The play, I’ll Be Back Before Midnight,” almost scared a little bit of pee out of me. It was great. I generally like going to plays, always have, but I saw one this summer that just bored me to tears, so I haven’t been too motivated lately. I think you are always more disappointed in something when your hopes regarding that something are up unnecessarily high. Needless to say I have been tentative about going to another one. Unfortunately, I had a birthday a couple of weeks ago, so the missus wanted to take me to a play and dinner, so I said “okay.”
Kim made the reservations or at least she tried to. My wife, as sweet as she is, tends to have issues with technology. When she is using her phone, kindle, or laptop, and something doesn’t work the way she wants it to, the conversation usually goes like this:
“Here, fix it.”
“Fix what sweetie?”
“Fix this!” She is now shaking the device at me.
“What’s wrong with it?”
“It won’t work.”
“Well honey, I kinda figured that one out on my own.” For some odd reason or another, that response never goes over too well.
“Is there anything in particular it’s doing or not doing?”
“It won’t work. Fix it.” Still shaking, or wagging, said device.
Someday I’m going to learn to just take the device and make it work without asking questions. But seeing as how I fell out of the stupid tree and hit every branch on the way down, it ain’t gonna happen. This is the same guy who asked his, not even close to being 68 year old wife, after she told him that the recent super moon hasn’t been this close to the earth in 68 years, if she remembered it looking like this. So, I take the device, which, this time, happens to be the laptop.
Tap, tap, tap, fiddle, fiddle, fiddle, adjust, adjust, adjust.
“Okay sweetie, here ya go.”
“What did you do?”
“I keyed in the password.”
A short time later she says to me, she says, “there are no good seats until the 12th.”
Now my birthday is on the 3rd, and we had already planned to meet my mother and brother at Biltmore in Asheville, NC on the 2nd for lunch and a tour. Then on the 3rd, Kim had planned to take me to dinner at our favorite steak place (which means our favorite restaurant), the Peddler, in Greenville. Plus, she bought me a new electronic device. So I’m not feeling slighted on the birthday celebrations. She could have stopped at the electronic device, but I’m not going to tell her that. I’m good with my haul. Dinner and a show is just a bonus, and it’s a play anyway, so like I said, I’m not too keen on going. But what are you going to do?
“That’s okay honey. We’re doing enough for my birthday, don’t worry about it.” I think I’m home free.
“Well there are good seats available on the 12th.”
“That’s okay. We don’t have to go.”
“Okay, good. We’re booked on the 12th.”
“But I said you didn’t have to do that. You’re doing enough already.”
“We’re booked, we’re going.”
“So basically, this has got nothing to do with my birthday. You just want to go to dinner and a play?”
“Not basically. Yes!”
So we’re booked for a play, disguised as my birthday present. It’s a comedy thriller, “I’ll Be Back Before Midnight”. I’m not sure how they’re going to do that. The best thriller I ever saw was the movie “When a Stranger Calls” and there wasn’t anything funny about that. Except for the time they thought they had finally caught the guy. The mood was peaceful, everybody was breathing a sigh of relief, and then the heroine hears coming from the bedroom closet, “Have you checked the children?” She rolls over to wake her husband and it turns out it’s not her husband lying next to her, it’s the killer. That part of the movie wasn’t funny. What was funny, were the 4 girls sitting 5 rows in front of me, screaming, jumping up, climbing over the people sitting between them and the escape route that was the aisle, and running out of the theater. That was funny. So naturally I’m a little skeptical about a “comedy thriller”.
We don’t attend the theater often, but I’ve seen movies where people go to the theater. In my opinion we look the part of theater goers. I’m wearing khakis and a sweater and the missus is wearing a nice outfit that I can’t even begin to describe other than, “She looked good,” which for my wife is pretty much all the time. The only thing missing was me wearing a tweed jacket with elbow patches, and Birkenstocks with white socks. Isn’t that how most men attire themselves when attending the theater? Elbow patches and Birkenstocks? That’s the way they do it in the movies.
Before the performance we attempt sophistication by ordering a glass of wine at the concession stand. We don’t do this often and we want to fit in. 2 problems. #1 the wine comes in small plastic cups. If they wanted to be any more southern they should have just used Red Solo cups. #2 the love of my life, when asked by the “bartender” what she would like, responded by saying she wanted something sweet. We’re not exactly at a wine tasting, so the guy looks at her like I usually do when she asks me, “Are you paying attention to me?” For all of you keeping score at home, it’s not a pleasant look. All you husbands out there know what I am talking about.
“We have Cabernet, Chardonnay, and Pinot Grigio.”
She looks at him like I look at her when she says, “Are you paying attention to me?” All you wives out there know what I am talking about. My wife enjoys wine, but is not exactly a Sommelier. I’m not either. Needless to say I had to look up the word that means “wine expert.”
I told her to try the Pinot Grigio, I ordered the Cabernet, and we stood there “fashion policing” the other theater patrons. There was not an elbow patch, or pair of Birkenstocks to be seen. We crumpled up our “glasses” dumped them in the trash and found our seats.
Some guy walked out on the stage, turned out it was the Executive Director Allen McCalla, to make announcements, pitch a couple of the sponsors, and tell us a little bit about the play. For some reason everyone applauded when he came out. I’ve met Allen, and he’s a nice guy, but he really didn’t do anything except walk out on the stage, so I’m not real sure why everyone was clapping. They clapped when he left the stage too. I asked around, but nobody else could tell me why they were clapping either. Turns out he also directed the play, so, what do I know?
The lights came down and the play started. And you know what? It is pretty funny. I still don’t see the thriller part of it yet. I should have known better. The play is set in kind of a stereotypical thriller setting, farmhouse in the middle of nowhere, with city people, the wife played by Emily Grove, and the husband played by Sam McCalla, who have never been in the country before, renting for the next few months. The colorful farmer, played by Evan Harris, who is leasing them the house, is pretty funny. He tells the standard ghost story of a hermit who, years before, had murdered someone in that house and had never been caught. Previous guests have claimed to have seen ghosts in the house. The sightings are always mysteriously preceded by the sound of an unearthly heartbeat. The stage is set. You know someone, or some people, ain’t a gonna make it to the end of this play.
The play continues and the wife, who has mental issues, decides to stay up late reading. And then it happens. The lights flicker, and you start to hear a heartbeat. The lights flicker again, and she starts freaking out a little, screaming for her husband. The lights go out and she’s still screaming. I didn’t know a theater could get this dark. I’m sure they were there, I’m really not looking, but you can’t even see the glow of the exit signs. We have now moved from comedy to “full tilt boogie” thriller.
Now back to our story. The wife is still screaming for her husband, it’s still pitch dark, the heartbeat has gotten louder and faster, a light shines just outside a window that has mysteriously opened, and then, all of a sudden, the wife shines a flashlight around the room, and it lands on the hermit, a hideous figure holding a bloody knife ready to stab her. She screams again, and all the lights go out again.
The lights come up, the husband rushes into the empty room with the wife still holding the flashlight screaming about the hermit with the knife. Everybody calms down, except the wife of course, and the play continues, jokes are told, the audience laughs and the husband goes back to bed, having searched the house and not found the first hermit. The wife, she’s still pretty worked up, kind of like me at this point, so she decides to stay up.
A little background about me, at this juncture in our story, would be appropriate. I’ve never liked blood and guts horror movies. However, when I was a teenager I used to love the non gory thrillers like the first “Halloween” movie, which was, surprisingly, not that gory, and the aforementioned “When a Stranger Calls.” They were pretty fun, and let me tell you why. My first car date, or the first date I had after I got my drivers license and didn’t need my Mom or somebody else’s Mom to drive us, was the first “Halloween” movie. The first time the creepy music started playing, and the killer jumped out of the shadows with the knife, my date jumped straight up out of her chair and landed in my lap, where she remained for the rest of the movie. Yes sir, I had me a good thing going. Scary movies? Who knew? So, I saw all the scary movies through High School. Let’s face it, being startled is fun, and more importantly your date being startled is even better.
So when the wife in the play decides to stay up, I know this isn’t such a hot idea. Sure enough here we go. The heartbeat. The flickering lights. She runs over and closes and locks the window. The heart beat gets louder. She grabs the shotgun off the wall. The heart beat gets louder and louder. The window, that she has just locked, flies open, the drapes billow with the wind, and suddenly the lights go out. The theater is pitch dark, again. The sound of footsteps is audible. The wife screams and I’m about to come out of my skin. And then it happens. The guy behind me decides to cross his legs, and he kicks the back of my chair. He couldn’t have picked a worse time to try and get comfortable. I mean for crying out loud you can’t do that sort of thing, at that point in the play! I thought I had been had. The jig was up. They had caught up to me. It was in that moment I thought Freddy Krueger himself was banging on my chair. If I hadn’t used the rest room before we sat down I might have had a bigger problem. I kid you not, I’m not making this up, I literally came up out of my chair, and hollered “Oh s#*t.” Thank goodness at that very moment, back on stage, the wife decides to fire the shotgun, so my expletive isn’t heard by the rest of the audience. It is, however, heard by those within my immediate vicinity, rows O and P. The lights come back up, and I won’t tell you what happens because it is a good play and you need to see it someday, but jokes are told, everyone laughs and we break for intermission.
I am really hoping this guy is wearing elbow patches and Birkenstocks. I turn around, and sitting there, not wearing elbow patches or Birkenstocks, is just a regular guy wearing jeans, sneakers, a Clemson sweatshirt, with a big grin on his face. He is sitting with; I am assuming, his wife and another couple. I want to break bad on this guy so much, but he is just sitting there smiling, kinda knowing what he did, and trying his best not to laugh. I’m 6’4 about 310 lbs., depending on what I had for dinner (we hadn’t eaten yet so it was probably close to 305), so when I turn around, and you don’t know me, after having my kicked my chair, you probably would be just a tad worried. This guy is just grinning.
It’s kinda hard to break bad on a guy when, #1 he is not wearing elbow patches and Birkenstocks, #2. Clemson has just lost to Pittsburgh on a last second field goal, and #3. your wife is sitting next to you, with her hands over her face, shaking uncontrollably, doing her absolute level best not to fall down in the floor in hysterics. The best I could do was look the guy in the eye, point my finger at him, and say “DUDE!!”
This was one of the times when “sir”, “hey you”, or “excuse me”, just wouldn’t work. This was a “DUDE!!” moment if there ever was one.
“DUDE!! You kicked my chair at absolutely the worst time, ever!”
He just keeps smiling, I look down the row, and his party is basically mirroring Kim, hands over their noses and mouths, not looking directly at me, and shaking hysterically. It is at this point Kim loses it, and everybody else blows up. There was no hiding it. “Mr. bad ass, 6’4” 305 lbs., scared of the dark, jumps at a shoe bump,” is now the hit of The Greenville Little Theater’s row O and P. I shake hands with “Clemson,” watch Kim hand out tissues to everyone on our two rows so they can wipe the tears of laughter from their eyes, check my shorts, and sit down to watch the rest of the play. It is just as good as the first part, and I still have a couple of expletives left in me for the rest of the scary parts. Kim never fully regains control. In fact at one point she pokes me at the wrong time, just to see what I would do. I don’t disappoint. I am still worked up. One week later I might still be. I can’t say as I blame her though. I would do the same thing if the shoes were reversed. Dadgum play should have been called “Don’t Kick My Chair During the Scary Part, Dude!”
We still had dinner left to attend. But since nobody else wore elbow patches and Birkenstocks, we didn’t bother with Chateaubriand and a good Cabernet. We went to Waffle House.