Tuesday, May 18, 2010

I'm Back!

I’m back home at Woodsong after my Big Adventure.

A year ago, I missed grandson Elijah playing the lead in Brighton Beach Memoirs, and I felt I could not bear to miss his playing David Kolowitz in Enter Laughing, this year’s spring play. Every play or musical I have missed of Jeannie’s kids does not just disappoint me at the time—but forever after I feel deprived and disappointed.
We were up to see Cecelie’s fifth grade play and the annual Showtime at the high school just a month ago although we had missed the fall musical. Gerald has always loved to drive and travel, but he finds he tires enough on trips now that it takes longer for him to recuperate. When we returned from Showtime, he told me he wouldn’t be making the upstate trip so soon. So I began to ruminate on whether I would have the courage to make the trip by myself. I could not even remember when I last drove up by myself. It had been at least two or three years. When Jeannie and Rick first moved to Freeport, there was very confusing road construction going on in the Bloomington area, and I think that early difficulty made me dread the drive even though I made it several times by myself. Now we enjoy all that improvement made way back then, but I still was a little leery of my driving that far. (When Gerald goes, he drives usually all the way because my driving makes him nervous, and he makes me nervous if I try to drive unless he goes to sleep.)

I knew Brianna and Mary Ellen would want to go, so I checked out that possibility since I had also been wanting to drive by myself up to their new home, which is only half way up the state. Then Mary Ellen, who is an excellent driver, could drive the rest of the way. However, Lincolnwood High School end-year activities made it impossible for them to go, so I had to either go by myself or stay home.

Actually the night before a friend who had gone to our church women’s banquet with me offered to go along. But I was leaving the next morning if I had the courage; and while I wanted to prove to myself I could still make the drive, I did not really want an audience. I knew my friend drove in that area of the state, but if I let her drive, I would not regain my confidence.

Jeannie had written on Facebook how sick she was (art allergens in her classroom). At the end of school year, I knew she was stretched with Rick away at late-night track meets, social butterfly Cecelie needing friends picked up, and Elijah in and out borrowing her van or Rick’s truck making for the normal happy confusion of a too-busy family with two sweet dogs in the mix to be cared for in whatever bits of time anyone could find. (Only after arriving did I find out she also had a major room redecorating project going on.) She knew I wanted to come, but I did not tell her I was coming until I was actually on the road three hours and phoned her for a bed reservation.

The weather was beautiful for the drive up (with only a few sprinkles at noon time); and despite a great deal of road construction slowing me down to 45 sometimes, none of that work was scary or dangerous as it sometimes is. It was good to see the putting America back to work signs up and down the state, and I thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful splotches of purple wild flowers along the road in the northern part of the state. They weren’t familiar to me, and I didn’t find out what the flowers were named, but they greatly added to my travel pleasure.

Remembering that doctors felt being too long in the car may have caused the trouble I had with blood clots two years ago, I tried to stop for breaks and walk a bit. I had given myself plenty of time to arrive for Friday night’s performance, and my mantra was, “I’m just moseying along doing what I want.” I had the most relaxed trip I have ever driven and all went perfectly. I felt sort of silly I had been nervous and reluctant about the trip.

When I arrived and been greeted by Cecelie, Jeannie, and the shit-zus, it was time to think about the evening. I hated seeing how bad Jeannie’s allergies were acting up. I had taken an outfit for the play, but I decided I’d just change my blouse and otherwise wear my travel clothes. I was still in a moseying mood. Elijah had already gone to the play in the van, so my car was useful and I turned the keys over to Jeannie as she wound through far neighborhood roads to pick up Cec’s friend Jennifer and then back to the Jeannette Lloyd Theater.

There we saw the second-night performance of Joseph Stein’s farce based on Carl Reiner’s 1967 movie and his semi-autobiographical novel. I’d looked that much up on the Internet and a bit about the 1930s plot of young Kolowitz who was an unhappy messenger boy in an immigrant hat maker’s shop with his over-controlling parents wanting him to be a druggist while he was interested in girls and the movies. His admiring buddy pointed him to an ad for an actor to audition for a partial scholarship to acting school—which was really just a ploy by a ne’er-do-well drunk wanting someone to pay to be in his stage company.

The slap-stick shenanigans from shop to hat factory to the stage of the “school” to the parents’ kitchen to the phone booth to a restaurant and a cemetery date moved rapidly and kept us laughing. The young man tried to please his parents, his boss, his steady girl, his buddy, the theater owner Marlowe and his daughter the leading lady, and he didn’t mind fabricating whatever stories he needed to do so. Finally Kolowitz stood up for his own clueless ambition to be an actor despite his lack of experience or talent.

We found the source of the catchy title was Kolowitz’s audition when he was asked to read the script and he began by reading “Enter laughing” without knowing it was a stage direction. Naturally the comedy had a happy ending, although the next-to-last scene showed the theater owner falling down dying in his typically over-dramatic way and three stage-hand extras on their knees behind him. Their dead-pan puzzled looks were worth the admission price. But all 15 cast members gave us well-crafted often hilarious scenes that were worth the price. Elijah made us like this dissembling non-talented young man, and we were glad when the last line was his announcing with pomp certainty, “I am going to be an actor.”

Director Tim Conners purposefully chooses different styles of plays, and the kids learn while they have great fun. Not just acting and stage craft but this year about the Bronx, Jewish and immigrant families, and the Great Depression with its differences in attitudes, clothing, and the value of a nickel. I think the students also saw the universal quandary as young people and parents try to work out their love for each other balanced with their need for freedom.

I was glad I had driven up and still had the Saturday night performance to look forward to.

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