First Date and Orso

Zachary Levi and Krysta Rodriguez meet cute
The zesty and fluffy new musical comedy, First Date, takes the audience on a date 2013 style. Aaron and Casey struggle to drop their baggage and be present. Are they prisoners of their personal histories and past dating patterns? A Greek chorus pops by and plays devil's advocate, made up of Grandma, the bail-out friend, therapist, bad choice boyfriend, selfish ex-fiancée, and future son.

Zachary Levi is jumpy and awkward as a financial geek. It's a good set-up for his kick ass end-of-the-show song "In Love With You" where he kisses off his ex- for good. Adorable Krysta Rodriguez is polished and cold. She's hiding, but slowly lets us in. Both have great pop vocal chops and got their start in television. We root for them, and the happy ending feels right and, well, if Terry Teachout was charmed by this new little musical, after what he had to say about Kinky Boots, who are we to quibble?

Fig tart à la Orso
Italian restaurant Orso is named after a street dog the owner befriended in Venice. There is an Orso photo collage as you enter and a very nice sketch near the bar. The atmosphere is fresh, modern and quiet, a restaurant novelty in NYC. Music is kept on low dial and the tables are nicely distanced from one another. Tableware is colorful and house wine is served in pretty glass pitchers.

Get your pasta here, but another specialty, calf's liver with pancetta and crispy onions, was a standout. Roasted quail stuffed with sweet sausage, pine nuts and broccoli rabe was another. Antipasti greats were the beet, Jersey peach, hazelnut and goat cheese salad, and pan-fried artichoke hearts. Dessert tarts ended our date on a sweet note.

The Weir and Tír Na Nóg

New girl in town
Conor McPherson's The Weir invites you on a dark and windy night to warm up with a few good stories.  Time and place:  1997, country pub, Ireland.  An attractive woman, a "blow in," provokes four local men to tell outrageous stories, real and ghostly, related to her new village. Many drinks are drunk, but only "small ones," and herbal cigarettes passed around. (Broadway substituted herbal cigarettes for real ones long before Mayor Bloomberg made New York City smoke-free.)

The country pub lacks a ladies' room, if you can imagine. As the lovely new neighbor retreats to the owner's house to use the facilities, the men chastise themselves for their upsetting conversation and vow to be more civil. Upon her return, Valerie (Mary McCann) tells the story that brings everyone to their knees.

But wait, another's speech, upon leaving, is the one that breaks our hearts. Irish actor John Keating, with his beautiful words of comfort, causes the audience to choke up, and although he hadn't seemed a possibility before, now we wonder whether Valerie will hook up with him.

A harsh wind howls outside throughout. Irish Rep’s remounting is excellent and all the stories still fresh in our minds.

Branzino Tír Na Nóg
Tír Na Nóg has a sure hand with fish, which you would expect of an Irish pub. The seared scallops were big and juicy, and the branzino seasoned with saffron, chorizo, and clams. Potato leek soup comes with a dash of truffle oil. Two can share the hearty shepherd’s pie. It’s a truly friendly place, with Irish as well as Scottish accents floating about, and you might wish to eat at the bar if you’re alone, and order some oysters and a half pint of Harp lager.

Close to Madison Square Garden, the ambiance might not be as old world and couthie before a Rangers game. Stop in after a play or and get Irish coffee served with no frills, just the way we like it, and apple pie on flaky pastry with cinnamon ice cream and a sprig of mint.