I’d been looking forward to Friday all last week: dinner and a show with CCB, Mrs. Harrible and Little J—the perfect segue into a Saturday with absolutely nothing scheduled, save for sunbathing and catching up on ESPN: The Magazine in the back yard.
The four of us met for dinner Friday night at Captain Brian’s, which, I should’ve predicted earlier, was overflowing with Asolo patrons (like us) en route to the opening night of 12 Angry Men. But at least I didn’t stand out in my opening-night outfit. (That I feared a sweater and a skirt would make me “stand out” really says something about my wardrobe mindset.)
When we got our table, Mrs. Harrible told me about a conversation she’d had while waiting for us to get to the restaurant. One of Asolo Rep’s third-floor deities, Mrs. Harrible had been describing the Angry Men production, how it featured so many long-treasured resident actors. The woman responded, “Oh, is Brad Wallace in it?” Aw.
Anyway, yay for scallops.
This is a production I’d looked forward to. Of course, it’s one of those plays set up for theatrical transcendence: one scene, one set, driven solely by dialogue. It’s like seeing a symphony perform and appreciating the characteristics of the individual instruments, the harmonies, working through a clear but complex musical arc.
But, like a lot of Sarasotans I’d bet, I was also excited to see the old guard on stage, even if Dad wasn’t up there with them (nor Mom behind us in the booth). And sure, a lot of it is feeling nostalgic for times when I was so familiar with the behind-the-scenes life, and the (mostly unfounded) self-importance that came with that backstage connection. John Arnold, Doug Jones, Jimmy Clark, Davids Howard and Breitbarth—I’ll cop to getting that old “I’m with the band” feeling, knowing I’ve tagged along to parties at their houses, family friends more likely to be greeted with a hug than a handshake.
But there’s also a more sincere, less silly phenomenon related to their familiarity—how it vaporizes on stage, leaving just the play without any stupid personal inflections about who, say, set his shirt on fire at that one party at Mom and Dad’s house. (That…totally wasn’t any of the actors here. But still.) With Dad, this phenomenon was always incredibly pronounced, but here, too. Somehow it ties into the experience, like when you’re able to achieve a real meditative state. That willing suspension of disbelief is more than a gimmick or a prerequisite; it’s perhaps the most important part of the theatrical experience, and the more challenges there are, the better.
Cliff Roles snapped this pic of me and CCB with Juror No. 11, John Arnold.
‘Course, the lobby afterwards was also a veritable Where’s Waldo of familiar faces. (You could also call it Who’s Waldo? for all the recognizable faces whose names I couldn’t locate.) It is fun to be on familiar terms with people like Cliff Roles and lighting designer Jim Sale. Makes me feel like a grownup, tagalong-cum-schmoozer. Although I do wish I could still parade around with my trophy parents. As it is, I just subtly genuflect toward one of Dad’s pictures in the hall before the ladies’ room.
In the end, the crush of the crowd was tempting CCB to throw elbows (Little J wanted to crowd surf), so we sent Mrs. Harrible out on reconnaissance and caught John Arnold on our way out. John, bless him, has even been to our hockey games before and always asks for a schedule so he can come to more. Definitely fun when an actor wants to be your audience.
Yeah, that’s pretty cool.