Saturday, February 14, 2015

Haven't Got a Prayer

Usually I steer my own course, but tonight was all about the invitations.

When a theater-loving friend asked me to join him for "Sister Act" at the Mosque Landmark Altria Theater, I immediately accepted knowing full well I didn't have  $70 for a ticket. But then he surprised me by saying I could invite two friends because he had four tickets.

So not only was I being treated but I could share my largess. I tapped Pru and her new beau to join me for two main reasons: she's a theater devotee and while I'd heard plenty about him, I hadn't yet met him.

And, believe me, I was some kind of curious given their story.

They'd known each other 30 years ago, moving in the same circles, sharing the same friends, and had only gotten reacquainted a few months back. Naturally I'd want to see what that renewed dynamic looked like.

Conveniently, she invited both of us to her place for wine before the show. He brought his favorite, Pinot Noir, and she began ribbing him about how she liked Sancerre even better while he reminded her they'd had one just the other day so it was his turn to choose.

When I asked him about what she was like back then, he tried telling me stories but she couldn't resist interrupting and embellishing his memories. It wasn't hard to see they had great banter.

At one point while we were talking, she glanced at his jeans and pronounced that the cuffs were rolled up inappropriately. Wasting no time, she reached for a leg and re-cuffed it explaining that his way looked too '80s. His look may have been long-suffering but he was also grinning at the attention.

I think my friend has found a good man. Full disclosure: it didn't hurt that he'd read one of my reviews and quoted a line from it, either.

We stopped by Garnett's for a nosh on the way, finding the place positively slammed and it was obvious some of it was Valentine's Day-related. Several couples were doing the date night deal with wine bottles on their tables while others were exchanging affectionate looks and eating coconut chocolate cake, which happens to be my favorite.

But we didn't have time for dessert with an 8:00 curtain looming. Walking from a parking lot in Oregon Hill manned by a friendly guy who looked half-frozen to the theater, I was surprised to see how many people were dropping bills in the bucket for the kids who drum on the sidewalk. So different from the people who pass them on a daily basis.

Whether because it was a musical, based on a '90s movie or because of the ticket price, it was most definitely an older crowd, meaning s-l-o-w walkers on a 20-degree night. I don't understand this. Cold weather makes me walk faster, not slower.

When we met my ticket-holding friend in the lobby I gave him a hard time for not having a hat on his shaved head in this weather, especially since he'd walked eight blocks to the theater. Seems he couldn't find his black hat and he said he certainly wasn't going to wear his brown one with his black overcoat.

Most of the men I know can't even distinguish black from brown, so I had to give him props for that.

Pricey tickets paid off with seats in the orchestra section, row L, center. Waiting for the play to start, I overheard the man behind me tell his wife he'd been in Strange's Florist at 5:00 today and it had been a testosterone-fueled mob scene.

"Men, lots of them, were everywhere looking desperate and the only women in the whole place were the ones who worked there." Neither his wife nor I were the least surprised, both of us having seen the same wild-eyed look on flower-seeking men at Kroger this afternoon.

Although I saw "Sister Act" at the theater in 1992, I didn't have much memory of it beyond Whoopi Goldberg in a nun's habit, so the story unfolded for me a little like I was seeing it for the first time. Which it sort of was since this was a musical version from 2006.

Just as I was beginning to wonder if there was going to be enough to engage me (none of the songs or performers had grabbed me yet and we were four songs in) I was rewarded with the first song sung by a male and it was wonderfully soul-inflected.

"When I Find My Baby" had the melody of a slow burn soul classic but with lyrics about how he was going to kill her - shoot, stab, disembowel her - when he got his hands on her. Sexy and hilarious, a killer (ha!) combination.

Just as fabulous was "I Could Be That Guy," sung by the mild-mannered cop Sweat Eddie in a timid voice that grew to a Barry White roar by mid-song as his cop uniform gave way to a white disco suit.

For sheer exuberance, "Sunday Morning Fever" had the nuns doing a mash-up of disco-era songs ("Shake it like you're Mary Magdalene") with lyrics about feeling the beat and rocking the pews. They even used the melody of  "Rappers' Delight" with an aged sister rapping.

We got Matt, Mark, Luke and John
Those guys are pros and that ain't a con
So let's party on till the break o' dawn
like a sanctifunkadelic orgasmatron

Of course they're such a hit singing at church that the media takes notice and one funny scene has the nuns reading their press. "If you only see one Roman Catholic mass this season, this is the one to see!"

During a scene where three nuns slip out to a bar across the street where they order beer and Philly cheese steaks, one nun starts dancing to the jukebox. "Is this what it feels like to be a Protestant?" she asks and people like me laughed out loud.

By people like me, I mean people raised Catholic who are now heathens. People who get a kick out of seeing altar boys dancing in polyester shirts cut to their waist. People lucky enough to have a generous friend.

Since I was only going to see one Roman Catholic play this season, I think I shook it like Mary Magdalene to the right sanctifunkadelic one.

Hell, it's not like I was going to heaven anyway.

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