The Man Who Came to Dinner

Entering the Parkway we slipped past the growing crowd of local would-be swingers to meet theater co-owners Catherine Campbell and Kyle Fischer. Catherine showed us around the vintage 1926 theater that she and Kyle re-created as a modern-day speak-easy, with two 150-seat theaters, both of which double as restaurants and/or pubs.

The popcorn stand looked ordinary enough, except for the full pub menu hanging above it. We placed our order and received two pints of Sierra Nevada Pale and a metal stand with a plastic letter denoting our order. I made a mental note about the amazing premium pitcher prices ($8!) for future reference. Then Monica ushered us past the anxious masses awaiting entry and into the cavernous theater space, where we were honored with a VIP front-row love seat adjacent to Will and Monica's.

As workers cleared away the dishes from the previous show, we soaked up the unusual atmosphere of the place. The theater is divided into three tiers. The foremost one is filled with 20 or so love seats and matching end tables for your viewing/dining pleasure. The upper tiers resemble the Copacabana, with individual chairs and cocktail tables all facing forward. Above the screen is a beautiful proscenium arch adorned with intricate Egyptian-style carvings.

On this particular evening the stage was set for Will the Thrill's final "Midnight Lounge" pre-show. Monica straightened the authentic midway carnival wheel, placed the prizes by Will's rattan chair, and set the decorative tiki masks along the length of the stage.

Suddenly, the doors were flung open and two streams of twenty- to thirtysomethings rushed in from either side of the room, literally diving to secure one of the coveted love seats up front. Once those seats were filled, the remaining viewers were stuck with the consolation chairs in back.

The plastic letter resting on our end table soon brought waiters bearing a healthy sampling of the Parkway's menu. A house salad with red wine vinaigrette and crumbled blue cheese was surprisingly good. The buffalo wings were actually a step above the standard deep-fried sports-bar version, with a dark, smoky, dare-I-say complex sauce. Our custom-baked pizza (the Parkway's mainstay), which included our selected toppings of tomatoes, garlic, and feta, was unbelievably tasty -- remember, we were in a movie theater.

More-than-decent food, on the cheap, with pitchers of beer and only $5 admission. Why haven't you been to the Parkway yet?

The din of the crowd settled to a murmur as Will took the stage. Before introducing the evening's film selection, Will the Thrill announced his move to Thursdays while revealing the theater's biggest news: The ubiquitous Rocky Horror Picture Show has found a new home at the Parkway -- with beer.

Will moved into his usual shtick with hipster trivia, one-liners, and prizes. Monica spun the giant wheel, rewarding tickets 81 and lucky-69 with additional gifts.

And then, Will proceeded to do what I'd neglected to ask him not to do: introduce The Man Who Came to Dinner. To a pathetic trickle of knee-jerk applause, he presented me with a telling gift, The Encyclopedia of Bad Taste. I reached up to the stage to shake his hand. And then, in a poorly executed attempt to blend with the evening's theme, I bypassed what would have been the appropriate kiss on Monica's long-black-glove-covered hand in favor of an awkward peck on her cheek. Will covered for me gracefully by announcing, "Yeah, yeah. You already got your free pizza."

With my tail between my legs I returned to my love seat for a brief interlude of self-critical reflection. Then, tangling my legs together with my date's, I kicked back, reached for my Sierra, and reclined in cinematic luxury as Swingers took the big screen to temporarily reassure me:

"You're so money. And you don't even know it."
Viva la Parkway.

By Barry Levine

Want to host The Man Who Came to Dinner? E-mail SFDinner@aol.com and tell us what's cookin'.

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