This Friday, Steve relinquished his basement hermit status to take me on a date that did not involve food or sports. This is a rare occurrence, and I was touched by his gesture. He knows I love going to the theater. For my birthday, I had been treated to Jersey Boys by my girlfriends. They know he HATES going to the theater: one birthday he gave me a four matinee tickets to five plays with the gleeful pronouncement that he was off the hook. Steve is as entertained by the productions as I am, but he is unraveled by the small chairs, and ridiculous leg room. The proximity of the other theatergoers makes it hard for him to ignore the snorters, sniffers and candy unwrappers. He writhes in agony when we are seated next to someone who requires a constant briefing on what is happening. In short, his suspension of disbelief is hard-earned.
A few decades ago, the English teacher in me guilted him into a 9 hour theatrical marathon, Nicholas Nickleby. We arrived at 2 pm on Saturday for Part 1, featuring the usual Dickens suspects, a London locale, and an audience of English Lit snobs. Steve slept on and off, and the dozens of characters blended into a clot of petticoats and ascots. At the dinner break, Steve had arranged a romantic carriage ride through downtown and a champagne/shrimp repast. We wedged ourselves into a tiny carriage, replete with fishy smell and luke warm champagne. What we really needed was fresh air and blood flow to our numb legs. The view of Chicago was muted by the fact that it was 8 degrees, and the vinyl window panels had iced over.
Part 2 called us back to the theater, despite Steve’s wish to clip clop to our parking lot. He said we could get the Cliff Notes. I dragged his butt back in, and that was a mistake. We both smelled like shrimp. We were coming in tipsy, but our hangovers would arrive before the curtain call. Steve smuggled a bottle of champagne in, and he contentedly nipped upon it until he was comatose. At that time, he released his grip upon it, and it rolled to the front of the theater. Loudly. Still, we stayed, imprisoned by my desire to see Dickens’ characters take their bows. Stockholm syndrome at its theatrical finest.
Friday night we had a similar experience. We went to see Banana Shpeel, Cirque de Soleil’s first attempt at a theatrical presentation. They need to keep on trying. It is a mess. I honor performers who forge on with bad material, a bad plot, and a small audience. The international artists who perform amazing gymnastic and balletic routines were bookended by lukewarm jokes, stock characters with bad punch lines, and great dancers who are there to distract the audience from the vacuum that they have entered. I knew the show had bad reviews going in, but I did not have the heart to tell Steve. I did not wish to discourage his cultural leanings; Banana Shpeel may have succeeded in doing just that. At the intermission, he stood up and announced his intention to leave. I cajoled him into remaining, but when he left to use the washroom, I was not sure I would see him again until I filed out.
I DID drag Steve all the way around Macy’s before the show, to check out their windows. I give them a C. (the old teacher in me) They involve Santa’s postal system, and there are Martians and such. The clever factor is present, but we all crave tradition at Christmas. Martians?
We traveled up the escalator to see the tree in the Walnut Room. That was a highlight- Chicago is beautiful and State Street was bustling. I wanted Steve to get a dose of Christmas cheer before Banana Shpeel Grinched him up. I did NOT succeed in getting him over to peek into Channel 7’s studio after the play. He had suffered enough, and paid for the privilege. Full ticket price. Perhaps next time, if there is such a beast. I could take him to Jersey Boys before it leaves….I know he would love it!
Macy’s ceiling was a beauty!