Sometimes there’s a man

As relatively new Los Angeles residents, Kenley and I often are reminded that the cult classic “The Big Lebowski” was filmed in the City of Angels (“we haven’t found it to be that exactly, but we’ll allow there are some nice folks here”).

  • When we grab a gallon of milk from Ralph’s, where viewers are first introduced to The Dude.
  • When we’re near the In-N-Out. (I said “near” the In-N-Out, Donnie.) “Those are good burgers, Dude.”
  • When we drive by the Venice cottages where, in the movie, The Dude abides (The cottages went on the market last year for $2.3 million).
  • And when we drive along the Pacific Coast Highway to Malibu (“the chief of police is a real reactionary”), passing the beach house where actor Jeff Bridges reportedly actually abides.

Kenley made us watch “The Big Lebowski” for the umpteenth time soon after we moved here, and we went to see the midnight showing when it played at Nuart Theatre‘s “Cine Insomnia” several months ago.

That was the first time I’d seen the 1998 Coen Bros. movie in the theater, and it also might have been the first time I’d seen the movie the whole way through. It seems I always fall asleep at the same place each viewing: right before (SPOILER ALERT) Jackie Treehorn’s thugs kidnap The Dude and he later escapes into his drug-fueled bowling fantasy.

It was a blast to be a part of a large audience reacting to the movie. Surprisingly, the crowd showed a lot of restraint — opting against reciting or responding to each line of dialogue — in part because the theater manager warned us not to.

You probably won’t be surprised to learn that Kenley and the guys on the copy desk at often trade lines from the movie, which features a group of slacker friends for which bowling is one of the few things they take seriously. (Turns out the lines apply to most sports — and to life in general.)

“You were over the line, Smokey. That’s a foul.  . . . This is not ‘Nam. This is bowling. There are rules.  . . . Has the world gone crazy?! Am I the only one around here who gives a shit about the rules?”

“We’re talking about unchecked aggression here, Dude.”

“Who’s in charge of scheduling?”

“Phone’s ringin’, Dude.”

“You’re not wrong, Walter. You’re just an a**hole.”

I could go on, but I won’t.

So when one of the editors got an email about a live Coen Bros. revue, he forwarded it to those he knew would appreciate it, and Kenley and I decided we had to go.

The Show at Barre‘s “For the Record” series features live music and dramatic performances of movie scenes from Hollywood’s favorite directors, including Martin Scorsese, Cameron Crowe, Tim Burton, Baz Luhrmann and the Coen Bros. It’s a kind of intimate dinner theater, where the entire venue becomes a stage.

The Coens are known as much for creating quirky, idiosyncratic characters as they are for crafting hysterical, off-kilter, profanity-laden dialogue. Their style is so unique and distinctive that you can nearly always identify a movie they’ve had their hands in. Most of the Coens’ work also features a savvy soundtrack selection that helps establish the mood of each movie. Other Coen Bros. classics include “Fargo,” “No Country for Old Men,” “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” and “True Grit.”

The Show at Barre is part of the Rockwell entertainment complex in the hip Los Feliz neighborhood in East Hollywood. The Show at Barre venue has been enlarged, and according to Eater LA, the remodeled Rockwell: Table & Stage debuts this month.

Kenley and I were seated at the bar, a fun place to be because the performers regularly use it as a side stage. We ordered two “Caucasians,” otherwise known as White Russians, The Dude’s beverage of choice, which includes milk, Kahlua and vodka.

For dinner we had small plates of ahi tuna tacos, plus goat-cheese-and-truffle ravioli.

The show started with a chain gang processing into the theater singing “Po Lazarus” from “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” (The soundtrack to the movie was produced by the legendary T-Bone Burnett and won the Grammy for Album of the Year in 2002.)

The actors nailed the North Dakota accents in scenes from the movie “Fargo.” And the “What if you tire of it before it’s done?” exchange among the board members from “The Hudsucker Proxy” made me want to go home and rent the movie.

Musical performances included:

  • “These Boots Were Made For Walkin’,” from “Fargo”
  • “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms,” from “True Grit”
  • “Danny Boy,” from the early Coen Bros. classic “Miller’s Crossing”
  • “The Boxer,” from “Intolerable Cruelty”
  • “Somebody to Love,” from “A Serious Man”

A show that could have turned out a bit cheesy and cringe-worthy became rather extraordinary because the performers were so talented (many have experience on Broadway), and they all seemed to be having a blast. Plus, the intimate space created a feeling of community. It was clear we were surrounded by appreciative Coen Bros. fans.

Performances from “The Big Lebowski” were, of course, the highlight of the evening. They started with The Stranger’s opening monologue:

“Sometimes there’s a man … well … he’s the man for his time and place. He fits right in there. And that’s The Dude. The Dude, from Los Angeles.”

It was followed by a bluesy rendition of Bob Dylan’s “The Man in Me,” which Kenley often covers when he performs live. He even suggested it as the first dance at our wedding. (Looking back on it, it would have been perfect, but The Pogues’ “A Rainy Night in Soho” seemed more romantic.)

The man in me will hide sometimes to keep from being seen
But that’s just because he doesn’t want to turn into some machine
Take a woman like you
To get through to the man in me.

But oh, what a wonderful feeling
Just to know that you are near
It sets my heart a-reeling
From my toes up to my ears.

There was the psychedelic “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In),” as well as Creedence’s “Lookin’ Out My Back Door.”

And, of course, The Gipsy Kings’ version of the f*!king Eagles’ “Hotel California.”

And there was the essential exchange between The Dude’s bowling buddy, Walter, and their adversary Jesus Quintana, most of which is unsuitable to print here. But it starts with: “I see you rolled your way into the semis.”

(The Show at Barre debuts “For the Record: ‘Boogie Nights'” June 7.  If you go, know that the show can get a bit pricey after tickets, dinner and drinks. So sign up for Blackboard Eats, which occasionally offers discounts to the performance and other restaurants.)


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