Last night my husband and I attended a play at a local theatre. We had a lovely dinner before hand at Jones Cafe – Italian, and we were in a particularly receptive mood to see the show.
I am one of the LA Stage Alliance Ovation Awards voters. The membership guidelines are strict about not reviewing the plays on social media so I will forego commenting on the play beyond saying that you should go see “In A Dark, Dark House.”
The house was small, and the Matrix Theatre’s seating area is broad and shallow; the approximately 30 audience members were evenly arranged around the center of the house, in the first several rows.
Just before the play began, a family of four walked in: Dad, probably in his early sixties, two daughters in their late twenties, and the second wife, or girlfriend of Dad. I listened as they discussed where to sit. Dad wanted to be in the front row. The daughters suggested that seats further in the rear of the theatre would give them all a better perspective on the action. In hindsight, I wish their suggestion had been taken. One of them seemed to be in the know; I heard her say “We should sit house left because more of the action takes place stage right.” But Dad was firm in his position, so they all plopped down immediately in front of us, Dad’s lady friend just to my left.
Their conversation was light and banal; they discussed a book that one of the daughters had been reading at home. When Dad denied having the book, she cited specifically where in his bedroom bookshelf it was, and that it had a red cover. “I have been reading from it lately,” she said almost petulant. (You never believe me implicit in her tone. )
I pegged the woman as Dad’s girlfriend, because she said “How well you know where it is!” seeming to imply that the daughter was inappropriately foraging for reading material in her father’s bedroom.
I didn’t know what the play was about, but as it unfolded, I became aware that there was a completely separate show directly in front of us. The woman couldn’t keep her hands off of Dad. First she slung her arm around his neck, cupping his chin in her right hand and pulling his head conspiratorially toward her lips, she whispered into his ear. Now, the play had begun, the actors were working right in front of us, with a lot of the action indeed taking place on the stage right side of the stage in front of our section.
The front row is smack up against the stage, and Dad and his girlfriend were as well lit as the actors on the stage. She ran her well manicured hands from the nape of his neck up through his hair to his forehead. What was she doing? Looking for Nits? And now she whispered again, stroking his back methodically, in long languorous swaths from his shoulder to his belt line. He was sitting forward; I couldn’t tell if the material of the play was making him uncomfortable, or if it was her extremely inappropriate stroking. Geez.
I looked to my right to see if Jimmie was as aware of their activity as I was, but he was inscrutable – focussed intently on the two actors on stage.
Later, he told me that he was ready to lean forward and tap them on their shoulder to say “You are very distracting. It’s difficult to watch the play with all that you are doing.” I would have been mortified if he had done that, but it really was incredible how active these folks were.
The wonderful monologue from Aaron Posner’s “Stupid Fucking Bird,” now playing at the Theatre At Boston Court in Pasadena, which we saw last week came to mind. Early in that play, as the cast gathered to rehearse a play (very meta), one of the actors broke the fourth wall with an hysterical monologue about the fact that ( forgive my paraphrase) “We can see you out there, you know. We can see you thumbing through your program to see if Arye Gross (a cast member) has ever done anything at The Taper, etc.” It was a wonderful moment. I wished we could, just for the moment, cross-pollinate these two plays so that that actor could be given the opportunity to address Dad and his girlfriend at the theatre where we sat.
But we don’t always get what we want.