Aug
01
2010

  Brigadoon Was Fine For Charlottesville

I'm not even going to bother putting this in my "reviews" section, since my opinion is so subjective that I don't think it will be useful or relevant for anyone considering seeing the show here.

Yet I feel like a little rant discussion. First of all, my oh my, how my time in NYC has ruined me for local theater. Which is a shame, since the local theater here is pretty good, relatively speaking. It's just not the best theater in the world. Like I was used to.

Has anyone seen Brigadoon? All T and I vaguely remembered was that our parents were kind of into it. And we might be remembering wrong, we'll have to ask them about that. How we came to see the show was through this series of events: First, our babysitter's grandmother died, thus causing her to reschedule our appointment for last Thursday. When she came again this Thursday, she suggested a make-up night, so we went with tonight. Since we already went out to dinner once this week, T and I thought it might be interesting to do something else with this second night out. We saw a movie, (Despicable Me, I recommend it!) not long ago, so we decided to go to the theater tonight.

We actually had several choices; The Real Inspector Hound performed by high school students, the 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee performed by the Heritage Theater, and Brigadoon, performed by Ash Lawn Highland Opera. We didn't even consider wasting a babysitter night on a high school show, we hadn't heard anything about the Spelling Bee musical, so that was a mystery, but we had at least heard of Brigadoon, and there were a few seats still available, so we went to that.

It was difficult for me to suspend my disbelief. Not that the acting or singing was bad, it was fine. The set was fine. The theater was actually restored quite nicely-- it looked like a nice old NYC theater from the inside, so that was a pleasure. And it actually had more legroom and better sightlines than many Broadway theaters, so that was a bonus. But the play itself had a remarkably flimsy premise. And the actors, while pretty good, were not Broadway-ready.

See, the thing about Broadway, which I now appreciate even better than when I lived in NY, is that the productions are generally very, very good. Not all productions are superb, but an awful lot of them are. I used to see a lot of shows-- I'd go with girlfriends on weeknights, we'd get half-price tickets that afternoon, and see whatever we could get into (this was back when T routinely worked until 10pm, I didn't feel like sitting home alone every night, you see). So I saw a lot of theater when I lived in the city. And over time, I saw quite a few musicals that I had previously thought were pretty flimsy and unremarkable.

But Broadway transformed them. A good production can imbue a weak plot or music with previously undiscovered entertainment value. So while you left the theater with the same low opinion of the intrinsic quality of the core material, you also left the theater having been surprisingly well-entertained! Alas, that didn't happen tonight.

The best part of the evening for T and me, was the "family discussion" on the way home. In the program, the troupe had helpfully put various questions about the play to foster discussion amongst family members. On the ride home, T and I quickly blew out the same answers to their basic questions, but came up with more interesting questions of our own.

For starters, what would happen on subsequent days in Brigadoon? Already they had to adapt the play from the original so it was the SECOND day of the "miracle" instead of the first, since 100 years ago was 1910 (rather than 1860). So now the day previous to the whole magic thing was 1810, I think. So there had been one day post-miracle in 1910, then the main part of the story took place in 2010. In case you are unfamiliar with Brigadoon, the premise of the play is that there is this town that appears one day every 100 years, but the town's residents don't age like the rest of us, to them 100 years is just overnight.

So let's see; day 1 when the preacher sets the "blessing" in action is 1810. Day 2 is 1910, we don't know anything about that day, but since no one on set was walking around in clothing from that era, we'll assume no one from the outside fell in love with a resident on that day. Day 3 is 2010, and someone from the present (clad in khakis and a button-up white shirt) did fall in love with a resident, and SPOILER ALERT!!!!! did wind up staying in the magic town, which is where this play ends.

But day 4 would be 2110. The population of the earth would probably have expanded quite a bit in 100 years, so it would stand to reason that it would be likely that someone would stumble upon the town when it materialized. And it would contain mostly people dressed in 1810 clothes, and one guy in khakis and a dress shirt. I'm going to guess that the people in 2110 will be kind of Jetsons-y, and why wouldn't one fall in love with a resident (it happened in 2010, didn't it?). So on day 5 they'd wake up in 2210. Who is going to stumble upon their town then? Will it be Martians? Will they all wake up and their town is below a floating metropolis? A lot can change in 200 years. And to them, it's just one day.

And might it not be fun to write a play called "Doonabrig"? Where it only materialized once every hundred years, but it went back in time! So day 1 would be 1910, day 2 1810, day 3 1710, day 4 1610, day 5 1510, day 6 1410, day 7 1310. One week, and you're already in the middle-ages. Another week and you're at 610. By the third week you're in pre-history. Eventually, the people wandering in (here we'll have to suspend our disbelief that the town doesn't appear in one of the vast unpopulated stretches of earth, but near some early humans) would be in loincloth. Then later on, there would be no people but only dinosaurs (hello, Land of the Lost).

Nevertheless, I'm still interested in finding someone who wants to get a season subscription to one of the playhouses here. I used to go all the time, before I met T. T has way less patience for local theater than I do. I still think it's worth attending, even if it's not as good as NYC. It bugs T too much-- but he grew up with Broadway theater, so I can see how it would be hard to get your head around what most of the country has to deal with. But what I don't know is whether after I've seen a handful of local plays whether that will get me back into the mindset to appreciate it for what it is, or whether I will swear off local theater for the rest of my life, and just go to NY when I want to watch a play. I must say, when T & I went to see Macbeth (we got tickets on a spur-of-the-moment whim), we were floored, it was so good! (I wrote a review at the time.) Having a baby complicates our entertainment options, but we can still work it out. We have friends in NYC that would be happy to babysit for us so we could go to the theater up there.