Sunday, March 15, 2015

Restaurant Review: On The Outs With Outback Steakhouse

The Outback in Turnersville, NJ has been in a steady decline over the past two years as prices continue to rise and the quality of the food and service continue to decline. 

The last straw was last night, Friday 3/13/2015. I ordered my usual 10 oz rib-eye, medium rare. The waitress gave me the perfunctory warning that it would be very pink on the inside. When it came, after an extremely long wait, it was overcooked, grey inside and out, and appeared to be less than 1/4" thick. We had a large party of 7, celebrating my son's birthday, so I decided not to make a scene, and I knew if I sent it back I would be sitting like a dunce for eternity waiting for another one while the rest of my family uncomfortably ate their dinners. So I ate about half of it. 

When the waitress finally reappeared, I showed her the grey, cardboard-like piece of meat and told her it was not medium rare and I didn't complain earlier. She said she would "take care of it", which I thought meant taking it off the bill.

Instead, some nit-wit arrived about 15 minutes later with another steak, as if I was going to sit there and eat it by myself while everyone else waited. I had it wrapped and took it home. 

And the bathrooms are filthy. When we brought this to the manager's attention, she giggled and shrugged her shoulders.

Never again.


Outback Steakhouse
4600 NJ-42
Turnersville, NJ 08012

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Theater Review: Larry David's Fish In The Dark

First, let me say I am 100% biased. I wanted to see this show because it was written by and starred Larry David and I knew I was going to like it because it was written by and starred Larry David. So it was a no-brainer when we heard about this show, we were going to see it.

I went on line, Googled it, found a ticket web site, and ordered center balcony seats for March 4th, which was the best day for my wife and me. I got my email confirmation and was very pleased.

Then, I started looking around and found out the show was opening on March 5th, and was in previews (I had no idea what that meant) until then.

I bought preview tickets! PANIC! Will Larry not be there?

I emailed my theater-savvy brother and sister and asked what previews meant, and they told me they were essentially dress rehearsals before official opening, tickets are cheaper, and the day before opening you are pretty much seeing the finished product. I exhaled. My brother also gave me some tips for stalking at the stage door after the show to see the cast members.

I also panicked when I got my tickets, through a website called TicketNetwork, and got two pieces of paper with barcodes. Again, not being theater-savvy, I didn't know what an "e-ticket" was. I should have known, but I didn't. I obsessed over it for a week until we got there and stopped by the box office to make sure the tickets were legit. The guy behind the counter got a good laugh at my expense.

We had lunch then walked back to the Cort Theater on 48th St, and by dumb luck, Larry David was walking about 5 feet in front of us and we saw him enter the stage door, so I knew where to go after the show.

Larry David plays Norman Drexel, a urinal salesman in Los Angeles, who gets a late night phone call that his father has been taken to the hospital. He decides to try to go back to sleep and go to the hospital in the morning. There, he sees his brother Arthur (played by Ben Shenkman) with his new girlfriend. Larry questions why someone would bring a date to the hospital. His mother (played by Jayne Houdyshell) and his wife Brenda (played by Rita Wilson) arrive, along with other family members.

Cut to Dad's (played by Jerry Adler) hospital bed. Dad says his one wish is for Mom not to live alone. Larry and Arthur struggle to get an answer to whom should Mom live with. The heart monitor flatlines. Larry and Arthur argue.

Norman/Larry is the same character Larry David plays in Curb Your Enthusiasm, doing and saying obnoxious and inappropriate things, arguing with his brother over Mom's living arrangements, steaming over everyone agreeing his niece's eulogy was better than his - he corners her and suggests that perhaps she didn't write it herself because it contained a "big word" (profound). He makes her cry. Larry is great when interacting with kids, like the lemonade stand episode in "Curb". The family argues as they did at Dad's death bed.

Norman gets some startling news from his parents' former housekeeper, now his housekeeper, Fabiana (played by Rosie Perez). Mom moves into Norman's house, his wife moves out, and Fabiana and Norman hatch some schemes. As you would expect, things don't go exactly as planned.

That's about all I'm going to tell you about the plot. 

If you like Larry David's brand of humor (i.e. funny humor) you will love this show. If you're jonesing for a new "Curb" episode, this more than scratches the itch. I laughed my ass off for two hours. My only issue was hearing the dialog. Most of the company consists of experienced stage actors who project their voices. Larry was not projecting the same way and there was a marked difference in volume between Larry's voice and the others'. I don't know how to fix that. Larry needs to practice I guess. Anyway, with his reactions, timing, and wild gesticulations, it wasn't to hard to fill in the blanks where I couldn't hear, but it would have been better if I could hear Larry as loud as the others.

The show has gotten mediocre to bad reviews. The New York Times skewered it. Common gripes were:
The show was more like a sitcom than a play (so what?)
Too many set changes (so what?)
Too many cast members (so what?)
It was a throwback to the days of Neil Simon comedies (what's wrong with that?)

Don't listen to the theater snobs.

Since I'm not a theater snob, none of those things bothered me. It was essentially an extended "Curb" episode, with one difference (Spoiler Alert): Whereas "Curb" episodes typically ended with something gone awry and the screen going black, here everything is wrapped up in a nice bow, feuding family members make up, and Mom delivers the punch line that ends the show.

After the curtain dropped, we went outside and positioned ourselves at the stage door. Larry came out, signed autographs, including my wife's Playbill, and I got a selfie with Larry and the marquee over my shoulder.

All in all, a great day, a dream come true. If you like Larry David you'll love this show.