Love and Information and Monte's Trattoria

Love and Information. Say what?

Caryl Churchill’s brilliant 1982 Top Girls is a feminist touchstone comparable to Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale and Simone de Beauvoir's Le Deuxième Sexe. Wherever Top Girls was produced it drew the finest actresses around (kind of like Vagina Monologues today) to embody the most exceptional “top girls” from history, and seated them around a table for a banquet. In the Off-Broadway New York production, Linda Hunt was sensational as Pope Joan, from the Middle Ages, history’s only female pope, who gave birth while riding a horse. Martha Plimpton was also amazing in the role.

Churchill is still Off-Broadway, if you can imagine, though you’d never guess from the genius set and production at the Minetta Lane Theatre, in association with the Royal Court Theatre. Her gift for dialogue and speeches shines, whether between strangers or close family members—the “love” of the title. A widow, played by Maria Tucci (a top girl in any role she has ever played), sadly packs up her husband’s clothing to give away. The younger woman asks, “Did he mean everything to you?” “Well, we’ll see!” comes the spritely answer.

There are 57 exchanges inside a white cube that transforms into 57 sets, each different, that include two heavy sofas, bicycles, patio furniture, several beds, and a piano. Loud, distracting transitional music and sounds define the scene and cover scene changes that happen all too quickly. It’s a surprise to see a couple in bed and two boys on a grass patch, both vertical. 

Sometimes there’s too much information, as in the date with a biologist or the info that has no relevance, as in the waiting room of people applying for green cards, where a boyfriend prompts his girlfriend with possible test questions about the U.S. The format takes some getting used to, but when you do, the scenes are little gems. Extended through April 6.
A toast between top girls, Churchill's 1982 game changer

Downstairs Monte’s vintage Italian restaurant hasn’t changed since it was opened in 1918. The waiters are charming and friendly, the food is reliable rich and delicious, the prices reassuringly mid-range. Plus, you’re in the heart of Greenwich Village, the heart of arty New York.  They hold a Tony Awards night with a wide screen TV. Maybe we’ll go!

Hot Italian bread and long-stemmed artichoke hearts, in lemon and light breading were tutti bella. Fruitti di mare linguini was magnificent, heavy on seafood rather than pasta. Tender linguini is homemade. You can get a half portion of pasta. Grilled trout was fresh tasting—not overwhelmed by garlic or butter—and a double portion compared to what you get in some restaurants (Momofuku). Our waiter, Tomas, was a prince, and kissed us as we left. We only wish we had time for his Tartufo.