Cecily. (Incidentally, this is my only problem with the play. It seemed as if Algernon only wanted to meet and bed Cecily to piss off Jack. But he meets her and suddenly she’s the love of his life. Minor quibble, to be sure, when everything else is rock solid.) Of course, everyone ends up at the same country house and the fall out is…well, you should really see for yourself. It is quite wonderfully written and Oscar Wilde nailed women here, and everything else, like nobody else.
Ah, but that’s the play, which is the same story everywhere. How did Neptune do? Absolutely fantastic. The set and costumes are the first thing to catch ones attention. And Sean Mulcahy did an amazing job. While in some ways the set was simple, nothing moving, only (only he says) three individual set pieces, it is also extravagant Victorian houses we are looking at here. And they were truly beautiful. And bonus points for showing us the statue through the window of the country house that we see in the garden. A little thing that is greatly appreciated and shows an eye to detail. The costumes, the clothes, the hats, were utterly beautiful and seemed quite accurate. Specifically the women’s dresses. Very well done.
Ah, time for the meat and potatoes. The acting. Amazing job from everyone. From the lazy insouciance of Algernon to the, well, earnestness of Jack, all the actors inhabited their roles as if they were born to them. Algernon is a little flashier, while Jack is a bit long suffering and serious but they both could be over played. That doesn’t happen here. Michael Therriault as Algernon and David Leyshon as Jack were great fun to watch. The rapid fire wordplay was batted back and forth with nary a trip. Even the height difference between the two was played off in a quite natural way. You couldn’t help but want to hear about more of their sordid London outings.
The real stand outs for me were the girls. Marla McLean plays Gwendolen and Chilina Kennedy(a beautiful name I may steal for a character) is Cecily Cardew. The characters come to life in their capable hands. Their odd love for the name Ernest and the characteristics a man with such a name must possess, their feud as rivals to calling each sister, it was really amazing, and hilarious, to watch. And these two young women were just as facile with Wildes language and jokes as the gentlemen. In fact, the cast was top notch from top to bottom, with Lady Bracknell also having some hilarious lines and delivery.
This is Neptunes 50th year and they only keep getting better. I believe George Pothitos, the artistic director, could stage a play against a black curtain and it would be awesome. I’ve never been a theatre guy but I’m coming to love it, and Neptune specifically. A great place with great people who produce great results. The Importance of Being Earnest will have you laughing, sniggering, maybe groaning a time or two. But you will never be bored. It is entertaining from start to finish. So go see it if you can. You won’t be disappointed. And me? I’m off to read more Wilde, while having some cucumber sandwiches.

Chicken-fried Steak and Gravy

This recipe from the Glory Of Southern Cooking. Amazing book and well worth checking out. For anyone with celiac, there’s not a lot of flour in this, so it should be easy to adapt.
For The Steaks:
1/4 cup milk
1 large egg
1 cup dry bread crumbs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Cayenne pepper to taste
Four 4-ounce beef cube steaks
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons bacon drippings
For The Gravy:
2 tablespoons bacon drippings
1 large onion, minced
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup milk
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

To fry the steaks, combine the milk and eggs in a small bowl and whisk until well blended. In another bowl, mix the bread crumbs, salt and pepper, and cayenne pepper till well blended and transfer the mixture to a plate. Dip each steak in the liquid, coat with bread crumbs on each side, and place on a plate.
In a large heavy cast-iron skillet, heat the oil and bacon drippings over moderately high heat till quite hot. Add 2 of the steaks to the pan, cook about 2 minutes on each side or till golden brow, transfer to a plate and keep warm. Repeat with the other 2 steaks and reserve the pan drippings.
To make the gravy, heat the bacon drippings over moderate heat, add the onion and cook, stirring, about 1 minute. Sprinkle the flour over the onion and stir 1 minute longer, scraping up any brown bits from the pan. Add the heavy cream, milk, salt and pepper and whisk briskly till the gravy is thickened and smooth, 6 to 7 minutes.
To serve, place the steaks on individual plates and ladle gravy over each.

Personal notes:
This is a damn good recipe and worked out very well. You don’t see cube steaks much here but I used what are called fast fry and it worked well. I fried up a pan full of bacon for lunch and that gave me enough drippings. The on,y thing I really changed was dropping the onion from the gravy. It’s really a matter of personal taste. As mentioned, I don’t think it’d be hard to adapt for someone with celiac, since there’s just a cup of brad crumbs and a spoonful of flour. What you would switch it with, I’ll leave to you. I used Panko crumbs, which didn’t stick as well as could be but didn’t do bad. Enjoy.

The Whorehouse (Or The Continuing Adventures of Wendell)

Some of you may not be here for stories of redneck hoods and copious bad language so the story will continue after the jump. Thanks for reading and feel free to leave comments.
The truck bumped along the dirt road, pulling into the field doubling as a parking lot. He parked at it the end, backing in so he’d be ready to go in a hurry if need be. He’d seen a man killed cause his vehicle was blocked in and swore he’d never make that mistake.

Continue reading →

Snow

I love walking through the snow. Whether it’s just flurries, snow showers or a full blown storm, I just love it. It drifts down, quiet as can be, silently coating everything. You don’t always see it until you pass a street lamp, the light illuminating the white specks falling, swirling when there’s a burst of wind. The sidewalk is covered, the snow crunching under my boats as I walk. It’s quite rhythmic, really. Crunch, crunch, crunch.
Someone is walking ahead of me. I am following their footsteps. About the size as mine, but with a longer stride. A runner? Maybe I’m following myself.
I get to the main road and the snow has picked up. Either that or it’s just more visible. There’s more lights, more traffic. The snow is just swirling around as it falls. Small fat balls, long white streaks. If your wearing something dark, sometimes you see a flake land on your glove or sleeve, showing all its beauty. Mostly it’s just white. Thousands, millions of snowflakes falling to the ground where they become part of one big whole. Snow flakes to snow. Beauty to danger. To annoyance.