Snake in the Grass

05 June 2005

Sometimes I forget how goddamn fun it is to stray outside my comfort zone, even just a little bit. Doing something new is inevitably entertaining or educational, and often both.

For example: today Kris and Marla dragged Will and me to watch one of their fellow crime lab workers perform in a community theater production. This, I admit, is innocuous enough, but I’ve been so inwardly-focused lately, so worried about righting my own ship, that I’ve forgotten what it’s like to do something new, what it’s like to have fun. (I even forgot to go see Lisa’s dance recital, something I had meant to do.)

The Gresham Little Theater is housed in a grange hall between Sandy and Gresham. Its production of The Snake in the Grass, an old-fashioned melodrama, was pure cheese. I loved it.

This is the sort of story in which the villain demands: “You must pay the rent!” and the poor seamstress cries: “I can’t pay the rent!” and the hero steps in to save the day: “I’ll pay the rent.” It’s the sort of story in which the heroine is bound to the railroad tracks and the hero must make an improbable rescue.

As I say, the show was pure cheese, and most of the acting (and sets) was no better than that you’d find at a high school play (though this only added to the fun). The audience was encouraged to participate: we were invited to sigh when the sweet heroine, Dakota Melody, appeared on stage; to cheer when the brave, handsome, and ambitious sheriff, Billy Bold, came out; and to always boo and hiss the villain, Silias the snake-oil salesman. I didn’t do much participating, but I enjoyed listening to those who did. (There was a group of about thirty — the theater held fewer than a hundred people — that was wholly into the show by the end.)

Justin, Kris and Marla’s co-worker, did a great job as the carrot-wielding hero. The fellow who played the villain had a grand time taunting the other characters and the audience. But I was most impressed by Wild Prairie Rose, who strutted on-stage near the end of the first act, growling her lines with glee and hamming it up to great effect.

I also enjoyed the show’s music. A piano sat on a corner of the stage, and one of the actors kept up a continuous soundtrack, similar to those used to accompany old silent films. Before each act, various cast-members entertained the audience by singing period songs (such as Meet Me in St. Louis and Bird in a Gilded Cage).

I also had fun watching the other audience members. For example, there was a small group of old people from an adult foster care home seated in the front row. Two toothless old men gummed popcorn, sang along with the songs, and generally had a good time. One of the old men was seated next to a boy of about seven. The boy was dressed in his Sunday best, and he sat patiently throughout the entire performance.

(This show reminded me how fun it was to do theatrics in high school. I was in only three shows, and only in bit parts, but I had a blast.)

After the show, the four of us had a fine meal at Gustav’s, including fondue, onion rings, and lots of schnitzel. For the evening’s grand finale, I made a demonic little man from straws and radishes. If only I’d brought a camera.


Later, Kris and I watched Wes Anderson‘s latest film, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. We’ve been Anderson fans since his 1998 film, Rushmore, which is one of our favorites. Unfortunately, his other films don’t quite measure up.

The Royal Tenenbaums was disappointing. His first film, Bottle Rocket, had some fine moments, but was more uneven than Rushmore. Kris and I are split on The Life Aquatic: I thought it was a return to form (though not as good as Rushmore), but Kris was unimpressed. (Anderson’s next film is an adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The Fantastic Mr. Fox; I can’t even imagine how that’s going to work.)

Quick plot summary: Bill Murray plays a once-great oceanographer (sort of in the mold of Jacques Cousteau). His life is a mess. His recent films can’t find an audience. His partner and best-friend is eaten by a jaguar shark. His wife(?) leaves him for another oceanographer. He’s surprised to find a thirty-year-old son he never knew he had. He’s dogged by a feisty reporter. Through it all, he’s surrounded by a the strange crew of his boat (the Belafonte).

I liked it.

My favorite bit — and this should surprise noone — is when the cub reporter (played by the ever-wonderful Cate Blanchett) is reading aloud to the child in her womb. What is she reading? After listening to a line or two, I paused the movie and turned to Kris with a big grin on my face: “It’s Proust!” Indeed it was. And not only Proust, but Proust from the Modern Library edition!

Before we climbed into bed, I went downstairs to grab my Modern Library edition of Swann’s Way. I lulled myself to sleep with:

When a man is asleep, he has in a circle around him the chain of the hours, the sequence of the years, the order of the heavenly host. Instinctively, when he awakes, he looks to these, and in an instant reads off his own position on the earth’s surface and the amount of time that has elapsed during his slumbers; but this ordered procession is apt to grow confused, to break its ranks…Perhaps the immobility of the things that surround us is forced upon them by our conviction that they are themselves, and not anything else, and by the immobility of our conceptions of them. For it always happened that when I awoke like this, and my mind struggled in an unsuccessful attempt to discover where I was, everything would be moving around me through the darkness: things, places, years.

I love Proust.

Comments


On 06 June 2005 (08:38 AM),
Jeff said:

I can see how that passage of Proust (or any passage of Proust, really) would lull you to sleep…



On 06 June 2005 (08:50 AM),
J.D. said:

You know, when I wrote that bit, I knew that Kris or Pam or Jeff or dowingba was going to write that very joke. I changed the wording of the sentence, but then I changed it back so I could see who would be first to the punch. I just hadn’t expected the punch to come so quickly!



On 06 June 2005 (10:16 AM),
Tiffany said:

Sounds like a fun weekend. Thanks for the ‘The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou’ review. I have debating renting that movie.



On 06 June 2005 (10:38 AM),
Ant-Man said:

Proust is a verbose, rambling fool, and I shall squash him!

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