Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Assassins and Einstein on the Beach in Berkeley, October 2012

Went to Berkeley for a weekend of Musical Arts

A group of us met for Ethiopian dinner at Cafe Colucci in Oakland.  It can be a bit intimidating to use the injera bread as your utensils, but the tastiness is worth it.

Over to the Ashby theater to see the Shotgun Players put on Stephen Sondheims Assassins.  I am a Sondheim fan and this was the first time any of us had seen Assassins.   The lyrics (can we talk about a Moment), music (reminiscent of Into the Woods)  and theme (dark much) are unmistakably Sondheim.  The storyline revolves around the people who tried to kill US Presidents (and a the few who succeeded).  When you kill just anyone, you are a murderer, but when you kill a president, you are an assassin.  Sondheim goes all timey-wimey on us and the assassins get to interact with each other.  It didn't top Into the Woods or Sweeney Todd as a personal favorite, but I would definitely see it again to catch more of the layers.  And I would definitely see it by the Shotgun Players-quality acting in an intimate setting.

E- and I stayed the weekend at the Hotel Durant-super close to Telegraph and the campus.  So it is a convenient location, but could be noisy, especially if it is a football weekend.  Rooms are small but well-appointed.  School-themed accessories, but grown-up quality, nice toiletries, sheets and furnishings.  On Saturday morning we had brunch at the Elmwood Cafe where the fresh buttermilk biscuits and mimosas were my highlights.

We meandered onto the Berkeley campus and ran into the Big Game-Stanford vs. Cal Quiddich.  Yup.  This has become a thing.  Maybe I should consider going to the Quiddich World Cup.

We also had to peruse Games of Berkeley, you know, since we were in the area.  Bought Takenoko, whose underlying game play as a bit of a classic train game (build with others) and a bit of gin rummy (collect things!).  But the theme is simultaneously build a bamboo garden and feed a hungry panda-super cute accessories.

Dinner was a quick hot dog from the Dojo Dog food truck.  The Asian toppings are quite a mix for a standard hot dog, but delicious.  Mine had pork sung which is dry, finely shredded, tasty pork and E- had nori.  And every dog gets Japanese mayo and quick-boiled cabbage, which is more of a vegetable than catsup.

The evening event was Einstein on the Beach, almost 5 hours of minimalist opera.  While not for everyone most, we had a fantastic time.  It is so rarely performed that this was the west coast premier even though it was written in the 1970s.  There is no plot, and the music is incredibly repetitive, which should be boring...but I was fascinated.  There is change, it is just extremely slow.  Over the course of 30 minutes one of the performers went from walking to dancing and there were parts of the changes that I know I missed because I was watching some other part of the stage.  At the end Philip Glass and Lucinda Childs came out with the performers. It was really an amazing performance-almost certainly a once in a lifetime event for us.

How do you follow such a heavy hitting performance?  Frozen yogurt from Yogurt Park of course.  Definitely the best place because they know how to do toppings.  They swirl them into the center as well as on top.

And one final Berkeley meal at the local Buddhist temple.  Which is a converted house in a residential area. It is not a restaurant, they are only open once a week after Sunday services.  And they don't really take money-you exchange money for tokens, and then you exchange the tokens for food.  But it was tasty Thai food and we had a lovely conversation with the folks we sat near.  Read the Yelp reviews before you go to learn the ins and outs.

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