Monday, June 22, 2009

A Bit of This and That: Stratford, some really good coffee, and a great local book club

Stratford was wonderful. I'd highly recommend either of the performances we saw, both Cyrano de Bergerac and The Importance of Being Earnest. Colm Feore was brilliant as Cyrano, and I actually cried during the last scene, which is extremely unusual for me in a live theater setting. This was especially impressive, as the director chose not to cut one word of the final scene, and as those of you who are familiar with Cyrano know, it is probably the longest death scene in theater history. It could easily become a parody if not handled in the subtlest manner, and Mr. Feore did that beautifully.

Earnest was hysterical as always. The revelation here was the performance by Brian Bedford as Lady Bracknell. He was spot on, and several of the students we went with (and my own German daughter, S) didn't even realize she was being played by a male actor until the first intermission, when we told them. Ha! It was also fascinating to watch Mike Shara transform from the somewhat dull Christian of the day before to the sparkling, witty Algernon. I'm not saying he gave a dull performance, but again, he did justice to Christian's role.

I also have to acknowledge the fact that given my theater design roots, I was able to see the work of three of my design heroes: Santo Loquasto's sets and Alan Brodie's lighting for Cyrano, and Desmond Heeley's sets and costumes for Earnest. As per their reputations, Loquasto's set was as functional and brilliant as Heeley's work was over-the-top and simply gorgeous. What a total treat with the addition of being able to discuss it competently with C, who now understands the ins and outs of theater design. D has had to listen to me babble about it for years, and he smiles, but has no idea what I'm talking about.

Again, a brilliant time, and if you live nearby and want tickets, go here.

We also enjoyed our sojourn to Stratford. It's a charming town and the walk along the river is lovely. We also found Cafe Balzac, on Ontario Street between Downie and Waterloo, a place after my own heart. It's a fair trade coffee bar, with Mapleton's Organic Ice Cream (the maple crunch was to die for), local baked goods and sandwiches from Sirkel Foods - another local Stratford institution. All I can say was that everything there was wonderful (we returned twice in one day - for coffee and baked goods for breakfast and for ice cream before Earnest), and these lovely pictures by S can give you a sense of the place:







Lastly, a bit of local (Ann Arbor) love:

Gene Alloway, of Motte and Bailey Booksellers (which will surely be a Local Love Friday business, if he's interested - it's a wonderful, independent bookshop), wrote me and asked me to let people know about a culinary book club that will be taking place there (and it's right next to the PFC, so you can stop by there, first). This is what he wrote to me:

The first book is CURRY : TALE OF COOKS & CONQUERORS by Lizzie Collingham. Future books will be Jennifer Lee's FORTUNE COOKIE CHRONICLES and Ian Kelly's COOKING FOR KINGS : THE LIFE OF ANTONIN CAREME, THE FIRST CELEBRITY CHEF. Thereafter the group will have a chance to choose what is next.

The first meeting will be July 15th at 7:30 p.m. here at Motte & Bailey, 212 N. 4th Ave. I will have used copies in nice shape for sale here at the shop, and in selecting the first books I made sure inexpensive used copies were available online for those wishing to buy for themselves as well.

Since the second two books are on my list in any case, I'm very excited about this venture. I know that Kitchen Chick gave a shout out about this in her wonderful blog, as well.

21 comments:

TeacherPatti said...

Welcome back!

The book group sounds super...I wish I wasn't in two other book groups, or else I'd totally join! Thanks for posting about it!!! :)

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Thanks, Patti. It was a fun trip! I'm really looking forward to the book group, too.

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

glad you had a great trip!

Luisa Perkins said...

Heavenly! It all sounds fabulous.

anno said...

Sounds like a wonderful trip, but glad you're back! Not sure how I've missed Motte and Bailey, but I will catch up with them soon!

Karen Olson said...

Have always wanted to go to the Stratford festival, and this makes me want to go even more. Glad you had fun!

Lola said...

Welcome back, and wow what a wonderful trip this has been, Jen!

[I had the priviledge of working with Colm Feore in 1998 on a film entirely shot here in Rome called Titus. It was the Julie Taymor (Frida; Across the Universe) adaptation of the Shakespearean Titus Andronicus. A very dark tragedy in which Colm played Titus's (Anthony Hopkins) younger brother.]

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

NYC - thanks!

Luisa - it truly was.

Anno - it's a wonderful shop - it's right between the PFC and Dogma and Catmantoo.

Karen - have you been to The Mount? They had a wonderful Shakespeare Festival there each year in Lenox, MA. That's a bit closer to you, I think.

Lola - I will definitely put that on my list of things to see. What an extraordinary experience that must have been. Julie Taymor AND Anthony Hopkins are two more of my "arts heroes"

painted maypole said...

the theatre sounds great (particularly after a HORRENDOUS show I saw on Friday. painfully bad. ack. And I knew someone in it, so had to be as kind as possible about it. even though he clearly knew it sucked as well)

Mariposa said...

Welcomes back! You sure had fun... ;)

Bellini Valli said...

Now that I live in the "wild, wild, west" I no longere visit Stratford but it is a town with history and rivals it's namesake in England:D Glad you enjoyed the plays so much:D

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

PM - somehow I feel bad theater is one of the most painful experiences out there. I guess because I love it so much. You never can tell, though - D and I have only walked out of a show once - and it was an RSC production! I'll write you about it - ugh. It's worse when you know someone who's in it.

Mariposa - we really did!

Val - ah... but there are so many lovely things out in that Wild, Wild West of yours! I'd so love to live there. Sigh.

Keith said...

Isn't Balzac's great! The vibe is so relaxing, I could spend hours just hanging out. I'll add it to my list of reviews at StratfordFestivalReviews.com and Jen I agree, bad theatre is painful. It's a shame so many people get turned off by "bad thatre" and then pass up the chance to see great theatre.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Keith, I'll definitely be checking out your site. I just loved Stratford and would like to stay "connected" there. And yes, despite our enormous wealth of fabulous local coffeehouses in Ann Arbor (another review of one is coming up for Local Love Friday here), I know I would become a Balzac's addict in a heartbeat.

Oh said...

loved hearing about Cyrano! It's been ages since I've seen/read it. And enjoyed your pictures and that cafe! This is soooo cafe time of year. I wish I could take my office (at work) outdoors to the picnic area or something. After all, what's a laptop for?

Jamie said...

Sounds like a fun time! I have naver seen Cyrano live but I cried at the end of both versions (José Ferrer and Gerard Depardieu). And I love Oscar Wilde. Lucky you!

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Oh, it truly is. I'm sitting in my fave local spot now, and prepping for my next Local Love Friday post (or that's my excuse, anyway)...

Jamie - May I also recommend the DVD of the Kevin Klein/Jennifer Garner recent Broadway version? Klein's performance was absolutely marvelous. It may be my favorite Cyrano ever. Garner had a somewhat different interpretation of Roxanne, but she still did a beautiful job, I thought.

Acedog said...

Welcome back! Sounds like you had a lovely trip.

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

That coffee place looks great! A wonderful trip!

Cheers,

Rosa

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Acedog - I really did, and I got at least some of my Canada craving taken care of.

Rosa - It was a delightful place. We truly enjoyed it!

Goofball said...

I feel very very very theatre illiterate when reading this. I have no clue what you were talking about