Week of November 17, 2004

The Front Page
And she ain't even nekkid! I am pleased to see the Riverfront Times can occasionally place the visual arts on its front page [Ivy Cooper, "Bauer Power," November 3]. I read your short reviews every week but miss Cooper's full-length, insightful and informed pieces.
Mary E. Watkin, director
Public Policy Research Center Gallery and Photography Project
University of Missouri-St. Louis

Stage Rage
Defending the Playhouse: I am one of the managing partners at the new Playhouse at West Port Plaza. I want to respond to Deanna Jent's review of our first production, Defending the Caveman ["Belly Up to the Proscenium," November 3].

Ms. Jent wrote, "[I]f you're planning an excursion to the Playhouse, consider copping a seat close to the stage, lest your view be blocked by the parade of drink seekers marching back and forth in front of you."

Our bar is shut down a few minutes prior to curtain, and we do not serve drinks during the show. On that Friday night, one of my partners asked the bartender for a glass of wine -- and he's taken heaps of abuse for that. It won't happen again. Once the show starts, no staff is allowed behind the bar. Present company included.

We sold about 35 to 40 drinks per show the first week. Our bar is there for those who choose to have a beverage. It is by no means the focus of our theater. We place a menu in patrons' hands to show them that we do have a full-service, upscale selection. Unlike other venues in town, we do not serve bag-in-a box wine or tepid beer in tiny plastic cups.

The review also referred to our theater as surrounded by three "watering holes." I cannot speak for the managers of these establishments, but I would not classify them, particularly the highly regarded Drunken Fish, as merely watering holes. As for the sound issues, we're working on solving them in a couple ways. First, we've brought in a few soundproofing consultants, and second, we are trying to negotiate with our neighbors to hold off on the loud music till our show is over.

Our first week was tremendous. We had large, enthusiastic crowds. We learned a lot. We learned to remind the audience to turn off cell phones and pagers. As for the play itself, it's been a tremendous success all over America, and in at least a dozen countries across the world. We believe that nearly everybody in the audience enjoyed Caveman and its universal themes.

Ms. Jent wrote that couples in their twenties left halfway through the show. I honestly don't know what she is talking about; that's simply not an accurate depiction of what happened at our theater. I was at all six shows that week and noticed one couple leaving early during the show Ms. Jent attended. The same couple had arrived fifteen minutes late and were carrying four drinks between them when they got to their seats.
Tom Clyde, managing partner
The Playhouse at West Port Plaza

Green Pouty
Dairy down: As a newcomer to St. Louis, I've been voraciously reading the RFT to get a feel for the city, to know what's going on, where to eat, etc. However, as of last week I have learned that it's necessary to be a bit more skeptical when reading your reviews.

As a vegan, I was pretty excited to read Rose Martelli's reviews of the Soy Products Cafe and Gokul ["All Abroad!" October 27]. (Just wondering, though: Is anything that doesn't come served on a bun considered "exotic" in this town?) Her description of Gokul as "exotic, healthy, vegan, cheap and very, very, good" motivated me to go there Sunday afternoon. I was pretty disappointed to discover that Gokul is not vegan. Their food contains dairy but not eggs. The food that didn't contain dairy was delicious, and it was still worth the trip, but I'm pretty annoyed at your reviewer's lack of accurate information. Surely it's not hard to get it right.
Sondra Noonan
St. Louis

Beatle Bob Sighting
Bobbing for applause: Are my friends and I the only concertgoers in St. Louis who have had it with paying to see our favorite musicians, only to be forced to endure impromptu Beatle Bob "performances" [Julie Seabaugh, "Little Drummer Girl," October 27]?

I'm not talking about the inevitable side show we've all seen no less than a thousand times over the years here in St. Louis, and elsewhere, for that matter. I'm referring to Beatle Bob, onstage with our favorite performers -- dancing, singing or, worse yet, talking. This unfortunate phenomenon reached crescendo when the recent Trachtenberg Family Slide Show performance at Mad Art Gallery was interrupted for a "between sets" trivia session with the Trachtenbergs and Beatle Bob. Not only did this session break the stride of the performance, but by my calculation, at least two songs were likely cut from the Trachtenbergs' set list.

Insult was added to injury when the charming opening performer, Andrew Katz, dared question the credentials Beatle Bob used to weasel his way into the show and onstage, only to be blasted by an audience member intent on protecting BB. Is this what we're really paying to see, St. Louis? Do performers, gallery owners and club owners think this is what we want to see?

If BB wants to dance, by all means, the man should dance, by the stage. Unless a performance specifically includes an audience-participation element, onstage dancing, singing and talking should be left to the artists we are paying to see. Please.
Dana Plonka
University City

Choke on This
Boy, that Unreal's a real jerkoff! I found Unreal's "Beat It" hysterical [October 27]. Your writer stated that Chicago Cubs fans are "choking furiously." Let's see now.... It wasn't the Cubs who lost the World Series in four games straight (cough, gurgle), got outscored 24 to 12 (hack, wheeze), got outhit 39 to 24 (ack, gasp) and couldn't capitalize on the eight (count 'em) errors made by their opponent (gag, groan).

The St. Loser Cardinals have now given this city the distinction of being the only city that has lost to the same city (Boston) in every major sporting event (urp, ulp). Tack on Gephardt losing to Kerry in the Democratic primary (hurl, puke, splat), and I call that "choking furiously."
D. Doehler
St. Louis

Massa Blast
What do people in St. Louis look for in their dining experience? One of my earliest childhood memories was going to Massa's with my mother and twin sister. Looking back, it made perfect sense: The food was relatively inexpensive and tasted great. I sincerely doubt Rose Martelli is from St. Louis, because that is the only rational explanation for her critique ["The Secret of Massa's' Success," October 13]. How else could someone have so little understanding of what people in St. Louis look for in their dining experience?

I have routinely brought out-of-state classmates to the Bridgeton location and almost all of them, in turn, have taken someone else. While people are entitled to their opinions, at some point a dissenting opinion needs to defer to the overwhelming majority. I suggest that the next time Ms. Martelli comes across a restaurant as successful as Massa's, her investigation should include more than what seems to be a cursory glance.

On a side note: I've only had the toasted artichoke hearts once, but when I did they came in a sweet yellow poppyseed dressing, not a white sauce that could be confused for "tartar."
Gregory Anderson
St. Louis

So that's what people in St. Louis look for in their dining experience! Rose Martelli should not be surprised that Massa's is busy even though its food is mediocre. St. Louis is not a town where a business has to do a first-rate job to survive. If the portions are large and your parents patronized the place when they were in high school, it will be popular.
Neil Bernstein

OK...you're low-class! I was shocked and disappointed to read your review of Massa's! Call me low-class if you must, but I think their salad is the best in all of St. Louis! I love the casual atmosphere of all their restaurants and their friendly servers. My entire family often meets at all three of the restaurants and will remain loyal to them and everything that they offer. It is a great place for "regular" people like us!
Diane Pierce
Maryland Heights

The line shortens: Not one thing right to mention? In my experience over the years, that has not been the case. I like the food, I like the service, I like the artwork, I like the patio.

Oh, wait: I do not like waiting for a table, inside or out. So I come early or late but not at the height of the rush (when, alas, many other restaurants do not take reservations, particularly for outside tables).

Was it the wait that precipitated this churlish, childish review? So sorry then. You'll be one less person in line ahead of me waiting for a table.
Susan Hughes

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