Calgary’s downpour last Friday made the normally buzzing Stephen Avenue a desolate place. Perfect for the opening night of Venus in Fur, presented by Alberta Theatre Projects!From the nosebleed section on the Martha Cohen Theatre, aka Tier 2, I had a wonderful view of the stage. Even the cheap seats are fab in this room.… although the leg room is a little tight. But I forgot about my knees jammed up against the railing as soon as the lights went down. Plus you’re allowed to drink during the performance. Although alcohol wasn’t required to make things interesting — I was riveted. Promoted by a saucy photo of a woman in thigh-high boots held up by garters, you expect this provocative play to be purely about pleasure and punishment. But it ends up being much more complex and intriguing, and will get you talking about a multiple of social issues beyond sex, to gender politics. The cadence of theatrical delivery makes it easy to watch. Just when it starts to get really serious, there’s a comic break that cuts the tension. Actors Tim Campbell and Amanda Lisman accept a champagne toast after the premiere, with Artistic Director Vanessa Porteous behind them. Apologies, Amanda , for catching you on the way to a blink and obscuring your baby blues. Not only is she beautiful, her performance, switching between wildly different characters, was thrilling. Go see this play!Afterwards, we stopped in to the new-ish Chicago Chophouse, next door to the theater complex, across from the skating rink (which, I’m pleased to say, despite our snowstorm last week, is still in liquid form). They didn’t balk at our 10:30 pm arrival, and we proceeded to have a fantastic meal. A surprising Caesar salad — the lettuce seemed more bibb than romaine — was light and lovely, with strips of The Best Bacon I’ve Ever Had alongside. Filet mignon was served a perfect medium rare.
Even though it was Friday night, the place was kind of empty. Although I think the cavernous heritage room in the Burns Building (no relation, unfortunately) would be hard to energize even if the restaurant was jammed. I humbly suggest filling the empty white walls with murals, Ayn Rand style. Chicago Chophouse has a cool Art Deco thing going on, but it’s not quite there. Although the decor was the perfect backdrop for our formal black attire.