Monday, January 24, 2011

Black beer and colorful women: reviews of a Trinity saison and Boeing Boeing

Posted By on Mon, Jan 24, 2011 at 4:14 PM

Considering that Trinity Brewing Company has an advertisement in Boeing Boeing's playbill, I find it appropriate to pair my mini reviews of both a Trinity beer and the latest Theatreworks performance in this single posting.

In our case, we hit up the drink spot prior to Saturday evening's show because I was particularly interested in sampling the Farmhouse Nocturnum release that debuted Dec. 17 before it disappears.

Im lighter than I look and spicier than I seem at first.
Here's how the brewery describes the drink:
Farmhouse Nocturnum is a member of the new family of strong Belgian Ales known and "Super Saisons." The name Nocturnum is inspired by the intimidating jet-black color of the beer. Spiced with Sassparilla, Sassafrass, Coriander, Rosemary, and Cumin for a perfect level of spiciness balanced with sweet fruity esters. At 12.5% ABV, once the strongest beer we brewed annually and also the strongest spiced beer ever brewed in Colorado Springs, but we broke our own record!

My thoughts on it:
Surprisingly, it didn't taste strong at all based off my expectations from the description. But after one beer (I'm actually a bit of a light weight these days), I could feel the difference between it and a regular-strength brew. Brewmaster Jason Yester is right on about the ideal balance between spice and fruit — it certainly has it. Though the further you get into your beer, the spice does start to become more pronounced, which I rather liked.

For the record, the spice is nowhere near the awesomely searing La Noche del Diablo Black Saison that I wrote about back in November, which gets its heat from cayenne and red chiles.

I stopped at the bar on my way out to briefly chat with Yester, who explained that the Nocturnum's spice profile really comes mainly through the cumin, which continues to surprise because I cook with cumin pretty often but don't tend to find that kind of heat from it. I find it more of a warming herb like turmeric. It's really fun to see more heat drawn out of it through this creative and overall commendable beer. I recommend ordering before it disappears.

Now — off to the theater:

For a quick synopsis and preview of Boeing Boeing, see Rhonda Van Pelt's interview with director David McClendon here.

Also, for more on farce theater, consider attending the free Prologue Series chat on Sunday, Jan. 23 at 2:30 p.m. at the Dusty Loo Bon Vivant Theater.

Surprise! Its another door bursting open at just the right moment.
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Surprise! It's another door bursting open at just the right moment.
And on to the show:

After grabbing Boeing Boeing's paired martini from the concessions stand — a Chambord-sweet French Kiss — take your seat for a brief introduction from executive director Drew Martorella. Then wait an almost uncomfortable amount of time for nearly a whole French song to play before this play actually begins. Then .... hold on.

Aside from a few slower scenes that lay the narrative foundation early on, the play's pace is relentless, with a lot of coming and going and physical humor. It's funny at times, really wants to be funny at other times and is largely entertaining, so long as you're able to attain (and maintain) that suspension of disbelief that McClendon discusses in his interview.

The problem is when you come out of that state and let your literal mind realize just how improbably improbable all that's unfolding before you really is, and just how cliché the story feels to us in this era, 60 years since the play was penned by Marc Camoletti.

In the context of that time period, one can presume how shocking both the subject matter and especially the scenes with the female leads in sexy nightgowns would have been to that day's generally more conservative audience. Funny that the play became the most produced French play in history and ran for 19 years, before tanking on its first Broadway run.

Yup — Bernards got some splainin to do.

(Much later, in 2008, it managed to win Tony Awards for Best Revival of a Play as well as Best Leading Actor for Mark Rylance, who played Robert.)

Only by reminding yourself that this play predated almost every other show or film that scenes, themes and gags from it remind you of, can you give it a bit of credit. Or at least, that's how it was for me.

I confess that I brought expectations for wanting to laugh as much as I did at Boeing Boeing as I did at Theatreworks' staging of The Lying Kind a couple of years ago. And I didn't, which either speaks to my own, new-found lack of enthusiasm for farce-style theater (I need to see more to know for sure), an out-of-date play or a flat cast and staging.

I don't feel that it was the latter option, as the actors generally played their roles well and the direction was active and lively. Equity actor and Colorado Shakespeare Festival residing acting company member Matthew Mueller steals the show as Robert.

One assumes going in that Bernard, the character juggling the three air stewardesses, will be the man to watch. But Robert, the frazzled friend who accidentally inherits the cover-up and does the most shuffling to keep Bernard's secret, has the best source material with which to work. Though some of the schtick is a bit labored, it's fun to watch Robert quickly come of age — from clueless, seemingly prudish nice guy to fellow swinger, schemer and stereotypical male pig.

Potential motto of Boeing Boeing: Grab-ass good times.

Diana Dresser, also an Equity actress and longtime performer with the Creede Repertory Theatre, gets some great lines as the grumpy but loyal maid Bertha. But again, since we've seen so many cardboard cutouts of this type character in years since, she still feels trite.

As for our multicolored muses — each stewardess brightly represents her respective airline in costume and with a small handbag that becomes a key prop — they certainly play up the absurd drama with big stage presences. Their flying in and out of the set's seven doors partly defines the nature of farce, later parodied in such works as Noises Off circa 1982.

Aside from some unintended and distracting backstage noise that occurred twice during our production, the timing of the actresses through the doors — just as you'd expect, one opening just as soon as another closes — appeared spot on.

And there's that keyword again: expect. As with a typical Romantic Comedy in today's multiplexes, you pretty much know this story's formula and know that the whole crux revolves around having these women nearly learn of one another. So there's little surprise other than the curiosity of how it'll turn out.

Will Bernard get busted and get his comeuppance?

Will Robert steal the girls?

Will the boys somehow get away with their antics altogether?

Do we really care?

No is the answer to the last question. We aren't really invested in any of these characters and I presume we aren't supposed to be. This isn't a sophisticated storyline or overtly poignant production in any way.

It's merely a comedy, good for some laughs (Saturday night's audience laughed heartily throughout and in the end gave it the traditional Colorado Springs welcome — a standing ovation). And considering it delivers some, I suppose it works on the whole. But overall, I'd consider it more of a one-way trip rather than round-trip flight. It's not an airline I need to board twice.

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