Friday, July 3, 2009

Vermouth straight: "Trouble in Tahiti"

Over breakfast this morning, I caught a scene from a movie adaptation of Leonard Bernstein's opera "Trouble in Tahiti":  after walking out of a particularly cheesy movie, Dinah works her way through the liquor cabinet in a fit of 1950s confined-housewife-with-selfish-husband misery, singing the whole while.  The staging in a suburban home of the time was full of artifacts and colors of the time (I'm always struck by how enthusiastically 1950s families covered their counters with the latest in kitchen technology).  Amidst all the richness, though, a tiny point stood out:  after Dinah had already drunkenly poured herself a few, the last pour was from a bottle of Vermouth.  That was such a subtle point in the staging, but it meant so much: the only reason for a 1950s American household to keep a bottle of Vermouth around is for martinis, and if she is drinking Vermouth straight, it means she has already exhausted the gin supply and is desperate to continue her drinking binge.  Even though it's a sad, ironic moment, one still appreciates the aesthetic sense, the historical awareness, and the thought that went into the staging.