Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Let's Be Buddies

If I'm going to go out on a 15-degree night, it had better be for something smart, funny and chocolate.

Never mind that my date forgot to pick me up, only realizing her mistake once she got to Firehouse Theater and I wasn't there. Fortunately, it's less than a mile from house, so I showed up minutes after she called to admit her mistake.

Tonight's audience was rife with theater people - actors, artistic directors, managing directors - to chat with before and after the show, not that Pru and I didn't have plenty of our own to discuss.

Watching "The Fourth Wall," a tribute of sorts to theater cloaked in political and societal commentary, was kind of like taking apart one of those Russian dolls where you keep discovering another face.

Chock full of theater references from August Wilson, George Bernard Shaw and Neil Simon to questions of plot and the intricacies of the craft ("Half of acting is listening"), the play made the point that theater can be an analogy for the real world.

Straddling the line between an existential drama and a drawing room comedy of manners, it mocked British actors, American devotion to bad TV, and, most significantly since it was set in 2003, George W. Bush.

As a bonus, all that was interspersed with Cole Porter numbers, supposedly sung to the accompaniment of a player piano. Incongruous and hilarious.

Jacqueline Jones was fabulous as the wife fighting the same good fight (sort of) as Joan of Arc, only her goal was to keep worthy theater alive to ensure a healthy, self-critical society by reforming the country and enlightening the clueless President.

Boy, if only that part had really happened back when W. was floundering and embarrassing the country.

Naturally, being a woman, in between she was also making dinner, being told she was crazy by a girlfriend and getting hit on by a gay professor who falls for her idealistic pluck. Just another day in the life for a smart woman.

Along with the rest of the audience, Pru and I laughed throughout ("Like most Americans, he prefers musical comedy to serious drama"), but mostly, it was all the self-referential commentary about theater that we enjoyed most ("You'd know that if you'd been here for the exposition"). So, sure, call us theater geeks.

Our heroine Peggy finally breaks through the fourth wall, greeting people in the audience, and her husband Roger follows in the willing role of slave. The end.

Well, you can't watch something so clever and full of sharp acting - all four actors nailed their parts - without heading out to dish about it afterwards.

Garnett's was winding down when we arrived to find a guy in shorts (no idea what that was about) and a few other people finishing up dinner.

All we wanted was dessert so we could have all the conversations we couldn't have during the play, unlike the woman in front of us who talked to her date throughout. I have to presume some people are raised by wolves because what other explanation could there be for such behavior?

If there's a cozier space to sip hot tea and work my way through a monster slice of chocolate chip cake with cream cheese frosting on a frigid Tuesday night, it didn't come to mind. Likewise, Pru got more content by the minute with a warm slice of Dutch apple pie.

Busy talking about Howard Hughes, $7 lunches and stockings from Barcelona, we thought we'd just outlasted everybody else until we realized they'd closed.

I guess we'd have known that if we'd been there for the exposition.

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