A Spanish Play

On Thursday night we went to see a new play by Yasmina Reza called A Spanish Play. Reza is a French playwright of some renown. In college I read her most famous play 'Art'. It's a play about three friends and how one of them purchasing a piece of art changes and affects their friendship. The piece of art is a huge canvas painted white and it wasn't cheap. It was a funny play and I remember it making me think about the value of art and also the value of friendship and how friends influence each other and help each other develop as people.

I read the play six years ago out loud to Brian in the car as he drove us to his grandparents’ house. It was my first time meeting them. I don't think of myself as a clumsy person usually, but before two hours had passed, I upset a whole box of Russell Stover’s assorted dark chocolates onto the pristine white carpet. The box had just been opened; one piece had been eaten. So I scooped all of the chocolates back into the box — no reason to waste all of those delicious goodies and, as I mentioned, the carpet was very clean. I later learned that chocolates that fall on the floor are to be thrown away in this family.

Later than night, Brian's grandma asked me if I liked black licorice. I said, "No. Not really. I am growing to like my mother’s anise cookies, though." She told me she had just the thing for me. She took me into the kitchen and poured me a shot of Zambuca (a licorice flavored liqueur) and then set it on fire. Hot licorice flavored alcohol. It was terrible. Brian's brother finished the drink for me after my first few sips.

A Spanish Play is about actors rehearsing a Spanish play in which some of them play actors — one of those actors is rehearsing a Bulgarian play. So there are three layers (at least) going on. While there's a lot of comedy, especially from Denis O'Hare, mostly it’s sad. The characters, in each layer, are sad and lonely. Their relationships are falling apart. They are losing their grips on who they are. Do actors exist apart from the roles they play? Is it better if they don’t? Is there an end to anything? To art? To relationships? To pain and loneliness? To existence?

I really liked it. All the actors were amazing. I’ll remember the sadness though, I think, more than anything else. The actor rehearsing the Bulgarian play has a line about liking happy, “jolly” plays, but the sad things stick with you longer. I think that’s right. We’re all so afraid of sadness and loneliness (or so familiar with it) that seeing it on the stage or on the screen resonates louder and reverberates longer in our hearts.

The play was directed by John Turturro. It was a square theater with about five rows of seating on three sides. I think that’s called a three-quarters stage. We were in the second-to-last row in the center section (excellent seats that we got for free because Brian’s job is awesome). We went in as soon as the house opened — about fifteen minutes before the show started. We sat and watched the seats fill up. About five minutes out, three men came and sat down in the seats right behind us. Brian says to me quietly, “That’s John Turturro. He’s sitting right behind us.” And sure enough he was. We were able to eavesdrop as he talked to the other two men about what had been happening in rehearsals and the differences between doing a new play and an old play. During the play, Brian was treated to and distracted by some of his commentary. He was sitting directly behind Brian. I couldn’t hear much after the play started. I did hear him curse once or twice in reaction to some technical difficulties. But mostly it was just cool to sit in front of a famous actor who also happened to direct the play.

This is a picture that Brian took of John T. on the set of A Spanish Play.


Anonymous brian said...

My, what an excellent and thorough blogpost. Keep up the good work, darling.

2:18 PM  
Anonymous aulden timmer said...

Nice to see an in-depth description of the event. It enhances my prurient enjoyment.

8:32 AM  
Blogger activated charcoal said...

Your chocolate story reminds me:

The first time my uncle brought his girlfriend (now wife) to our house was on his birthday- We had all gone out to dinner, and were coming home to eat the cake my grandmother and I (to the extent an 8 year old can assist) had made (an angelfood cake with dark chocolate frosting*) that afternoon.

Upon walking into the kitchen we found my dog- a rather spry black lab- standing on the counter, gingerly licking the frosting off of the cake (which we had apparently forgotten to cover.)

My mom gathered up the dog, called the veterinarian she worked for to arrange a impromptu friday night stomach pumping, said she would be back in about half an hour, and walked out the door- yelling “save me a piece!” over her shoulder as she left.

Meanwhile, my grandmother had gotten the leftover frosting out of the fridge and had begun to refrost the licked half of the cake.

We lit candles, sang, and cut the good-as-new cake into pieces. My uncle’s girlfriend chuckled as we did this, certain we were pulling an elaborate prank. I still remember the wide-eyed stare she gave us when we actually started digging into the (did I mention good-as-new?) cake.

She declined the piece we offered her, but still married into the family.

Our running joke is that we must give each potential member “The birthday-cake test” before they are allowed to marry into our clan.

I wonder if Brian’s family runs every potential inlaw through the “Russell Stover test”...

*every birthday cake ever consumed in the known history of my family has been an angelfood cake with dark chocolate frosting

12:47 PM  

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