Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Loser Attends the Theatre

outside view philadelphia small theater
Saturday night and the Complete and Total Loser is done work, just Sunday to go (losers work on weekends in their dreary little retail jobs).
He decides to go to a play for the first time in 30 years. He goes because the male lead—it's a two-person, 80-minute-long one act—was a very good friend in high school who since then has had some ups (Broadway, TV) and downs (addiction to something) and is now doing well and has gotten good reviews.
So it's on the bike and into the heart of the city for the Loser, who usually spends Saturday nights in his one-room apartment wishing he could afford cable TV. He sees couples in the city. Lots of them. On dates. What would it be like, he wonders, to walk on a sidewalk, young, wearing good clothes with a girl in a skirt who likes you? He has no idea.
He locks his bike to a pole outside the theater and enters. One ticket, $30. Cheap, he guesses, for live theater, but still ... $30 pays for three months of Netflix and leaves enough change for a cup of coffee at a coffee shop with comfortable chairs. Five minutes after buying the ticket a man standing two feet from him to buy his own is given one by another man who has an extra ticket no one will use.
The doors open, the Loser enters. Used to movies, he sits in the second row, one in from the aisle. Five minutes later, another man sits next to him. He is shabby, bald but what's left he has long, 1977-era glasses, plastic grocery store bags he puts at his feet. A dirty sweater.
The Loser politely moves in another seat in and puts his coat (there is no coat room at this theater) on the seat between them.
Two couples there together, one of which seems to be on their first date, converse behind him. The man with the bags insinuates himself gracelessly into their conversation. They are kind to him and talk. The man describes himself as an actor, but has only acted at his church, which is in the far north of the city where people who live downtown or in the suburbs never go. Introductions are made. The man's first name is the same as the Loser's.
Mercifully, the lights dim and the play begins.
It's all right. Thought provoking. A delicate topic (40-year-old man bangs 12-year-old girl who is confronting him 15 years later in workplace break room after work) handled without the Oprah cliche's. But who talks like this? Shouting, waving arms, sentence fragments. The Loser's old high school pal is great, as far as the acting goes, and the woman is too. But film is more authentic, he decides, once you accept the idea of images projected on a screen of some kind. If the Loser ever goes to a theater again, it will be for a performance in which the fourth wall isn't only broken, it doesn't exist.

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