“John!” I hollered to the Hubs. “Get out your calendar. You’re busy next Wednesday night, OK? We’re going on a date!”
We have busy schedules and sometimes it’s hard to get just a little you-and-me time with Mr. Popularity. He’s been a little disappointed with the rugby pitch lately with people saying they were going to use it and not showing up. That sounds like a small thing until you realize that the Hubs waters the grass, mows the grass, arranges for trash pickup and porta-potties and makes sure the field is configured for whatever sport is using it at the moment. It’s a bit of work and more than that a bit of expense. So having events book the field and then evaporate without a trace is exasperating.
It ranks right up there with the group that used the field vigorously as planned and never paid, then sought to “rent” the field again. It ranks up there with the group who accidentally made off with the scoreboard controls only to have those same controls sold back to my dear husband. Yup, the same controls. Nope, that wasn’t a long time ago. Yup, just this week.
My husband is a gentle man and a gentleman. He seeks to remain friendly with the weasels and ne’er-do-wells who pull these stunts. He tries to soft-pedal these stories with me because he knows they upset me and he doesn’t want to have to deal with my annoyance too, even if it is clearly directed in defense of him and not against him. After all, he just wanted to have a place that was a positive venue of good fun for the community, one that gets bashed by its own residents as much as it does by people who feel they are too genteel to live here.
I’m not saying my own little town is suddenly a Garden Spot by any means. It is, however, no longer ranked as the 7th worst city in the USA. The city is no longer in bankruptcy, for instance. I make my own jokes, saying that we never did have martial law like everyone thinks. After all, we couldn’t afford it. But there are people out there who are making huge efforts for their communities all over, not just mine. I think they must be tired and discouraged the way my sweetums gets sometimes.
So, in the spirit of spontaneous entertainment, I took my friend Thalassa up on a suggestion to go to the California Shakespeare Theater’s production of Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit. There’s supposed to be an umlaut or whatever we call those two little dots over a vowel in English over the e in Mr. Coward’s first name. If I find out how to do that here, I’ll fix it. Mr. Coward was a wonderfully talented dancer, actor, writer born in 1899 and died entirely too soon in my opinion. His acid wit is sweet as sour lemon drops for me.
Philippa Kelly writes in the program notes, “…he found wildly enthusiastic audiences for his lighthearted plays about shamelessly vain people, the proceedings edged with astringent social commentary….” Well, right up my alley, or more accurately perhaps, my front walk. People are always asking if I could have dinner with someone from history, living or dead, who would it be? Noel Coward would be on the list at least but only if he dominated the conversation!
John and I met well past our college days but we both majored in English literature, both having had some trouble settling on a major at all. John flirted with psychology and sociology, and even for a while engineering, while I had a math scholarship that I didn’t accept, selected English and nearly diverted to a geology degree at the last minute. We both like mystery and humor and find the combination of the two nearly irresistible. And then there’s my penchant for the metaphysical.
Up popped the notice about Blithe Spirit and my credit card sprang into action. Happily enough, there was also a discount “secret code” to enter to make the deal sweeter. Honey, I thought, we are so going to this play!
We gave up an evening of Olympic drama and baseball and trekked the easy distance to Orinda and the theatre. It’s right off Highway 24 with easy parking and, even better, easy access from the BART station. The theatre is outdoors, nestled in the dry summer hills, and there’s a shuttle that picks up the BART people and the lifetime members of the Knee Club (John and I are members). To solve the problem of what to do about dinner in the time between work and the theatre performance, there is a lovely picnic area under the trees.
We stopped in Orinda at the Europa Hoffbrau and picked up sandwiches for our picnic, then found out that sandwiches are available at the snack bar on the theatre grounds. No matter! Our sandwiches were wonderful and we shared a picnic table with a mother-daughter team who had brought an entire basket full of treats. I thought I was going to have to pull the Hubs out of our new friends' home-made guacamole.
The bells rang and we were off to our seats where it was still allowed to finish dinner if you hadn’t quite, as long as you don’t make noise to disturb the performance. Cell phones and pagers off and the magic began. Literally.
(c) Copyright 2011 Marcia McCord
Blithe Spirit starts out with a writer hosting a séance-dinner party with the ulterior motive of getting great descriptions and authentic jargon from the medium, Madame Arcati. Madame gives the host and his guests quite a show. We soon find out that a door has opened to allow the spirit of the host’s more-than-a-handful first wife to appear but only to the host, so it seems. Wit and physical comedy combine to show us that ghosts may be just as tired of haunting us as we are with putting up with them.
My favorite performance was Rebekah Brockman’s Edith, whose harried and hurried maid makes you certain that it is difficult to get good help these days. Her hypnosis sequence was snort-your-drink funny. Domenique Lozano’s Madame Arcati was ectoplasmic in her physical comedy and properly sonorous in her delivery, a medium with a mission. Kudos, too, to the set designer Annie Smart whose vision of the Condomine home had its own kind of frighteningly accurate echoes of the sort of interior decoration favored by my mother with those little unexpected special effects.
If you happen to be in the San Francisco Bay Area between now and September 2 and find yourself at loose ends for an evening’s entertainment, this is just the thing for date night, the night with the girls or any other 3 of Cups frivolity, say an extra evening available during the SF BATS, the Bay Area Tarot Symposium, perhaps. A word to the wise, if the day is scorching hot, the evening’s performance is likely to be comfortable with a light wrap. If the day is bearably mild, bring blankets and bundle up.
For more information go here: http://www.calshakes.org/
PS - That secret code is "seance"...Go! Enjoy!