Thursday, July 14, 2016

Came in Through the Balcony Window

Because only a day that began on such an absurd note could end so hilariously.

Ordinarily, I wouldn't be washing screens after going to dinner and the theater, but I couldn't risk the raccoon showing up hungry like last night and finding a conveniently open window leading to my bedroom.

Why would a city raccoon climb a two story building to the balcony of my apartment at 4 a.m., you wonder? Well, to get to the empty soup can in the recycler out there, of course.

When his noisy visit awakened me, I experienced about a millisecond of fear (because it seemed unlikely a person could get up there) and then placated myself with assurances it had to be a 'coon. Finding a couple of cans and bits of newspaper in the middle of the balcony this morning seemed to confirm it.

Resolved: I will rinse my cans better.

I revisited the balcony just after Pru arrived to collect me for our evening out. I'd somehow managed to walk out without my keys, but not without locking my apartment door first. It was only when I went to lock the front door to the house that I realized my gaffe.

Rather than panicking, I suggested Pru smoke 'em if she had 'em and I'd be back momentarily, before going back to the balcony and removing the screens leading to my left bedroom window.

It wasn't the most pleasant of jobs just after showering (I confess, I hadn't cleaned those screens in the seven years since I put them in), but I at least had the good sense to reach in and snag a pillow case to place across the sill so as to save my legs from debris and dust as I clambered through.

Volia, keys procured and our night proceeds. Pru hadn't even finished puffing when I reappeared at the car.

Mom always said a woman must have an emergency plan when she finds herself locked out and mine simply involves breaking and entering. No big deal.

We joined the dinner crowd at Garnett's at mid-stream, but within 15 minutes, every table was taken and to-go desserts were walking out the door while a soundtrack that began with the unlikeliest sounding of bands - War  - supplyied a solid bass line and constant good mood groove.

Over my farmer's salad and her cheese plate, we swapped tales of July, mine of Paris and castles, and hers of pricey chairs used in the pursuit of wooing. It was a more than equal trade.

But the evening was soon to get even better.

First, imagine trying to explain the plot of "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" to an Englishman who'd never heard of it. Pru had done just that today when sharing with a coworker what we were going to see tonight.

Something about blunt force proposals, kidnapping and treating women as chattel didn't translate well and her friend was gobsmacked that such a story had ever passed as family entertainment, much less a classic Hollywood musical.

But for those of us who are dance fans, few musicals showcase as many terrific male dancers as this one, and not just in stereotypical dance moves, but incorporating dance into lumberjack activities like rolling a log or chopping wood.

Say what you will about lumbersexuals, but it always appealed to me.

Once at the Firehouse, I chose front row seats, the better to see all that glorious dancing, and almost immediately we were engaged with the woman next to us about the program's artistic note from the new (and young) Nu Puppis, the performing arts collective presenting tonight's play.

Both the woman and I had immediately been affronted by the wording on the program, namely, " ensemble of 20 artists took an archaic beast of the Golden Age and turned it into a joyous affront to the senses."

Rather harsh, don't you think?

Don't get me wrong, I've got no problem with joyous affronts to the senses, but "archaic beast" seemed a tad dismissive of a production I admit to having a huge soft spot for. Granted, it pre-dates me, so I know no world where "Seven Brides" didn't exist, so perhaps my attachment is understandable.

But the woman next to Pru took umbrage with the reference, too, convinced it spoke to not just the script but to fans of it.

Who you calling an archaic beast, anyway, kids?

Before long, though, Pru had mentioned my recent trip and she was sharing her own Parisian memories of when she was 32, newly married and regularly visiting friends in Frankfurt, Germany so the new couple would have a base of operations to tool around France in a VW Bug.

You read that right. If there could be a more exquisite way to visit France in 1972 than in a Beetle with your new husband, I'd like to know what it might be. Go ahead, I'll wait.

"We usually stayed in pensionnes and hostels, but the one place we camped on the whole trip was in Paris," she shared, amazing us both with this unexpected fact. Wait, you could still camp in Paris itself in the '70s? Did it get any groovier than that?

Artistic director Joel explained that this young company was about to give us a non-traditional production that amounted to coloring outside the lines. His hope was that it would affect us in some way and change the way we see everything.

I'd have been happy with just singing and dancing, but I was certainly up for more. And, man, did we get it.

From the opening moment when the actor playing big brother Adam burst through a door in a leather shirt open to the waist to reveal a six-pack and sculpted pecs singing "Bless Your Beautiful Hide," to his references to plowing that included major crotch thrusting, this was not my mother's "Seven Brides."

It was better. So. Much. Better.

This young troupe managed to stay true to the original while completely sending it up, using sight gags, pop culture references and physical humor to mock man's baser instincts at every turn.

When Adam comes to town to find a bride and first sees Millie, the world stops, a spotlight fastens on each of them and the first few notes of Cutting Crew's "Died In Your Arms" ring out. "I..." is all we hear before they bump uglies.

After Adam's brothers kidnap the women of their dreams, Millie refuses to allow the men in the house given their bad behavior. "I won't sleep alongside you, Adam Pontipee," she tells him. The millennial women in the back responded by snapping their fingers in support.

I could have started a discussion group off of that alone, but refrained.

Hands down, one of the most hysterical lines came about after Millie has worked her magic on the brothers, teaching them manners and dancing, even "sewing" them new shirts so they can go a'courtin in town.

Coming onstage in colorful polo shirts, one of the brothers muses, "Where'd we get these shirts?" which was really shorthand for "How the hell did this woman change our lives so drastically, so painlessly, so quickly?"

It's a talent, boys. Kind of like what we were seeing tonight.

Nu Puppis did more than just dust off a golden oldie, they rewrote it for digital natives. When brother Gideon admits to missing his girl, Adam offers him a Playboy magazine and a pump bottle of lotion to take his mind off love.

Howard Keel and Jane Powell were probably rolling over in their graves right about then. And if not then perhaps when Millie slid into the splits as they posed like rock stars, who knows?

The avalanche caused by the women's screaming after they're kidnapped was smartly accomplished by a stagehand holding a white sheet onto which projections of avalanches were shown to a vigorous drumbeat. A rolling metal riser was labeled "tree," a place where shunned husbands could sleep or courting bachelors could pluck flowers.

Now that's some creative special effects.

Humor abounded, like when Adam's log-winded explanations of his bad behavior have Millie looking at her imaginary watch or when the brothers sing of having to make it through winter, all the while clutching their loins to a march-like beat.

When Millie has her baby, it's a faceless form whose arms fall off and is held by its head by father Adam. A mannequin form subs for one of the brides, being tossed and kicked about by her hapless suitor. Sock puppets speak for characters like we're watching a down on its heels high school production.

Truly, this cast and crew was having fun with every nuance of the archaic beast they'd taken to their bosom, managing to insert social commentary, blatant physical humor and every pop culture reference they've ever seen to bear on the tragic plight of men without women.

And that would've been plenty to make for a raucously enjoyable night of theater, but they took it a step further, nailing the big dance numbers despite limited room and having to work around the "American Idiot" set, Firehouse's concurrent production.

There was the classic barn-raising scene, only here a bed subbed for the river in the log-rolling scene. And the "Lonesome Polecat" number where the men moon over their women? Every hatchet was in place, every lean and swing of the tool matched by that of their brethren.

My mother's "Seven Brides" was never far from the surface, even when all the men were in their boxer briefs or Adam was spattered in blood.

Which, thankfully, I won't be tonight after all because the roving raccoon won't have access to me now that I've washed and replaced the screen next to where he does his middle-of-the-night snacking.

Bless his beautiful hide.


  1. First the image of the raccoon scurrying up the side of your building to get to your window is hysterical! I can only imagine be awakened in the middle of the night and seeing some filthy raccoon staring at me through my open window with one of my discarded cans. The silver lining in your story of course is you cleaned your screen! Thanks Mr. Raccoon!

    Giovanni @ Coastal Contract Hardware

  2. I like the way you look at things!How does a guy in Myrtle Beach, S.C. wind up reading the blog of a woman in Richmond, VA?