Monday Smiles – 4/8/2013

date night tooI realized Thursday night that for a variety of reasons, Muri and I had not had a real Saturday Date Night in weeks.  There have been a variety of reasons; an unusually bad season for films and local theater; a kitchen remodel;  several weeks of not feeling particularly well; an all-weekend Men’s Retreat; and a week in Arizona to visit the grandkids … where we never own our own time.  I went back on Bud’s Blog and looked to how long it had been since my Monday Smiles was a Date Night.  January 25.   We were waaayyy overdue.  Time to consult Goldstar, our favorite half-price ticket website.

MasterClassWebImage-817x1024What I found was Master Class, the Tony Award winning play about volatile soprano, Maria Callas, at the International City Theater in Long Beach.  The ICT is a professional theater that takes on serious plays that we may have missed … or bypassed due to ticket prices … in L.A.   It’s a very nice theater without quite enough season ticket holders to fill the theater throughout the run of a play, so their productions always turn up on Goldstar.  $22 instead of $45.  And each production we’ve seen there has been well done.  And as a bonus, it’s walking distance from Long Beach’s The Pike entertainment complex.   We can valet park our car there, eat at one of The Pike’s restaurants, then walk to the theater without reparking the car.   We had dinner at Gladstone’s, a fish restaurant we discovered last time we went to the ICT.   Muri had Parmesan crusted halibut, which she pronounced, as good as the halibut almondine at The Original Fish Company, which is our favorite fish restaurant. I had simple grilled swordfish, which was also excellent.  Service was efficient but not particularly friendly, which was OK because my Inner Curmudgeon seemed to have stayed at home.  Or maybe, like Older Eyes, he was just happy to be on a Date Night with his lady.  The walk to the theaterwyland was a bit of a maze because the fences and barriers for the Long Beach Grand Prix, which takes place April 19-21, were already in place.   We made it in plenty of time to sit outside and people-watch the crowd arriving for the Long Beach Symphony Pops Concert next door at the Wyland-decorated Long Beach Arena.  Ah, yes, music under the whales.

Master Class, written by Terrence McNally, is based upon a series of classes taught by Maria Callas at The Julliard School near the end of her career when her remarkable voice had faded.   The production is interesting in that Callas (Gigi Bermingham) treats the audience as part of the class, instructing andmaria admonishing us as to when to applaud of laugh and often addressing us directly regarding her art.   While there were four other cast members, a piano accompanist and three students who perform incidental operatic pieces by Mozart, Verdi, Rossini, Puccini, they are essentially props for Bermingham as she tells of the extravagant and tragic life of Callas through wicked humor, unrelenting criticism and deeply personal stories.  Because of her alleged temperamental behavior, outspoken criticism of other sopranos, and affair with Aristotle Onassis, Callas’ personal life almost overshadowed her artistry in the popular press.  But according to Wikipedia, her artistic achievements were such that Leonard Bernstein called her “The Bible of opera”; and her influence was so enduring that, in 2006, Opera News wrote of her: “Nearly thirty years after her death, she’s still the definition of the diva as artist—and still one of classical music’s best-selling vocalists.”   It was an interesting, educational … and often, remarkably funny … night of theater and Gigi Bermingham was La Divina*.

On the way home, we picked up cinnamon raisin bagels for an after theater snack at home.   It was indeed a REAL Date Night.   Now it’s Monday.  I’m still smiling.

* Callas’ musical and dramatic talents led to her being hailed as La Divina.

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