Tuesday, August 14, 2007


Apparently it’s play month here. A couple of weekends ago, we went to see “Thoroughly Modern Millie” at the Fireside Theatre. Kayleigh was in “Monster Mania” at Children’s Theatre of Madison on Friday. Saturday we went to see Night of the Iguana at APT. They are very different ends of the theatrical spectrum.

Last Christmas, my mom gave us a gift certificate to the Fireside. It was never anywhere I really wanted to go. They seldom have shows I want to see, and I assumed it would be pretty cheesy.

My assumptions:
Leatherette lounge chairs
60-something cocktail crowd
Round, dark tables to share with the cocktail crowd
Smiling at people I don’t know and don’t care to know while they schmooze about how fanfuckingtastic the golf course just down the highway is
Lukewarm food
Mushy food
Terrible food
Banal direction of some revival of a revival of a revival musical
Carol Channingesque, over-the-top performances by talentless singers/dancers/actors who will never get out of rural Wisconsin
In a word, tacky

Regular dining chairs at private tables
70-something crowd
Seating capacity: 1750 for your most intimate gathering of everyone you've ever met
Gift shops
No smoking
Chatter about golf and grandkids
Edible, uninspired food served in strict portions with each course delivered on a tight schedule
Dining is required to see the play
Separate theater-in-the-round, except it was square
Surprisingly good sets
Shockingly excellent performances by artists who not only have made it out of Wisconsin, but have just arrived from Broadway (well, some of them—but they were all very good)
Expensive, quite

Bottom line: It was a fine night out. The play was great. I just wish you could see the play and forget the damn required dinner.

American Players Theatre is an outdoor theater that presents classics. They have a core group of actors who return every year. Sometimes it irritates me how predictable the acting is, but often there are some surprises. They have marvelous set designers.

We went on opening night, so the house was full, and the actors not appearing in that play were in the audience. The crickets were so loud and the wind was so strong that it was hard to hear the actors’ lines. The choice of “The Night of the Iguana” was perhaps not the best one. It’s not exactly light fare, or even lite faire. Given the events of this past year, I think we should have stayed with slapstick.

It was a great play, although Tennessee Williams certainly made sure you understood all the symbolism. It would be nice to figure a few things out on my own, thank you. One of the actors has a pregnant pause habit, but after a while we wondered if he was being dramatically in-character or if he just couldn’t remember his lines.

It was a nice night. We ate Milk Duds and Sour Patch Kids and washed them down with diet Lipton green tea. Some people make quite a grand night of it with fancy picnics—roast duck and wine, Lovey—and a fancy picnic does sound very pleasant, but at heart, we’re tight, peanut-gallery types. Well, I am. I wore my Russ Feingold for President T-shirt and Nike wind pants. No Topsiders and Polos for me. I was complimented twice on my shirt, and I heard another woman comment that Russ Feingold was “that guy” she likes.

“Monster Mania”

Kayleigh decided she wanted to take theater class this summer. There was only one that fit our schedule, and it was “Monster Mania,” based on the book “Where the Wild Things Are.” She sang. She danced. She had lines. It was pretty cool to see her put herself out of her comfort zone. I think it helped that there were only a couple of people she knew there. She probably would have been too inhibited otherwise. She wants to do it again next summer.

Classes were held at the student union in Madison, a great location. She ate in the Rathskellar every day, known locally as the Rat Cellar. Until recently, it was so smoky in there, you could hardly see the other side of the room. Now, it’s quite bright and pleasant. It’s one of the cafeterias in the Union. I took my German friend there when she visited, and she laughed and took pictures. The Bavarian theme and quaint German paintings and language on the walls would not be believed by people at home, she said. Anyway, Kayleigh said if the cafeteria food at her school were as good as the Rat, she’d eat in it every day. The Union is on the UW-Madison campus right on Lake Mendota and is a favorite haunt of Madisonians.

Before the play started, they showed us some of the things they'd been learning. They did a few different improv games and a little song and dance number.

I think Kayleigh felt pretty good about herself for trying new things and being independent. Her friend Erika came to see the play, who was turning darker shades of green as time passed. She finally asked me how much it cost to do the theater camp, and when I told her, she said her parents would never pay that. I can hardly blame them. Sheesh.

No comments: