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NoHo Noir: 'A Night at the Theater'

The course of true love never did run smooth.

The last thing Ethan felt like doing on his night off was going to the theater but he had promised Jill months ago that he’d come to see her in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. She was playing Titania, the fairy queen, and he gathered that was a good part.

At least he hadn’t had to pay for the play; Jill had left two comp tickets at the box office.

“I love this play,” Andy said happily as they settled in their seats. “I saw it last year at Stratford. Great production.”

“Hi Ethan,” Shari said as she crossed in front of him and Andy. She had a girl with her but Ethan couldn’t tell if she was a friend or a girlfriend.

“Hi Shari,” he said and hoped the house lights would come down fast because he didn’t feel like talking to her.

Everything about the evening felt a little “off.”

It felt strange being an observer in Jill’s life and not a participant. It felt strange being part of a couple that didn’t include her. Ethan had the persistent feeling he was cheating on her with Andy and bringing Andy to the play felt like some perverse kind of ménage a trois.

“We can leave at intermission,” he said to Andy.

“Don’t be silly,” Andy said and squeezed his hand.

Ethan pulled away, uncomfortable with PDA.

Andy gave him a wounded look and opened his program.

He scanned the names.

“Do you know any of the other actors?” he asked.

Ethan opened his own program. “I’ve met the girl who plays Hermia,” he said. “She goes to Jill’s spinning class. And the guy playing Bottom, Liam Foster? He’s in one of Jill’s acting classes.” He thought about it for a moment. “He’s a douche,” he added.

The woman sitting next to Ethan glared at him.

“There are children here,” she said in a loud whisper.

“Sorry,” he said and she huffed out a big sigh to let him know that his apology was only barely adequate.

Ah Jesus, Ethan thought. If that’s the worst word a kid hears today, he’s lucky.

Andy leaned over to whisper in his ear. “Old bitch.” Ethan snickered like a school boy.

The lights went down and the curtain came up.

“Ooh,” said the woman sitting next to Ethan and he had to admit the scenery was pretty impressive.

Ethan tried not to squirm as the play started with a boring scene between a guy and his daughter who didn’t want to marry the man he’d picked out for her. Jill’s friend was playing the girl and she was terrible. Just really awful. When she told her father she’d never marry Demetrius, she sounded like a teenager telling her dad she was going to get a tattoo whether he approved or not.

But she was better than the guy playing Lysander, who seemed to have learned his lines phonetically, like a second language.

No one else seemed to notice how bad they were though.

The woman on Ethan’s left was rapt. He glanced over at Andy. He was gazing at the stage as if truly engaged, like he actually understood all those archaic words being thrown around.

Swift as a shadow, short as any dream;

Brief as the lightning in the collied night.

“What does ‘collied’ mean?” Ethan whispered to Andy, wondering what a collie dog had to do with the subject of true love.

“Black as coal,” Andy whispered back.

Ethan just shook his head. He hated feeling stupid and listening to Shakespeare made him feel stupid enough to want to hit something.

Ill met by moonlight…

“Oh my God,” Andy breathed, “look at Jill.”

Ethan almost hadn’t recognized her. She was wearing a blonde wig teased up with diamonds in it and a gauzy dress decorated with glittery stars and moons. The contrast of the fair hair and the blue dress against her mocha cream skin made Jill look magical, like she wasn’t quite real.

And the audience liked her, Ethan could tell. The men were sitting up a little straighter now that she was onstage.

And when Bottom showed up, the show really started rocking.

A lion among ladies is a most dreadful thing.

Ethan had to admit that Liam could act. He’d only ever seen him doing straight drama and he hadn’t been impressed, but as the comic relief, he was terrific, getting laughs every time he opened his mouth.

“He’s good,” Liam whispered, sounding a bit surprised.

Ethan nodded.

Lord, what fools these mortals be.

Ethan remembered that line. In fact, it was one of the few lines of Shakespeare he knew. His tenth grade English teacher used to say it all the time when the class wouldn’t settle down. She’d died in an accident in South America the following summer. She’d gone there to tour Machu Picchu and her bus went off the road going up the mountain.

They’d dedicated the next year’s yearbook to her.

Ethan was pulled back from his reverie by the audience laughing at the antics of Bottom and Titania.

Jilly was all over the guy and suddenly Ethan knew that he wasn’t watching play-acting. The body language was just too intimate.

Son of a bitch, he thought.

Andy turned to him.

“What?”

Ethan shook his head furiously.

“Nothing,” he said.

Jack shall have Jill; naught shall go ill

It won’t be Jack who has Jill, Ethan thought, it’ll be that guy Liam. I can’t believe I didn’t see that coming.

He forced himself to sit back in his seat and breathe normally. He checked his watch. Another half hour to go and then he could escape.

“That you have but slumbered here while these visions did appear.”

Andy glanced over at Ethan, surprised he hadn’t risen with the rest of the audience to give the cast a standing ovation.

Ethan had fallen asleep.

Well, I don’t love him for his mind, Andy thought.

Cormac Brown October 11, 2011 at 09:57 AM
The drama in front of the play is the thing.

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