Sunday, July 01, 2007

When You're Off Broadway..

We had an absolutely agenda-free day in NYC to do whatever we wanted. We considered going to a Broadway show since it's been so long. However, getting knocked over by long-weekend tourists in Times Square and standing in line at TKTS did not seem so desirable on a hot day. Plus, ticket prices are so exorbitant that there's no real discount(at least in our mind) for all the hassle.

Instead, with an open mind, a Village Voice and a cell phone, we planned our evening. We sat comfortably on a park bench near a fountain. After considering jazz and comedy clubs, I spotted "The House of Bernarda Alba" under theater listing.

I was immediately excited because I had a seen this performance on PBS a few years ago. It was gripping and well-written story by Federico Garcia Lorca.

The Manhattan Theatre Source in Greenwich Village is a small theatre organization run by volunteers. We were able to get tickets for $18 and nabbed the first row. This meant the "stage" was actually the floor in front of us. (If any of the first row folks stretched their legs, they would've tripped an actor and turned it into an interactive performance!). The theater was cold, which was surprising and the audience was quite snug as it was sold-out final performance. The set design was simple, but gave the air of authenticity of a Spanish house.

Here's a great review of the show and here's an analysis of the story itself. So it seems almost futile for me to even write about it! (I liked the wiki one actually because it discusses the themes and symbols of the story).

I will say that when Joy Franz, who played the dictatorial matriarch, was standing in front of us, we felt her power. You didn't want her to see you because you feared her! Everyone acted phenomenally, bringing each character forth in her own individuality. With the final scene, I was on the verge of tears. Then, Bernardo shouts "Silencio!" and the lights fall. I was still stunned.

We were in awe of the talent of these actors. It's a difficult art and one must have that natural ability and passion to do it. I've worked with actors on a film project years ago and I was impressed with the skills required. These were aspiring actors and they were incredible. So, I can only imagine what it must be like to see De Niro or Streep work!

Anyway, we were so happy we went off the beaten path and found something so enjoyable. Then, we needed a great dinner in the city of restaurants.

We were walking around, reading menus in the windows and not sure what we wanted. While we were walking, we noticed Ciao Stella on Sullivan Street. An older Italian woman who saw us read the menu told us we should come in. She was with a customer who encouraged us as well.

"They have a singer," he said pointing to a tall, young Asian woman on a cell phone. She smiled back at us while listening to her phone.

"She's on break now. She plays jazz." they told us. "Piano and sings, too" when we asked further.

We said, "OK, we're just walking now. We'll come back."

Two elderly men sitting at the outdoor table with their wine glasses nodded to us. "Is good. You should come," rolled one man in an Italian accent. They probably planted themselves there every Saturday night. We just smiled and nodded back.

I peeked inside and saw the rustic European style walls. Shadows flickered from the candles. It reminded me of the set design of the play. Huh. Interesting.

They have live jazz.

Four strangers told us we should go in. How many more signs do we need to know we should go?

So, we did. And, we had a good and simple Italian dinner with a good Merlot. The menu was pretty standard, nothing fancy. We're not at Iron Chef Mario Batali's or anything. Yet, it was flavorful and satisfying. It was a great experience in an intimate setting -- the singer joking and taking our requests; talking to patrons across the tables; our waiter was a bello Italiano, too!

By the way, I found a review of Ciao Stella and it seems they chime with me!

It's definitely easier to follow the general path of Broadway show and dinner in the theater district. But, staying open and subject to change is great once in a while.

1 comment:

ZenDenizen said...

Sounds like a perfect evening. The last Broadway show I saw, Company, was really disappointing. I'm a big fan of off off off Broadway.