Monday, February 11, 2013

Attention Must Be Paid

From the moment she sat in front of me at the theatre, I knew the shit wasn't right. Maybe it was the ostentatious sequined beanie hat she wore; maybe it was her jumpy energy. She spoke too loudly, Tourettesian even, making other theatergoers stare and shift uncomfortably in their seats.

She looked around scanning faces as patron’s dodged eye contact. She bellows "I've never been to this theatre but I'm sure that it will be just fine." She continued to speak broadly as actors do from the stage, speaking to no one and everyone at once. She narrated the show as if she'd been given the job of usher. "This show is a HUGE CLASSIC. It's about a man who works ALL OF HIS LIFE!" "All. Of. His. Life!" she repeats with upright and clenched fists. When her daughter asked what else is it's about, she stammers and says that she can't be expected to remember all of the gruesome details, darling.

 The Woman then pops and springs around to sit up in her chair with her hands clutching the back facing the audience behind us. She beams as she scans the audience. "Let's see who is here!" she announces. She's staring at me so I close my eyes and rub them with my middle finger hoping that she won't see me and if she does she'll see my middle finger and move on.  Eye contact begets conversation and I'm doing my part to indicate that I'm not interested.

Thankfully, the Artistic Director comes out to deliver the preshow speech. The woman claps maniacally for him. Fast, hard, staccato claps that sounds painful, actually. It's as if she is participating in a clapping competition. Even the Artistic Director is taken aback by her startling applause. "Get a hold of yourself, woman." I think to myself. Furtive glances from other nearby patrons indicate the same sentiment.

 The show begins and Willy Loman barely enters the dim gloaming of the stage when the Woman collapses to her knees in audible, quaking sobs. She pulls it together seemingly quickly only to lapse into erratic snorts and chortles that indicate the rasp of a lifelong smoker. When Biff Loman stands up from his bed exposing his barrel chest, she clutches her teenage daughter's arm and catcalls the actor saying "nice, nice, nice, nice!" in escalating titillation. And then she just rips off her sequined beanie and shakes her hair out. "Jesus Christ" says the man I presume to be her husband. The Woman quiets down for only a bit before reacting beat by beat to the actors onstage. It's like watching a drama and a melodrama in split-screen-one family on stage narrating the demise of the American dream and another family watching it and living the madness that is surely undoing their own dreams. It is meta and then some. "Attention must be paid..." Indeed, Linda Loman.

Intermission.

Again, the Woman out-ovates everyone around. She stands in a flourish and her dress has shimmied up around her waist. She turns around to face me before pulling her dress back down. Act 2. The Woman returns with her daughter. The Woman has a full cup of coffee that reeks of a fresh pour of some Bailey's. She starts talking about "the killing, the killing, the killing" and her daughter reaches over to massage her back. The Woman says "oh, what I can't have an opinion?" Her coffee bounces and splashes and her daughter reaches over to help grab the cup. The Woman denies her, splashing coffee everywhere and says "I've got it, I've GOT IT!"

 In Act 2, the Woman continues as before in her showy petulance. Toward the end, Willy Loman leaves the stage. When the car crash sounds, the Woman jumps, convulses about in loud gasps and sobs. Then she immediately stops, sits up perfectly straight and reverently watches the epilogue. She jumps from emotion to emotion effortlessly. I wonder how one is so immediately serene in the aftermath of an erratic and dramatic seizure just moments before? At the end she stands first, clapping maniacally for the actors. This time she claps with her hands bawdily outstretched over her head. She whistles, she hoots, and she stamps her feet, too. She is a studio audience of one.

The lights rise and we stand to leave. She points at the stage and announces "THAT (!) That was pretty darn good."

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