Saturday, October 3, 2009

Vij's & Theatre = A Perfect Friday Night

Vikram Vij is considered one of the foremost Indian Restauranteurs in the world. His restaurant - Vij's on South Granville rise - has a line-up from 5.00pm every night - and it doesn't even open until 5.30pm. They don't take reservations, so if you don't get a table in the first seating you are looking at at least an hour wait. We didn't get there until 5.30 so we ended up in the lounge for over an hour, relaxing with a glass of wine and enjoying some of the delicious complimentary snackies they bring around for all those waiting. Sadly, I have no idea what these pieces of goodness were, but they were all very fantastic.

Depending on how you look at it, the one bad thing about the snackies would be that they fill you up just enough that an appie and a main would be far to much. We decided to split some appies with another glass of wine. Along with the unlimited Naam and basmati rice we started with the Samosa's which were spicy and delicious. The Garam Marsala sauteed portobello mushrooms in porcini creamy curry sauce were amazingly fantastic - the sauce was rich & creamy and ample - conveniently there was both rice and naam to sop up any excess sauce. We capped off the meal with the flavourful mutton kebabs with bengali style curry capped off an outstanding meal. I wish I had the balls to try the cricket parenta - and by cricket I am not talking the sport loved by Aussies and Indians alike.... I am talking free range organic crickets ground into a flour and made into a type of bread.

Vij's is worth the wait. I know there are people who think it is arrogant to not take reservations. To these people I say, go somewhere else. The service is impeccable, the staff clearly seem proud of their jobs, the restaurant has a very intimate feel to it. Sadly though, we were not able to meet Vikram Vij himself. According to all reports, he personally goes to each table asking how everyone's meals are and often serves as host, greeter and waiter all rolled into one.
We then continued onto The Stanley Theatre to see Black Comedy, the season opener for The Arts Club. Before the start I was subjected to hearing about how my Aunt used to make out with boys at the Theatre when she was a teenager. There are just some things you never want to hear. Thankfully we only had a few minutes until the play started......

The curtain warmer is Chekov's little known comedic work - The Marriage Proposal. Yes, Chekov wrote a comedy. And it was hi-larious. This Russian farce about a man seeking approval of a father to marry his daughter is clownish and physical and fantastic. The backdrop of the set seemed to be an homage to Kandinsky for some reason (I have Kandinsky on the brain as I will be seeing an exhibit at the Guggenheim in NYC in about 3 weeks).
It was a great 15 minute warmup to the main event. It was funny and outlandish and brilliantly acted. I think the reason they chose this as a curtain warmer was the obvious parallels to the actual play.
The main event is Peter Shaffer's Black Comedy - which literally and imaginatively uses light and dark to create an extremely entertaining 90 minute romp in 1960's London. When the lights are "on" in the apartment, the theatre is in darkness, when the lights suddenly go out - the stage is lit - although the actors play it like it is pitch black.

Brindsley (Charlie Gallant) is an aspiring artist who along with his debutant fiance Carol (Julie McIsaac), have "borrowed" furniture from his vacationing neighbour's (Jeff Meadows - who was the young man in The Marriage Proposal) apartment in order to impress both Carol's father (Simon Bradbury - again doing double duty as the father from The Marriage Proposal) and a visiting German billionaire (Simon Webb) who may be interested in purchasing some of his artwork. When the main breaker blows in the building, darkness descends and hilarity ensues. An elderly neighbour (Nicole Lipman) takes refuge with them, the vacationing neighbour returns, an ex-girlfriend (Sasa Brown - also in the opener) shows up unexpectedly. All of this occurs under the watchful and disapproving eye of of Carol's ex-military father.
It was non-stop laughs during this one act play. I very much enjoyed Lipman's portrayal of the puritanical elderly neighbour getting drunk for the first time and completely mixing up her metaphors - my personal fave was her saying "It is easier for a rich man to get into heaven than to thread the eye of a needle with a camel" instead of the reverse.....and attributing all the quotes to her preacher father. Meadow's returning from vacation neighbour was every gay stereotype that existed in the late 1960's, which 40 years later may be a little hard for some to take.
There was a ton of physical comedy as the cast maneuver in the "darkness" especially Charlie Gallent's Brindsley as attempts to switch out his own furniture with his own. I also loved Meadow's goose-stepping around the apartment in the "dark" - it completely and totally reminded me of John Clees as Basil Fawlty in the fantastic British Comedy Fawlty Towers. In fact, this is what the entire play reminded me of - a classic British Comedy ala Fawlty Towers, Some Mothers Do Have'm, with a dash of Benny Hill thrown in for good measure.
It was a great play. Extremely funny, superbly acted, brilliantly staged. The one criticism i would have is that the physical comedy aspects may have distracted from what could have been some great lines. There was a lot going on on stage at once at times and one wonders if perhaps some fantastic lines may have been missed?
A great Friday night. Great food, great theatre and catching up with my favourite Aunt! Well my favourite Aunt that lives in Vancouver that is :)

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