Gregory G. H. Rihn (milwaukeesfs) wrote,
Gregory G. H. Rihn

"Vienna" weekend, part one

Just more than a year after we came back from Vienna, we concidentally had an Austrian-themed weekend. Part One was Saturday evening, when we got together for the monthly Bardic Dinner. This was our annual play-reading, in which the entire group reads. The play was Thorton Wilder's "The Matchmaker," and the food theme was Viennese, due to the remark Dolly Gallager Levi makes to the effect that her first husband had been from Vienna, and that Vienna was much happier town than New York. Wilder's play is more of an adaptation than an orginal: John Oxenford's 1835 one-act farce "A Day Well Spent" had been extended into a full-length play entitled "Einen Jux will er sich machen" by Austrian playwright Johann Nestroy in 1842. Wilder adapted Nestroy's version into an Americanized comedy entitled "The Merchant of Yonkers", which revolves around Horace Vandergelder, a wealthy Yonkers, New York businessman in the market for a wife. In 1955, Wilder considerably rewrote the play, greatly expanding a previously minor character into the lead role of Dolly Gallagher Levi, and rechristened the piece "The Matchmaker", under which title it was far more successful. It later served as the basis for Jerry Herman's 1964 musical hit "Hello, Dolly!". The edition we had also noted some scenes lifted from Moliere, as well.

I was given the part of Vandergelder to read, and had fun with the blustery curmudgeon character. The grasping businessman comes from an era in America were the greatest sin was to be a "fool," and Vandergelder considers himself a man of sense. Although he admits he is comitting foolishness when he goes shopping for a new wife at his age, he is not prepared for the extent to which he is fooled by his neice, her suitor, his employees, and by Dolly.

Georgie was given Dolly, and played her with a decided, and decisive character. The other members made up the supporting cast with very enjoyable reading being given, particularly by Shelia Horne as Vandergelder's timorous niece Ermengarde; Bob Horne as her artistic suitor, and also a snooty waiter; Hillary Giffen as Irene Molloy, one of Vandergelder's potential brides; and Missy Hill as Barnaby, Vandergelder's out-of-his-depth apprentice clerk.

The food theme for the night was Viennese, and I was main dish chef and made Tafelspitz, which is basically boiled beef with root vegetables, but the subtle spicing makes it more than just that. This was the third time I had made it since our Austria trip, and I was very pleased with the way it turned out. Georgie made Sacher torte, apres the famous dessert that is the trademark of the Hotel Sacher in Vienna. The specific recipe is a closely guarded secret, but it consists of a dark, dense chocolate cake, glazed with apricot jam, and then coated with a poured chocolate icing. Having had both, I can say that Georgie's replica was nearly spot-on, and delicious in any case, a sentiment shared by the assembly. In addition, we were served noodles, red cabbage, apple salad, stuffed mushrooms, and bread with butter or liptaur, an Austrian cheese spread I find particularly yummy.

The play reading was fun, the meal was fine, so it's safe to say a good time was had.
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