The Nutcracker, The Trocks, Chocolate Room and Buvette

In Alexei Ratmansky’s interpretation of George Balanchine's The Nutcracker™ rather than starting in the parlor, the curtain rises on a scene in the kitchen where mice are scattered about. Justin Souriau-Levine as the small, mischievous mouse who hides in the soup pot is superb.

The story unfolds to a more traditional telling, but American Ballet Theatre’s mixes fantasy and reality. There has been some criticism of the male bees pollinating the dancing flowers. It’s fun and unexpected. Richard Hudson designed both the gorgeous costumes and set, with Clara’s sky-high bed and the dramatic lopsided house we see at the beginning and the end. Ratmansky’s production moves permanently to the West Coast for the holidays of 2015.

We left humming Tchaikovsky. "Did it entirely hold your attention?" I asked 9-year-old Arden. “It would probably be better for ages 10 and up,” she said.

After the Nutcracker, we went to the Chocolate Room for a post-show treat. Close to BAM, it is open late (11pm). The dense three-layer chocolate cake that Oprah raved about is simple and not too sweet. My daughter’s favorite was the black bottom butterscotch custard with a strata of bittersweet chocolate and whipped coconut cream. The friendly staff offers chocolate samples while you wait.

Arden thought that Les Ballet Trockadero de Monte Carlo could be funnier. Of course, she’s grown up seeing men in drag on the stage, and The Trocks could not sustain the gag for her. With only a limited exposure to Russian literature, she’s forgiven for missing the humor in the troupe’s stage names, like Natalia Notgudinov and Ida Nevasayneva. (All the dancers have Russian bios in the Playbill.)

Seeing men en pointe was a sensation when the company started forty years ago. Robert Carter, who dances the lead swan, has been with the Trocks for twenty years—long career for a ballet dancer, and he’s still got it. Go For Barocco with music by Bach opened the second act and is a strong piece more focused on the dancing and less on being funny. Laszlo Major who plays a very male male in Le Corsaire Pas de Deux is stunning  and can turn like a dream. The Trocks have a loyal fan base and are sure to continue for many years to come. 

While most NYC restaurants are staffed by actors, Buvette, not far from the Joyce Theatre, has a wait staff full of writers. The first to get a book contract moved on. Waverly is in the midst of writing her novel, and Beck behind the bar is starting his.

What is it about Buvette? The tiny bistro is constantly packed, serving small plates off a petite menu. Cassoulet ($16) is colorful and warming, served in a round deep bowl. Salad beets were condensed in flavor and well seasoned. Brandade de Morue is served in a glass container with the toast standing up in it. About the only choice for a child was the Croque Monsieur ($12). Buvette's waiters did seem especially articulate when, instead of asking, “Are you still working on that?” they say, “Are you still enjoying that?”