Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Neptune Scores With "Bingo!"

I don't think I have ever had a bad experience at Neptune Theatre. Seriously. Even so, I don't recall ever laughing quite as much as I did a couple of weeks ago, when I attended a performance of their new play "Bingo!".

I know what you are thinking, and no, this is not a play about a dog with a cool "name-o", nor does it involve anything glow-in-the-dark. It is actually "The Big Chill" transferred to a Cape Breton town - a group of middle-agers gather together to attend their 30-year high school reunion, re-hash old memories, stereotypes and neuroses and discuss new ones. Some of them have stayed put, some have moved on (to Halifax, and Western Canada), both literally and figuratively. All have regrets and "what-if's?" and they have all changed, yet haven't changed a bit at the same time.

First we are introduced to the male's of the group (left-to-right) - Dookie, Nurk and Heifer (in traditional guy fashion, they have given each other silly and slightly derogatory nicknames - silly boys) - in their hometown hotel room, drinking (duh) and talking about their lives. Heifer is a chubby, laid-back jokester; Nurk is a neurotic and slightly uptight engineer; Dookie is an arrogant real estate agent.

Next, we see the girls - Boots and Bitsy - chatting in a local bar about...well, everything (y'all, Bitsy talks A LOT). "Boots" is a tough-talking, leather-jacket-wearing sarcasm machine who clearly covers up her own insecurities with biting comments. "Bitsy" is a slightly ditzy and simultaneously a chatterbox and a shy introvert.

Later, the fivesome comes together and sparks fly, secrets are revealed and new connections are made. (I don't want to reveal too much of the plot because you should go see it for yourself). Leave it to a play set in Cape Breton to be named after a drinking game!

The play has a very simple set-up - there are only two sets, and all scenes consist of the characters basically sitting around and talking. Characters only wear one outfit throughout the entire play, there is no music except during the changes in scene, and few props (except an ever-present bottle of Jagermeister). But the dialogue is rapid-fire and absolutely hilarious. The audience the night I went was practically rolling in the aisles. The cast not only delivered the lines perfectly, but they each had a knack for conveying things through a simple facial expression. I probably enjoyed Heather Rankin's performance the most (she clearly has great comic timing), as I felt she had some of the funniest expressions and body language, plus I felt I could relate the most to her character. However, all the cast were perfect in their roles and pulled me into their individual character, making me laugh at them, feel sorry for them and admire them in sequence.

At the beginning of each scene, one of the main characters would stand at the front of the stage, in a spotlight and deliver a monologue that usually either revealed something about their character or about the next part of the play. They shared an anecdote, a thought or two and sometimes a great piece of advice or a profound insight about life in general. I loved these "intros" -  parts that particularly stuck with me were Boots' comments about happiness and what it means ("How can you know what happiness is, until you know what it isn't?") and Bitsy's story about an old man in her community who is her "hero" and who makes her feel less invisible and insignificant.

So, in a nutshell, the funny dialogue alone is enough reason to go see Bingo! (imho) but in addition you may end up coming away with an insight or two into life in general and your place in it, and isn't that what theatre is all about?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Big Day Downtown - Numero Tres

Left-to-Right: Krisa Comeau, me, Melissa Dube. Photo by Krista Comeau/Melissa Dube
I was really excited to be chosen by the Downtown Halifax Business Commission to participate in their third annual Big Day Downtown promotion. (Pssst...you can read about my First and Second outings here and here).

In a delightful (and cheeky) twist, we were all randomly paired with another blogger to share our downtown experience, and I was paired with the lovely ladies of Fashion East, which just so happens to be one of my favourite local blogs, not to mention it is about one of my favourite things (aka. fashion). As Chandler Bing might say, could this partnership BE any more perfect?!

No, no it couldn't.

Not only do these girls curate a wicked blog, but they are also very nice and have great style themselves. AND they take beautiful photos, so not only did I get to have a fun day exploring our awesome downtown, but we have great photos to show for it instead of the decidedly non-professional, slightly awry pics that I normally take and post here (win!).

Since there were three of us embarking on this BIG downtown adventure, we decided to choose one favourite for each of us, plus one place to grab a snack (adventuring does make one hungry).

Love you too, B (photo by me)
For my favourite, I chose Biscuit General Store. This is hands-down my favourite boutique downtown - they have so many cute things to wear and put in your home, I could browse in there for days. I had the pleasure of interviewing owner, Wendy Freidman, for Hip Urban Girl last year and it was a great experience. I had to hold back from spending my entire $100 Visa at our first stop!

I haz a cute! (photo by me)
In the end, I settled on a set of 4 moustache kitchen clips (for the boy AND me) and a tin of Smith's Rosebud Salve - this stuff is the BEST! One tin seriously lasts like 2 years, it smells like a rose bush and you can use it for basically any kind of skin issue (chapped lips, blisters, burns, etc, etc, etc).

Photos by Krista Comeau/Melissa Dube
Then we decided we needed sugar and caffeine (again, I will stress the importance of snacks) and we headed around the corner to Le French Fix, a new cafe we had all heard a lot about and had been meaning to try. This cafe is very cute (and tiny!) and my cappuccino was delicious. We shared a few small sweet treats and they were all delicious also (I finally tried a real French macaron!), plus we had a chance to chat a bit, get to know each other.

Photos by Krista Comeau/Melissa Dube

Newly energized from all the conversation, espresso and sugar, we rambled down the hill to Barrington Street, and to a place which provides some stiff competition in my "favourite downtown boutique" category - J&R Grimsmo.

I really want that airplane table (photos by me)
First of all, this boutique is beautifully curated - they have a few very special items that you feel were lovingly handpicked by the owners, and everything is arranged in a very artistic way. Yet, it's also very cozy with the light streaming in the big windows at the front, and the sofa, pillows and interesting tables arranged throughout. It feels like the apartment of an impossibly cool friend (you know the one - the one whose outfits you are always coveting).

Photos by Krista Comeau/Melissa Dube
J&R was celebrating their one-year anniversary on the day of our visit - so exciting! I hope they have many more. They had a great promotion where you could pick a piece of paper from a jar and on that paper would be a % discount off your purchase - I chose 10% (better than a kick in the teeth) and Melissa got 25%! Great idea.

We spent quite a bit of time in here browsing and deciding what to spend the rest of our money on. In the end, I decided on a pair of thick black polka-dot tights and a gold necklace with a ballpoint pen charm. I LOVE that necklace and have worn it every day since buying it. The items in this store are a tad pricey, I can't lie, but they are great quality and many are made by local artisans, so it feels good to support their hard work with a few extra bucks.

Photo by Krista Comeau/Melissa Dube
I can't thank the Downtown Halifax Business Commission AND Krista and Melissa for the great Big Day Downtown. Now, I suggest that all Halifax residents get your butt's downtown and start exploring!

I showed you mine, now you have to show me yours *wink-wink*

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

In The 'Hood

For those not living in Halifax (or if you live in Halifax, but under a rock), we are having a municipal election right now so naturally it's all anyone can talk about. It's quite heated this time around because (in a nutshell) our mayor and city council absolutely SUCK and need to be all thrown out. A "do-over" is in order, and that's what all we citizens are hoping for, including me.

With this "election fever" sweeping the city lately, I have been trying to learn a bit more about my new District. I say 'new' because I only moved here six months ago (I lived in another District at the time of the last election). Not to mention it's a neighbourhood I was not very familiar with previously and (honestly) it was not my first-choice area to live in when the boy and I first planned moving in together. That being said, the area is relatively central and rent is cheap, so here we are! And I am becoming more and more acquainted with the area over time and it's starting to grow on me.

*Did I mention that we live in District 12? When I found that out, I couldn't help but picture me in a ring fighting the guy across the hall to the death*

Anyway, in an effort to become more acquainted with my new neighbourhood, I have been trying to frequent businesses in the area as much as possible. One plus about our location is that we are very central in Clayton Park West - we are basically halfway between two major shopping strips so pretty much any shop or restaurant or clinic or bank we could possibly want is within a 10 minute walk. 

Here are a few of my District 12 favs (so far):

1. Keshen Goodman Library
Before I moved to Clayton Park, I am ashamed to say I had not visited the Library in several years and had developed a bit of an unhealthy addiction to Chapters. Well, considering this Library is literally across the street from my apartment building, and that I am on a tight budget (new books are expensive, y'all) I decided I needed to be a good citizen and start visiting the Library more. 

First of all, isn't the architecture of this place cool?!

Almost all the walls are lined with windows, which makes for a bit of a hot interior on a sunny day, but still cool to look at. Walking around a library is so soothing, don't you think? It's so quiet and just full of people either reading or browsing books. I love that they have a self check-out here, and they often have neat speakers or events happening in their event room. I particularly love that I can borrow books from here for my Kobo (in case, you know, I'm so lazy that I can't even make it across the road).

2. Canada Games Centre
This building is also directly across the street from my apartment (did I say good location?), and is another new building of modern design. It was built to host the aquatic events of the 2012 Canada Games, so as you can imagine the pool area is pretty bangin'.

Check out that water slide!

Ok, so I have to admit - I have never actually visited this place before. However, I plan to take my sister swimming there soon! They have community swims every Tuesday and Thursday night that anyone can attend - it only costs $3! Personally, I can't wait to get my butt in the hot tub with a cocktail (they won't mind if I keep gin in my locker, right?). And I do just like looking at the place, if nothing else; it's nice to see some interesting architecture in a suburban area (breaks up the big box store haze).

3. Restaurants
If I had one major complaint about my new area it's that there are not ANY interesting local restaurants (think Applebee's and East Side Marios and their look alikes). The choices out here are pretty homogeneous, which is something that bugs me and I hope changes. Suburban areas can have fun, fresh food choices too! Here are a few that I like:

Not to say that burgers and fries are anything special, but although Flipburger is a chain, it at least has a fun, modern vibe and meals that actually use fresh ingredients instead of bites made blah from heat lamps. They actually include local ingredients, such as Oulton's bacon on their menu too, which is also refreshing.

I have written about Happy Sushi on the blog before, but I will say it again - whoever thought up the concept of "All You Can Eat Sushi" AND putting it 2 minutes away from my apartment is a frickin' genius and I want to kiss them.

A big fav is Mexico Lindo, which isn't exactly in my own backyard but it's close enough. It's HANDS DOWN the most authentic Mexican food in the city, everything is really fresh and the prices are reasonable - what more could you ask for?! Don't believe me - check out my review on Yelp. This is a definite "go-to" when we want a fresh but delicious meal.

Thanks for taking a tour of some of my "so-far" favourites in my new 'hood. Now get out there and explore yours!

Do you like your neighbourhood? What do you like about it? What would you change? Do you try and get out and explore yours or do you prefer to visit other areas?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Radio Two

 I have had a special treat for the past couple of weeks. And it has nothing to do with chocolate.

I know. I'll just give you a moment to collect your jaw off the floor.

I have been driving my mom's car - when she or her boyfriend are away, I get to borrow her car and this gives me a much-needed break from taking public transport back and forth to work each day (kill me). The best part of it is, I get all the benefits of having a car to drive, without all of the responsibility. Sort of like babysitting your grandkids - you get to have all this fun with them and pump them full of sugar, then you get to hand them over right when they become irritable and say 'here you go!'.

One of the treats that comes along with driving back and forth to work every day is getting to listen to the radio. This may not sound very exciting, but when you take the bus every day, you really don't get to listen to the radio, like ever. This isn't a huge deal to me either until I hear my friends (my friends with cars) talk about a current song, and I have never heard of it. Makes me feel kinda silly. I do feel a little out of the loop regarding news and current pop culture when I don't listen to the radio.

I have gotten in the habit of listening to CBC Radio 2 during my commute (102.7fm in Halifax), which is surprising because I was not happy with this station a few years back when they completely changed all the programming. Specifically, I was unhappy that they got rid of a great classical music morning show, hosted by Tom Allen, that my mother and I would devour happily every morning on our blah drive over the bridge to work and school respectively (when I still lived at home).

Tom always told the most delightful anecdotes about each piece of music before playing it, so it was very educational and interesting to listen to. We ALL need a perk during that morning drive surrounded by traffic and drowsiness (am I right?) and this was ours. Suffice to say all these changes to programming caused a bit of an uproar amongst CBC R2 fans, and I stopped listening to the station almost altogether.

I suppose part of the reason I started listening again was because of a lack of quality and unique music elsewhere on the airwaves. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for an upbeat, catchy pop song once in a while - I like me some Lady Gaga, Pink and Nikki Minaj once in a while, so I'm certainly not one to completely denounce popular music, but that doesn't mean I respect all popular music. Frankly, a lot of it sounds the same and a lot of it is so massively overproduced that I am convinced many of the artists have no real talent at all. Sometimes I just want to hear something different, ya know? Something with lyrics about deeper and more emotional subjects than getting drunk and humping on a dance floor (so sue me).

CBC Radio not only plays music by lesser-known artists - particularly songwriters (you know, people who actually can sing, play instruments, and write songs) - but they also highlight mostly Canadian content, which is also refreshing when the airwaves are clogged with homogenous American acts.

Here are a couple of songs that have caught my ear in the last week or so - so much so that I had to Shazam them (as best I could while driving...shhhh, don't tell my mother), and email myself a reminder to download them. I figure a song must speak to you if you're willing to go through that kind of effort to ensure it gets on your iTunes. I thought I would share them with you as well, in case you are looking for some musical inspiration right now (see below).

Ok, ok, Radio 2, I admit it - you have brought me back into your fold. I guess changes can turn out for the best.

(By the way, if you are looking for some new music, how 'about changing your usual radio station and listening to something different? Give it a try today - you may hear some songs that you can't wait to Shazam, too!).

I don't know about you, but I was NOT expecting this singer to be a woman! Love her deep, gravely voice!

One of the best voices in music today, IMHO

Recognize this one? ;)

Discovered any great music lately? What radio stations do you like to listen to?