THE BLOG
10/10/2014 06:06 pm ET Updated Dec 10, 2014

On the Culture Front: Exploring Washington Market Tavern, Scenes From a Marriage and More

Sometimes things aren't quite what they seem. Walking through Washington Market Tavern's unassuming doors prepares you for a gastropub experience but what lies ahead is more akin to straight up fine dining minus the white table clothes. The cocktail list is extensive, ranging from the inventive to classic. Their sazerac, taken from William T Boothby's 1908 guide, "The World's Drinks and How to Mix Them," is a shinning star of measured subtlety, expertly blending the spice of rye whiskey with a touch of demerara sugar and Peychaud's and Agnostura bitters to create muted bliss -- a very sophisticated amuse to prep the palate for the feast to come. The roasted beet salad is a great way to begin and the gnocci is perfectly fluffy, but the real stars are the entrées. I was hard pressed to choose a favorite between the roasted lobster, long island duck, and the 28-day dry aged rib eye. The lobster is comfort food of the highest order: fresh, buttery and easy to devour. The duck lays out more complicated and gamey flavors that demand to be savored slowly while the steak echoes that complexity in it's charred funkiness while adding a decadence that could only come from the accompanying roasted bone marrow. It's paired with the creamiest loaded mash potatoes. This dish could easily serve two. For a great selection of post-dinner craft beer, consider waddling next door to Woodrow's for a great selection of craft beer. Draft highlights at the moment include Radiant Pig Junior IPA, Shipyard Monkey Fist IPA, and Southern Tier Pumking, a fine ode to the season.

Earlier this summer I attended the first inaugural Beer Film Fest hosted by Jimmy Carbone to mark the end of Good Beer Month. Held at the Anthology Film Archives, the screening and cozy reception felt like an insider's peek not only into the beer we were drinking but the passion behind it. One of the best shorts was on the New Jersey microbrewery Carton and detailed how their most enigmatic cream ale, "Regular Coffee", was conceived. Taking its name from the Jersey-ism that conversely means with milk and sugar instead of black, this hearty 12% abv brew uses Mexican Chiapas coffee blended with a high gravity golden cream ale. Watching it makes me want to take a drive across the Hudson to their tiny brick warehouse in Atlantic Highlands.

On the theater front, both Broadway and Off, the offerings have been largely impressive. Earlier this summer I caught Stephen Adly Guirgis' Between Riverside and Crazy which artfully unpacks a lot of family strife and peers deeply into the motivations behind deception and the way grudges can distort reality and poison relationships. Stephen McKinley Henderson's runs through all the emotions with aplomb as his character wrestles with holding onto a memory that never existed.

Fractious relationships are also at the forefront of Theresa Rebeck's Poor Behavior, which lets us watch the moment when a relationship implodes. Rebeck is a savvy observer of the modern condition but too much of the dialogue feels like it's coming from her brain instead of her characters'.

The dialogue in Tail! Spin! is taken verbatim from scandal-ridden politicians like Larry Craig, Mark Foley, and Anthony Weiner. There are a lot of laughs to be had through the intermissionless show, and the talented cast (which includes SNL alum Rachel Dratch) mines all of the them. Their impressions are spot on and give the show its levity and energy. Still, there's a lack of satirical depth to the show that only a proper original script could fix. Nonetheless, it's a highly entertaining show, and its brevity lends for going out to dinner afterwards.

Food will be the furthest thing from your mind during Ivo Van Hove's gut-wrenching and brilliantly conceived production of Ingmar Bergman's famed mini-series (and subsequent film) Scenes from a Marriage, which puts that fragile organism called a relationship under a microscope to view up close -- and in unflinching detail -- the moment it breaks apart and becomes unrecognizable to itself and those around it. For the first act, Van Hove brakes down New York Theatre Workshop's cavernous space into three intimate corners the audience moves through. This gives the scenes a terrifying intimacy and instantly endears us to Johannes and Marianne and the three sets of actors who play them with acute humanity. But by second act their world has exploded as so does ours as a thunderous barrage of words floods the now wide open stage as lovers come and go, echoing sentences just heard in a symphonic blend phrases that seep deep into the psyche. As brilliantly constructed as it is, this utterly impactful reimagining is felt in the heart before the brain.

Anna Shapiro, who was recently named the new artistic director of Steppenwolf, has a knack for bringing out great performances. From Chris Rock to just about everyone in Of Mice and Men, actors shine in her productions. Her current revival of Kenneth Lonergan's slacker masterpiece, This is Our Youth, is ignited by searingly naturalistic performances by Kieran Culkin, Michael Cera and Tavi Gevinson. Lonergan's words ring as true today as when they were first performed nearly twenty years ago by Mark Ruffalo and Josh Hamilton.

Down the block, Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman's terrifically zany farce, You Can't Take it with You, is receiving a joyous and playful revival helmed by Scott Ellis whose numerous theater credits are complimented with directing episodes of Modern Family. Set in the Vanderhof's eccentric home where fireworks literally go off on a regular basis, YCTIWY celebrates dysfunction as a family bond in between countless jokes, interludes of physical humor and even some heartfelt moments. Ellis and his cast and crew all deserve kudos. It's further heartening to see such palpable joy flow out from the stage. They're having a good time, and they don't care who knows.

A Walk in the Woods is a masterpiece of verbal sparring that holds the test of time in Keen Company's riveting revival. Lee Blessing originally wrote it as a fictionalized account of an informal meeting between Paul Nitze and Yuli Kvitsinsky that happened during the 1982 Geneva Peace talks, but in Jonathan Silverstein's hands, the conflict is eternal. Kathleen Chalfant radiates with a fatalistic charm as the Russian Ambassador who's seen too many failed deals while Paul Niebanck exudes the unrelenting optimism of a man who's just landed his dream job. Two hours fly by as they argue a multitude of conflicts, but it's the moments where they get along that really break the heart -- showing how countries obscure the desire of their people. Needless to say, the show is utterly still relevant and a must see.