Friday, April 13, 2007

Friday Night Live (or why the theater is dead)

My head felt hot. Very hot. A few thousand degrees at least. Sweat poured off of me in thick, sticky waves. My armpits alone were creating more moisture than the Amazonian rain forest sees in a year. Under the table my hands were systematically pulling the gaudy pink napkin apart, thread by thread. I wasn’t aware of my hands’ destructive appetites. They were operating without my permission and knowledge, fueled by instinct to partake in an activity that would help calm me, (there’s nothing more calming to me than breaking shit). My eyes kept darting all over the room. I looked at the other patrons, I looked at the exit, I looked at my family members trying their hardest to appear like willing participants. I looked at the actors. I looked at the empty plate in front of me, wondering why they didn’t serve meatloaf at the buffet that night.

Suddenly I couldn’t take it anymore. I jumped up, bumping the table and spilling water on people, and ran out the room. I just wanted a break, but I was pointed in the direction of the bathroom, the bartender incorrectly thinking that the look of anguish on my face was due to a full bladder. It wasn’t. The cause for my pained visage was something much, much worse: Dinner Theater.

Why did I do it? Why did I go? Don’t I pay attention to myself? I told myself that I can’t handle live performances of any kind. Did I think I was lying? What kind of idiot am I?

Such are the wages of love. It was my mother’s birthday. My sister and I decided on dinner theater. That decision confirms my theory of a history of severe mental deficiencies on both our parents’ sides.

Ahhh, the joys of dinner theater. More specifically, a “murder mystery.” Sounds exciting doesn’t it? You get the opportunity to enjoy prime rib and suspenseful acting at the same time. Sounds like a dynamite idea to me! But then, once the performance starts, the flaws become obvious.

“But Joshua,” you’re thinking right now, “sure you have a phobia of live performances, but dinner theater can’t count! The actors have done it so many times that it’s all elementary to them by now. No Worries!”

Yeah, right. Except for two things. Two things that can make or break any live comedic performance, (that’s right, it wasn’t just a murder mystery, it was a comedic murder mystery. Because there’s nothing funnier than being stabbed in the back by your own half-brother.) and those things are:

1. The improvisational skills of the actors

2. Drunken audience members who think that they’re better actors and funnier than the people we all paid to see.

I think you can see where I’m going with this. If you’re not funny, then don’t try to be. If you can’t think quickly on your feet, then stop trying to be Triumph the insult comic dog. It becomes even worse when the actors have memorized their lines and scenes by rote. Just one terrible joke bomb, stinking up the place, throws them right off their marks. Suddenly they can’t remember what their lines are. And since it’s live they don’t have the option of yelling cut and having the script girl give them their lines. No, all we can do is sit there in uncomfortable silence while the actor struggles to remember just what the hell they’re supposed to say. Still sounds like fun doesn’t it?

Then, when you throw in the drunken audience member who has to give his two retarded cents at every possible moment, everything is complete. A night of total awkwardness. A night of people sneaking glances at each other wondering when the funny part is going to happen, and trying to figure out how much fake laughter is required for each joke that falls flat. A night to remember, truly.

Happy birthday mom.

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