There's a bright golden haze on the meadow...
While I am finishing cooking up a batch of Tuscan Kale Stew with Cannellini Beans, from a recipe in Missy Robbins' cookbook, "breakfast, lunch, dinner...life," it is time to reflect upon the play, "Oklahoma," I saw yesterday at the St. Ann's Warehouse theater in DUMBO, in Brooklyn, NY. Easy to think of "Oklahoma" as an old chestnut of a play, redone strictly for the sake of nostalgia. This production, directed by Daniel Fish, took that old chestnut and split it wide open. Just for some history, the original played in 1943. Fish's production premiered at Bard SummerScape in 2015, and now has it's present iteration off-Broadway.
Oklahoma, where the wind comes sweeping down the plains...
It always amazes me, how the same story can be reinterpreted over and over again, making it entirely new to my eyes. And so I see Uncle Vanya, or all of Shakespeare's plays, over and over again. This production of Oklahoma was sexy, slow, and highlighted the play's dark spaces.
The setting is a hall with long tables, as if set up for a dance or community meal. Crockpots are cooking on all the tables, and on one table a pile of corn for shucking, on another the ingredients for making a batch of cornbread. Part of the audience sits behind the tables closest to the seating for the rest of the audience, on each long side of the stage. A nice touch is that during intermission, the audience, part of the community of the play, is invited to partake in chili and cornbread.
Mylar fringes hang along the ceiling, echoing thoughts of the surrey with the fringe on top. A country band is set up in the pit in the center of one side of the stage. Songs are sometimes sung with a bit of twang or hint of a yodel. Along the back wall are racks of shotguns, a more ominous side to the atmosphere in which the story unfolds. The far wall is wistfully painted with a view of the prairie.
Poor Jud is dead...
One most notable thing about the play are two scenes that are played in total darkness, allowing us to fully listen to dark words spoken. One being Curly's visit to the smokehouse, where Jud resides. The other when Jud and Laurie are outside at the dance.
Also notable are two renditions of the title song, "Oklahoma." The first version of "Oklahoma," within the context of the play is lively, spirited, and full of the hope and enthusiasm of a new nation being born. While I listened, I thought of how far away we are from that unity of spirit, under today's leadership by Trump and the GOP. This is in stark contrast to "Oklahoma" sung as a reprise, after Judd is shot. After we witness these settlers bend the rule of law to suit their own means and protect their own. There is a darkness and manic urgency to the tune being sung, reflecting that all is not right, even in this pastiche of our past. The blood spattering Curly's face and upon the white wedding clothes of our newly married couple, symbolizes the true past history of our country, and at the same time represents the times in which we live today. The image is shocking.
Dream baby dream...
Stepping away, and bringing it back to the personal, this is also the love story of two couples, Laurie and Curly, and Ado Annie and Will. This production lets us understand Laurie's attraction to Jud, despite her true love for Curly. But it is hard to understand why Laurie is so against giving into her feelings for Curly. That is until we hear her say what is in her heart, in response to Ali Hakam, the peddler, asking her what she wants.
Want things I cain't tell you about - not only things to look at and hold in yer hands. Things to happen to you. Things so nice, if they ever did happen to you, yer heart'd quit beatin'. You'd fall down dead!'
Out of my dreams and into your arms, I long to fly. I will come as evening does to woo a waiting sky...
Exploring this further, at the top of the second half of the play, there is a dance for the dream sequence within the play, exploring the conflicts and confusion inside of Laurie. Only references are made to the original Agnes de Mille's choreography.
The featured dancer is Gabrielle Hamilton, with choreography by John Heginbotham. Hamilton presents herself to the audience in a sequined t-shirt that reads: "Dream Baby Dream." She starts off galloping like a cowboy on a horse and then goes into more psychological aspects of the battle in Laurie's mind over Curley and Jud. At times Hamilton is joined by a corps of female dancers, all sporting the logo, "Dream Baby Dream." As she dances we hear bits and pieces of songs previously sung in the play, sometimes distorted, sometimes true to tune. Heginbotham's choreography brings a new dimension to this old chestnut, "Oklahoma."
Given the excellent singing, dancing, and interpretation of the story line, as well as the mind-blowing ending, yesterday was a day at the theater that I will always remember. Yesterday morning before the theater, I cooked a pot of cannellini beans. This morning I finished the rest of the recipe for Tuscan Kale Stew with Cannellini Beans, and at the end of this post, you may find the recipe.
Missy Robbins and her recipe for Tuscan Kale Stew with Cannellini Beans...
I have been to Missy Robbins restaurant. "Lilia" only two times in my life. All I can say is that the food is fantastic, and I would love to go again sometime. Somehow, her restaurant feels more personal to me since it is located in Brooklyn, which is my current home town. Granted, she is in Williamsburg and I am in Park Slope, but hey, still the same boro. What is interesting about her cookbook, "breakfast, lunch, dinner...life," is that she tells her personal journey with food and life throughout the pages. I also like that her intention is to make the food of her recipes, both flavorful and healthy.
The Tuscan Kale Stew with Cannellini Beans is the first recipe that I have tried from this cookbook, and I am delighted with the results. I hope you will be, too. Try this recipe, and enjoy!
Tuscan Kale Stew with Cannellini Beans
- 1 bunch Tuscan kale
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves thinly sliced
- 1/2 tablespoon chili flakes
- 2 cups juice from a can of San Marzano tomatoes or tomato passato I used can of whole peeled tomatoes, and chopped up the tomatoes a bit
- 1 15- ounce can cannelloni beans drained and rinsed (I pre-soaked beans and cooked them for 1-1/2 hours. I added olive oil and black peppercorns and thyme to the water. (recipe actually called for sage, but I did not have any). Brought to boil and then simmered, uncovered pot. Added teaspoon salt before last half hour of simmer.)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Remove the leaves from the woody stems of the kale and wash leaves. Discard stems.
Heat a shallow saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the olive oil and garlic to the pan and sweat until aromatic but not browned. Add the chili flakes.
Rip the leaves of kale into rough, 4-inch pieces and add to the pan. Lightly seat until well coated in the oil, about 3-4 minutes.
Add the San Marzano juice and cook the kale until tender, about 10-12 minutes. (I included the roughly chopped whole peeled tomatoes, too). If using passato and it is a little too thick, add a cup of water, which will evaporate as it cooks. The kale will also release a bit of water.
Ad the cannelloni beans to the kale just to heat them through.
Season with the salt, stir to incorporate, and taste. Add more salt if necessary.
Transfer the stewed kale to a large serving bowl and top with parmigiana-Reggiano.