Thursday, July 23, 2015

Warm Sun and a Kind Air

One flashback was from two years ago, the other from 25.

Not being a southside denizen, I'm not often in O'Toole's. In fact, the last time had been June 2013 when I'd gone to see O'Theater at O'Toole's and that's exactly why I was back there again tonight.

Being half O'Donnell, I'm constitutionally unable to resist an evening of Irish theater in a pub. But unlike that solo trip, tonight I had three partners in crime, theater-lovers all.

Remembering my last visit - the shortage of seats, the lack of servers to keep up with the crowd - I'd suggested we get an early start to ensure time to eat and score good seats before "The Tinker's Wedding" began.

It wasn't long after we staked out a fine table that live music began with Wayne Ruotolo kicking things off with a true classic from my younger days: Todd Rundgren's "We Gotta Get You a Woman." Listening to him play covers by artists as varied as David Gray and Roger Miller, there was something familiar about his well-executed set.

But eating was the priority because of the play. It was while we were scanning the menu that someone spotted that relic of the '90s, Jello shots, on the menu. Unlikely as that seemed, I was even more surprised to hear that one of our quartet had never had one.

Full disclosure: I'd had Jello shots as recently as February. Five, in fact: three red, two blue.

Knowing I had a duty to his social education, I immediately agreed to join him in his first one, although I did stipulate it would be after I ate dinner, a meal that began with shared nachos and moved through a black and blue salad, also known as Cesar salad with steak and bleu cheese.

Why? There's always room for Jello, not that we should believe everything a sexual predator told us in our youth.

As we were were finishing eating, I asked our server for two Jello shots and she couldn't have looked more surprised. We couldn't decide if it was that people her parents' age were ordering them or that only two of us were in need of shots.

Before they arrived, I schooled the Jello shot virgin on the proper way to do a shot, all of which went out the window when the shots arrived. Not only were they easily twice the size of a typical Jello shot (as in, way too much to fit in a mouth at one time) but they also contained an alcohol-soaked cherry in each.

Pro tip: you don't shoot fruit.

But we did manage to shoot the massive shooters in multiple gulps, saving the boozy cherry for the big finish. In the worst kind of mixed metaphor, my friend's Jello shot cherry had been popped.

From there, we moved into the back room, second row, for a staged reading of a 1909 Irish play by John Millington Synge about marriage during a time when Catholic priests were forbidden to perform marriage ceremonies in Britain. Of course, this didn't stop Irish girls form wanting to get married in the church.

Because it was a staged reading, we were warned that, "You get good actors, you do a couple rehearsals and you hope for the best. That's why we got you liquored up first."

One Jello shot had hardly done me in, so first up for me was a vocabulary lesson. Had I known that a tinker was a person who moved from place to place making and fixing things like cans? I had not.

Tonight's tinker Micheal Byrne was played by none other than Matt Shofner boasting a fine Irish accent, as did the rest of the cast.

It's not that he wants to marry Sarah Casey, but she's threatened to run off with another man if he doesn't. Who'd have thought such a strategy would work on a man?

As the object of this strong-willed woman's attention, Micheal's busy fashioning a wedding ring for her because she wants to get married in the church like a good Catholic girl. I may have been raised Catholic, but I never qualified for that status.

Along comes a priest, because that's what happens on Irish country roads at night, whom she badgers to marry them, promising in return money and a gallon can. Next comes Michael's mother Mary, drunk, cantankerous and eventually hitting on both Sarah and the priest, which I consider very progressive for 1909.

As the pipe-smoking, beer-drinking Mary - referred to as "an old, flagrant heathen" (a descriptor I embrace), actress Bridget Gethins cracked the audience up when after misreading a line, she said, "Let me just say this again because I'm a bit tipsy."

After stealing the can and trading it for beer, she awakens the next morning, not because of the noise of hammering but because she hears her son washing up, "a rare thing." Suspicious she asks, "Is it you marrying her, Michael Byrne?" to which he replies haplessly, "It is, god spare us." That's the Matt I know.

Of course without the can as part of the payment, the priest refuses to marry them, which royally pisses off Sarah. 'She's vexed now!" Michael warns.

The couple tie up the priest, leaving only a small face flap for him to breathe and talk and thus are finally married. It's not exactly the traditional rehearsal dinner, but close.

And they probably didn't live happily ever after, but oh, well.

After intermission, we reconvened for "Tying the Knot," a new play written by Keri Wormald and Bridget Gethins, for which the jumping off point was a priest in a hood.

This time, it's 2015 and Ireland has made civil unions legal but Megan wants a holy sacrament, She wants to be married in the church with her father walking her down the aisle. This time, Matt plays the put-upon priest (not sure which role I enjoyed more, Matt as a straight man or as a priest) who, while he admits, "I voted yes meself," isn't allowed to perform the ceremony by order of the Catholic church.

He suggests that the couple check with the Unitarians or the Quakers. "The Unitarians have people lined up around their odd looking churches to get married." How often have I thought the same at the sight of one of them?

It's not that he doesn't want to, but the bishops have given them their orders. "If we see a couple with the look of homosexuality about them, we're to turn on our heel and walk away to avoid conversation," he says. The look?

Happily, this big Irish Catholic same sex under-duress wedding eventually takes place and the lesbian couple lives happily ever after and since it's now the 21st century, presumably bathes regularly.

It was as fine a night of o'theater as any half Irish could have hoped for.

Walking out, I paused to talk to the musician Wayne, no longer vexed because by then I'd figured out that I used to see him play back in the '90s. He always used to include "Under the Milky Way Tonight" and that's what I'd finally remembered.

"Probably at Castle Thunder," he said with a smile.

Castle Thunder, of course! Coincidentally, where I'd also had my first Jello shots. Under the milky way, cherries were optional.

1 comment:

  1. You are living proof that EVERYTHING is connected!