Fun Home and B.B. King's Lucille's

Alison Bechdel’s graphic coming-of-age Fun Home creates an idyllic childhood world. Each member of the family works happily on art projects in their own rooms, in a sprawling, antique-filled Gothic revival house. Circle in the Square theatre-in-the-round oddly fits the bill in creating the foundation. A girl and two boys. A mother who acts in regional theatre and an attractive father who is an English teacher and a family funeral home director (where we get “Fun Home”).

Three actresses play Alison Bechdel at various ages. Beth Malone is the present day Alison who narrates from her drawing desk. In a key scene (no pun intended), the child Alison (Gabriella Pizzolo) notes an attraction to a capable-looking girl with a ring of keys hanging from her belt—“Ring of Keys” is one of several heart-stopping ballads that will have you reaching for your handkerchief. At college, Alison has her first romance with a girl, Joan (the lovely Roberta Colindrez) and sings “I’m Changing My Major (to Joan).” It’s a sexy scene for the theatre, and over and over you admire this team for their honesty and commitment!

A sensational Emily Skeggs plays college-age Alison as the girl you wish you knew when you were in college. In coming out to her parents (by post) Alison is disappointed by their slow reaction. Then she learns why—her mother (Judy Kuhn) reveals that Daddy (lovable Michael Cerveris) has always been attracted to men, including the family’s heretofore beloved gardener. The gardener and all the young boyfriends are played by a sympathetic Joel Perez, who looks straight out of a Tom of Finland drawing.

How rare to be at a musical that shares ideas that you were never offered before. The memoir Fun Home is sad. You leave the Circle in the Square with a lump in your throat, but feeling better and more hopeful about the future. It’s very funny at times and consistently a triumph of everyone involved. Music by Jeanine Tesori, book and lyrics Lisa Kron, directed by Sam Gold, based on the graphic novel by Alison Bechdel.

The James Brown Soul Revue was warming up at Lucille’s when we walked in. The sound was amazingly authentic, and when James Brown impersonator Lloyd Diamond, in a red jumpsuit, came out dancing, the illusion was complete. Fred Thomas, who leads the six-member band, was James Brown’s principal bassist from 1971 and drummer Tommy Greene also played with Brown’s original group. We were swept away by this incredible entertainment for a small cover charge over a pre-show meal. But we know that Lucille's regularly features the most impressive entertainment. What a nice way to reward yourself for starting the week on the good foot: Bluesman Jon Paris plays on Mondays with bassist Amy Madden and drummer Steve Holley.

Sunday's popular, powerful Harlem Gospel Choir brunch includes bottomless mimosas and a limitless buffet of Creole and Southern classics. At nighttime chef Wenford Simpson does a steaks-and-BBQ menu, but with flourishes, like the grilled lemon slices served with salmon, green beans, and rice. Most were ordering the hamburger plate, so that had to be very good too. 

Something Rotten! and Hourglass Tavern

Set in Tudor England, William Shakespeare is a preening and conceited rock star. Christian Borle, with flowing locks, is “the Will with the skill / To thrill you with the quill.” Rival playwrights, the Bottom brothers, (Brian d’Arcy James and John Cariani), grease the palm of a soothsayer (Brad Oscar) to look into the future and give them an edge on the next big thing. “A Musical” celebrates every Broadway musical you ever saw or heard of. The Bottom brothers approach their rich patron proposing to write the first great musical and the first ever musical: about the Black Death. Ah, the patron doesn’t much like the subject.

Anticipating Shakespeare’s next masterpiece, the Bottoms conceive of the musical “Omelette.” Director-choreographer Casey Nicholaw (The Book of Mormon) features tap-dancing actors with tremendous codpieces (Gregg Barnes did costumes). Brothers Karey and Wayne Kirkpatrick wrote the score. Karey wrote the book with John O’Farrell, who is British, making Something Rotten! an American-British collaboration. It’s a huge success, yet its style may be more Broadway than West End. So far Something Rotten! has delighted audiences only on this side of the pond

Shakespeare used the hourglass to depict the transience of life. At Hourglass Tavern, the opposite is true. Hourglass has remained pretty much the same since the nineteenth century, has changed hands rarely, and even the staff is long term. Our wonderful waitress, Maria, has been there for twenty-five years and remembers when hourglasses were on each table for guests to use, to make sure they made their curtain.

Rather than a speakeasy, Hourglass was a narrow, 3-floor rooming house. The tiled bath on the second floor is the original, now the lady’s powder room. Check out the mirror and see a younger version of yourself. (References in Shakespeare to “glass” are taken to mean “hourglass” when more likely Will meant “mirror”).

Hourglass's weekend pre-matinee brunch features eggs with short rib hash. Roasted short ribs are great on the dinner menu, crispy on the outside, served with perfectly steamed broccoli and “homemade double butter mashed potatoes.” The basic salad has a vegetable-rich dressing, and you can add blackened shrimp to the salad.

The menu is the most versatile restaurant menu we have ever seen! There’s a $22.95 pre-theatre prix fixe. At any time at all you can create a 3-course prix fixe by adding $10 to your entrée. A picky eater child menu allows the child to design their own fussy meal for only $11. Arden, however, ordered the “Big Ass 12 oz. Angus beef burger,” served on the homemade bread and layered with vegetables. She took a few dainty bites and had the rest wrapped. We all had the rest wrapped, happily enough. Eat, drink, and be merry, as the Bard said.