I like to think that I have achieved a certain level of maturity. Many things that use to bother me don’t bother me to much anymore. However, there is one thing that still gets under my skin, crawls around in there, and makes me shake with a profound eeekiness. That thing is a bad play. Oh, I shudder just thinking about it.
There is a theatre company near me that I like a lot. They tend to go more towards the crazy visual stuff and not so much the naturalism. As an avant garde baby, I want them to do well. I want them to get audiences. I wish them success and good things.
On Friday, I went to see their latest play about televangelism done with their usual visual carnival style. Well, I’ll spare you the suspense. It was a clunker. Actually, it wasn’t just a clunker. It gave me that eeeky feeling that I hadn’t gotten in a long, long time.
Okay, I’ll confess. I was a bad audience member. I got there late, but only by five minutes. Stuff in LA never starts on time---except on Friday when I was late.
I was willing to wait until a suitable break, but an usher took me up through the back of the house. I had to run to keep up with him, and I didn’t have a flashlight.
You’re down in Row E. He said checking my ticket. I looked down. The stage lights were up. I climbed down and found Row E, but there was no seat for me. Since play stuff had started happening, I sat down on the step next to the row.
Sure enough, the star of the show in a baby blue polyester suit came bounding down the steps behind me and nearly tripped over me. He came around me and suddenly was doing his opening monologue right in front of me with his rhinestone belt buckle right in front of my eye line. Okay, that was a view.
I’ll go off on a tangent here for a second. Theatre Directors, you have a beautiful stage in front of us. The idea of characters entering through the audience and expounding is a little old. I mean, the director of my high school musical was doing it, and even then it was lame. Just put them on the stage and get on with it already. Shakespeare’s characters didn’t enter through the audience---they would have never made it to the stage.
So I’m looking straight up at this poor actor expounding on hell and damnation.
Do you want to go into the fires of hell? He asked in character while looking at me.
Sure. I said.
And he didn’t quite know how to take that. I tried to be agreeable and it brought me nothing but trouble.
The poor actor finally made it to the stage. A house manager came to me and told me I couldn’t sit where I was. No kidding. I almost took out a guy in a blue polyester suit.
I pointed to my ticket and asked him where my seat was. He went back up the steps and found me a seat right on the end. That wasn’t so hard. Why didn’t they just do it in the first place?
I settled into my seat as another actor raced down the steps. After a few minutes, I realized I was sitting in front of the director and writers. Something lame would happen on the stage and there would be a flurry of whispering behind me. I couldn’t hear the exact words. I just heard the shhhphhhing that sounded like gas coming out of an oven. Don’t light a match, We’re all gonna explode!
I wish the play was that dangerous, but it wasn’t. It was just very dated. I mean, I get it. Televangelists are shysters who promise God and don’t deliver. The play promised and didn’t deliver. The intermission came right after a character got shot out of a cannon, and let me tell you, it was a pretty wimpy bang.
I turned to the production team huddled in the shadows. They looked scared.
How long is the second act? I asked.
An hour. One girl said.
I nodded, smiled, and walked down into the lobby. Should I stay or should I go? It had been a long time since a theatrical experience had gotten me all fired up in a totally bad way. I once saw a string of clunker Broadway plays all on comps, and I left every one at intermission. Life was too damn short for bad theatre. Still, it might come back in the second act.
I stood around for ten minutes and watched the crowds milling around. Then I noticed two crew members moving the bunny puppet stage into a corner of the lobby. Damn! The only good thing in the first act was the bunny puppet (you can’t go wrong with a bunny puppet). If there was no bunny puppet in the second act, I was so out of there.
So I left. I left the bad play. I spat out the bad play. Ptah! Ptah!
I hope the theatre company rallies and makes something better next time, but for now, I just feel eeeky about their latest effort. What is that eeeky feeling? Is it, dare I call it, passion? Immaturity? Some cosmic thing? In a former life, did I riot bad plays? And why don’t bad movies get under my skin?
The next day, I was reading the weather page in the New York Times. On Saturday, there was a special paragraph on all the rain and weather and cold we’ve been getting in So Cal. The paragraph began with California Chaos in bold letters. We’re getting cold winds down from Alaska. It’s been so colllllld. And we’ve got raaaainnnn. I’ve been walking around in water proof boots. I feel like I’m in New York again---except there are palm trees. I’m also older, but am I wiser? Bad plays still get under my skin.