The weatherman said temperatures from this day forth would be 40 degrees or higher- so for this Houston native, the worst of winter had finally come to an end. The warmly welcomed one-layer-of-clothing days yielded no room for discretion when I received a 1:40 pm phone call to be dressed and present for a 3 pm matinee of Between Riverside and Crazy playing at Second Stage Theatre. Running from the 42nd street subway station, bobbing and weeving through all the tall sculptures of molasses we call tourists, I finally arrived at the theatre with not a second to spare. I found myself in an empty lobby where an overwhelmed house manager shuffled through endless envelopes containing “no shows” as she searched for last name Catchy- with a K. “Oh, sorry.” No success to be found there as the man of whom’s ticket I was to be claiming had actually just arrived. Shit. But wait, Is that Heather? From acting school? Oh, snap it is! “Hey girl hey! I was coming to see the show, but she can’t find my ticket.” “Oh, it’s so funny. You cannot miss it. Wait, didn’t the lady that just went in say she only needed one? Take her other ticket.” Ain’t gotta tell me twice.
I see why they tell you in acting school to never burn bridges with anyone.
I show the dissatisfied usher my ticket who seemed to be running on auto pilot as he flashed his light over my phone to ensure I was turning it off. I did. I usually just put it on airplane mode, but he seemed to be very adamant about it being completely off, “it’s a small theatre”, he says. And now I’m in. I might have missed the first few minutes but not much. I immediately pick up whatever it is I might not have caught. Two men talking at a table. Right now, it’d be too much of a disturbance for the usher to show me to my actual seat, so he has me sit in the back, which is alright by me. I love being able to watch people watch theatre. It’s a completely different experience. Especially when you watch white people in the audience as black and brown bodies are onstage, in their natural habitat, expressing how they feel towards the former and why. There was a lot to observe because of this play. It’s like the whites want to laugh, but don’t know if they have permission. They always have permission to laugh at themselves. Someone send them the memo.
As perfectly timed, Pops, played by Stephen McKinley Henderson, delivered a line that erupted a monstrous roar of laughter from the audience, allowing me hide in the commotion as I was finally able to “Excuse me, sorry, thank you” my way 5 rows down and 4 chairs in. In my section, I was seated next to an older black man and a younger black man, surrounded by other black men and women with a sprinkle of white every few chairs. For me, this is always a big deal when going to the theatre, because this plays a huge part in my theatrical experience for the evening. You can turn to the black stranger that looks like you, that relates to you on a certain level and laugh about something you’d both experienced at some point in your life. Theatre for me becomes more familiar and comfortable when the woman 2 rows over is talking to the men on stage like she’s rewriting the play as it goes on. When I can laugh with my seatmates at the conversation between best friends Junior and Oswaldo, played by Ron Cephus Jones and Victor Almanzar. It’s fun. It’s family. And that’s what I enjoyed about this performance. The black and brown bodies related to the other black and brown strangers sitting next to them.
I sprung out of my seat to find my friend who’d called me about the tickets. Bottom of the staircase, just as fabulous as could be, we waved and gave love.
“I’m so sorry. My friend actually showed up and claimed his ticket.” “It’s fine. They gave me someone’s extra ticket. I’m so glad I could make it- These actors are taking me to a world I don’t think I’ve ever been invited to. I have no idea what Act 2 is going to bring. Fucking Stephen Adly, man- Brilliant writer.” “Yeah, he is. I wanna do this play. Do you think someone will let me play Pops? Maybe if I was little bit older. I’m gonna call up Stephen and tell him to write a Junior Edition. This play is so good.”
Back in my seat, trying not to make too much noise with the wrapper of this overpriced cookie I bought from concessions- cause there ain’t nothing like being able to munch on something while watching some good theatre- so I wait for another monstrous roar of laughter to snatch it out; which was sure to happen soon, with this hilarious play. I wait. Talk- talk- funny line (but not funny enough) serious moment- funny line and OKAY (big laugh). Then the church going lady starts riding Pops, Oh, snap! and I’m just like OOOOH wow! Whoa- I wasn’t expecting that. Way to go Stephen.
Then the play ended and the large electronic blanket hiding the beautiful sun opens and I turn to my neighbor and say, “That was a good play. I really enjoyed it.” And he says, “you know what, me too. One to write home about.” And we walk out of the theatre, practically arm and arm sharing what we enjoyed the most; some good theatre.
Find out more about Between Riverside & Crazy and Buy Tickets HERE. The show closes on March 22nd at 2econd Stage theatre. This is truly really one to see.