The house is packed, been sold out for weeks. Owner/operator Mr. D. Leary up alone in his office, confident in shiny shoes, ejaculates freely over box-office numbers. Promised to Broadway; this hypnotic hybrid of profound pause and cheap trick, Helen’s Recipe; supporting high-life ideals over low-life intrigue; had everyone mesmerized except Edward who thought it over-priced, over-produced and over-rated. His attention seized instead by the stage itself.

Knowing this venue intimately; was able to deconstruct the set in his mind all the way down to the flawed foundation of a substandard sub-structure supporting a stage warped from water damage and cracked cross-beam termite food; that could all go to hell - at any time - without regard.
So at intermission, while some excused themselves off to powder-rooms separated by gender and a plastic palm; checking to see - tweaking this tugging that - if they looked as though they belong; and others under lobby lights, posing with an imposing Bordeaux, attempting to feel as if they belong; Edward was working his way to where he knew he belonged; down the right-side outer aisle and across the dimly lit and well-worn burgundy and gold carpeting, past the orchestra-pit and deep under upstage-left for a closer look.

And the closer he looked the worse it got; to the point that the stench of mold, so overwhelming he could actually taste it; mold so toxic - enough to explain the Overture - had made Edward dizzy and talking to himself; asking himself, how this stage hadn’t collapsed already. Conditions were in place, been in place, the neglect now growing seriously decrepit – a clear and present danger.

The alarmed Edward, clearing his head, needing to focus, raced back up the now left-side outer aisle. There were only a few minutes left before bell-chimes would sound the end of intermission. A few patrons had quietly returned peppering the lower mezzanine, none-the-wiser; and were sitting, silently waiting to be escaped-away, sucked and suckered into parts unknown. But most were still out in the lobby.

Edward searched frantically through the crowd for an open and receptive welcome among the bored and frozen faces; all talking about what they believed they had seen while speculating on what’s to come. Edward jumped in reporting to others what he had seen, and warning of what’s to come;

TG2: Whoa., Spoiler Alert.

TG1: What, are you a building contractor or something?
EDWARD: Well no, I’m.,

TG2: A conspiracy theorist?

EDWARD: I’m a theatre critic but.,
TG1: A critic?

TG2: Brilliant, what did you think about the end of the first act? 

EDWARD: Cliché at best but that’s not what’s important. It’s..,
TG1: What do you think about Helen?
EDWARD: You don’t understand., if this isn’t addressed there won’t be any more play. The stage is going to..,

TG1: I think the Recipe represents Helen’s past lives and the author was saying..,

EDWARD: Look., It’s Jeff the Sous-Chef that’s behind it all; the rest is just misdir.,

TG2: But what about.,

EDWARD: misdirection! But none of that matters! With no stage there is no kitchen, no more story. It could all be over any minute..,

TG2: What is that, some sort of metaphor?

TG1: Shit, it’s all a metaphor. Helen’s really a dude., right? 

The bell-chimes warned of the coming climax and everyone obediently returned to their seats snuggling into fantasy embellished by smoked multi-color flash-and-bang stimulation. Edward stood alone in the lobby, lost among dim-lit shadows, feeling creeps of chronic isolation returning from beyond, the very same that had pushed him towards the cheap seats of Leary’s World Theatre years ago just past a problematic puberty - seeking asylum from the neglect of a conditioned flawed foundation growing seriously decrepit – a clear and taunting danger.

Edward had found in the theatre; perspective, provocative tease and anonymous attachment – had found a place to get lost for hours in the dreams of others.
But now his sanctuary threatened, Edward grows hopeless to the point of panic; desperate for distraction; forced to dig deeper. And with the deadline pushed forward to beat the headline, Edward needs to rush his syndicated testimony;

A clever maze conceals the beast as a promising premise, but never delivers. Defined and destroyed by insincere subtext; casting clarity as hallucination rendering redemption as irrelevant. A chorus of confusion by a sleight-of-hand plot and prop-master madness blinds heart beyond the shine of be-dazzled masks. Leaving patrons caught up in a seemingly self-sustaining illusion, built in a bubble – about to burst.

Edward’s thinking he even almost understands this; but still might toss the front and/or back; and then., maybe not; when he hears this old guy, Carl, come up from behind, pushing a broom while complaining to nobody in particular "..,he hasn’t put any money in that stage since he took the place over from his poor old dad, may he rest in peace, fifty years ago. Puts the money into marquis promotion and pocket-lining but neglects the stage. What an idiot. Back in the day we had to..,” He continued on as he passed by; followed seconds later by a short balding guy, in a red well-pressed tuxedo, and shiny shoes, screaming “Hey, bring back that broom!”
The stage collapsed; killing a few and injuring many more validated by top-of-the-hour coverage brought to you by Cof-Tea; “It’s a Tea; but it tastes like Coffee.., Cof-Tea.”

And the selected few interviewed were shocked, even appalled, how could this be, there should be a law, build a wall, blow it up..,

“I don’t understand they say there will be no more plays; they’re going to close the theatre; I don’t understand.” said Somebody.

“Channel 6 is reporting it’s mostly just the stage affected. What’s the deal anyway.” said Somebody Else.

“It’s because - without a stage, there is no theatre.” Edward heard himself say.

And as the curtain closing on a community theatre can be sad; going out as you came in.., is tragic.


© 2017 Martin "Marty" Quinn