Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Fever to Burn

A tree ate the programs, but that didn't make the vintage TV scripts any less funny.

After thoroughly enjoying the first round of M*A*S*H* staged readings two years ago, I wasn't about to miss round two. There are few television shows that capture my word nerd heart like the well-written episodes of M*A*S*H* do. I'm not saying I could quote lines from it, but I am saying that many lines are instantly recognizable the moment they come out of the actors' mouths and land in my eager ears.

But only after checking out Swan Dive for the first time. The little restaurant that's come a long way from its days as a biker bar on Davis Avenue got my attention with a Shells of the Light salad of lump crab, shrimp, avocado, grapefruit, mango, pineapple and greens lightly dressed in a papaya dressing. When I'd ordered it, the server had said it was her favorite for how refreshing it was and she was right, but I was just as impressed with how generous the amounts of each ingredient were.

My only regret was not being able to savor all of the mango, an impossibility given my stone fruit allergy. After 3 or 4 bites, I could feel my tongue tingling, warning me to knock it off. When I apologized for leaving so much mango, the server was empathetic. She has an apple allergy, although she eats them anyway and deals with the discomfort.

Clearly her tongue has never begun to swell like mine has after eating forbidden fruit.

My dessert was called Under the Cherry Spoon and consisted of a brick of frozen chocolate mousse with chocolate ganache and brandied cherries. And, yes, cherries are also a stone fruit, so I kept mostly to the mousse and ganache for fear of landing in the ER instead of at Richmond Triangle Players.

Like last time, tonight's performance featured a boatload of local acting talent and was a benefit for the Mighty Pen Project, which offers university level writing classes for veterans so their service memories can be archived. Lady G's husband is just one of the countless veterans - albeit the only one I know - who have been changed by putting their experiences to paper.

Founded by local author David L. Robbins (who also directed tonight's readings), the project's performance this year featured three episodes from the second season, episodes that included Corporal Klinger in his usual dress and boa, Hawkeye and Hot Lips making nice with each other out of necessity and the bat-sh*t crazy Colonel Flag, easily one of the show's funniest recurring characters.

If I talk about them like they're old friends, it's because they may as well be. I watched old episodes of M*A*S*H* on VHS for more years than I care to admit and still found them hilarious on repeated viewings.

Before the performance began, Robbins explained that a tree had fallen on the power lines near his house this afternoon, robbing him of his ability to print programs for us tonight. Some might question why he hadn't printed up programs for the three week-run sooner, but not me. Given how many of the actors' faces I recognized - Alexander Sapp as Hawkeye, John Mincks as Trapper, Harry Kollatz as Colonel Blake, Thomas Nowlin as Father Mulcahey and Dean Knight as Frank Burns - it's not like I needed a souvenir to remind me.

What I loved was seeing these familiar faces transformed into the smart-mouthed characters I first met in college.

Immediately following mass this Sunday, Yom Kippur services will be held for Jewish personnel of the Hebrew faith.

The second season's first episode, "Divided We Stand," had barely begun when I started cracking up watching the dysfunctional men and women of the 4077th try to stay on their best behavior while being observed by a psychiatrist. And by being on their best behavior, I mean Hawkeye and Trapper putting an appendix in Frank's boot because the other boot was full of tonsils.

I've got enough nausea to light up the city of Toledo, okay? First I'm hot, then I'm cold and my knees are in business for themselves. My tongue has gone cashmere and I'd like to find an all-night latrine that takes servicemen. Now, have I got the flu or am I just in love?

If ever an episode showed off the monumental talent of Alexander Sapp (and, really, what role he takes on doesn't?) it was "Carry On, Hawkeye," as the rest of the 4077th is felled by flu. It's also the one where Harry Kollatz as Henry Blake (wearing the requisite fishing hat) hilariously tells his unit to kindly refrain from kissing anyone unless absolutely necessary.

All I know is I'll volunteer to be on the committee that decides when kissing is absolutely necessary.

It was during this episode that director Robbins took the seat nearest me, next to the two veterans who'd spoken before the performance. From then on, every time I had a laugh attack - like when Hot Lips gleefully jabs Hawkeye in the butt with a syringe full of flu vaccine - he looked over at me laughing hysterically.

I'm sure he doesn't recall, but at the performance two years ago, he actually thanked me for all my "loud laughter," as he called it. Tonight he just looked on proudly and, after the final bow, said to tell all my friends to come see it.

We've got files on people who haven't been born yet.

It was during the final episode,"A Smattering of Intelligence," that Sapp tripped up his line and John Mincks as Trapper quickly ad-libbed, "Easy for you to say," causing the cast to laugh as much as we were.

As Robbins had pointed out, the cast hadn't had a great deal of rehearsal, so they were reading from scripts, but the actors had taken the time to block scenes on their own. The result was that script notebooks became doors to knock on, operating tables when casualties arrived and Radar's omnipresent clipboard.

My practically non-stop laughter at exchanges like, "Colonel, what's your clearance?" followed by "Oh, I go through the door with about an inch of clearance" made the three episodes fly by.

Radar, get another order of Yankee Doodle Dandy. Count me in when it comes to supporting veterans putting pen to paper to save their military memories.

That it involves one of the very few TV shows this non-TV person ever watched is just ganache on the chocolate mousse.

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