Ramen and Hellman

Friday, February 9th, 2007 | All Things, Arts, Eats

Ramen seemed just the thing for a frigid night, and Rai Rai Ken in the East Village is consistently ranked by noodle adicionados among the city’s best.

Rai Rai Ken

The cramped, narrow space consists of just 14 low stools along a scuffed, wooden bar facing into an open kitchen where the kerchief-headed chefs sling noodles from a pair of giant, steaming stockpots full of broth.

The restaurant offers three ramen varieties, each just under $7 a generous bowl: the Shoyu Ramen (soy sauce based noodle soup) and Shio Ramen (house special seafood based noodle soup) are topped with roast pork, spinach, fishcake, bamboo shoots, boiled egg, a leaf of dried seaweed and a sprinkling of scallion. A bowl of the Miso Ramen will set you back 45 cents more.  And for an additional charge, there are optional ramen toppings, which include corn, extra roast pork and… butter? (I passed.)

Rai Rai Ken

Rai Rai Ken Ramen

Quick, cheap and tasty. For those just not into ramen noodles — though I can’t imagine who those people would be! — Rai Rai Ken also offers curry plates, fried plates, edamame and pan-fried pork-stuffed gyoza.

Toys in the Attic was Lillian Hellman‘s last original work for stage. The original Broadway production, featuring Oscar winners Maureen Stapleton and Jason Robards, Jr.  in the starring roles, enjoyed a long and healthy run in 1960, eventually winning the Tony and the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Awards. A 1963 movie adaptation starred Dean Martin, Geraldine Page, and Wendy Hiller.  Still, the play lags in recognition behind the better-known and more frequently restaged The Little Foxes  and The Children’s Hour.  (It’s also the one of those three plays that was not on my required reading list in high school.)

The Pearl Theatre Company‘s  revival is directed by American movie, television and stage actor Austin Pendleton, whom I last saw on stage opposite Meryl Streep in this past summer’s Shakespeare in the Park production of Mother Courage.)

Toys in the Attic

Pendleton first met Hellman herself when he appeared in Mike Nichols‘s 1967 revival of The Little Foxes.  Fourteen years later, Pendleton collaborated with Hellman (and earned several Tony nominations) directing the same play, this time starring Elizabeth Taylor and Maureen Stapleton (again.)

With such a stellar Hellman track record, Pendleton was a solid choice to direct this most recent Hellman revival.  Set in the playwright’s birthplace of New Orleans, Toys in the Attic  is the story of Anna and Carrie Berniers, two unmarried, middle-aged sisters who toil away at menial jobs, carefully budgeting their meager earnings and dreaming of a grander life. The women are united in the decaying family home by their adoration and protectiveness of their charming but failure-prone younger brother Julian. The events of the drama unfold over one steamy day when Julian sweeps back into town, flush with new, unexpected and unexplained success, and the toll it takes on the family dynamic.  What happens when all you’ve ever wished is suddenly within your grasp? Which is greater: the need to be loved, or the love to be needed?  A strong dash of melodrama and theatrical convenience precipitates the kind of disaster to which so much overheated Southern Gothic eventually leads.  It is a meditation on many things: dreams, wealth, success, race, class, deception, jealousy, betrayal.  But underneath it all, it is a story about the ever-changing and sometimes frightening nature of love: love that desires, demands, and ultimately destroys.

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