Maggie Portman (Meg Brockie) puts the moves on Rod Thomas (Jeff Douglas)
For a person who just wants to go home and curl up with a book, I sure get out a lot.
Blame other people—the most convenient people to blame.
While I like to attend cultural events, in theory, and invariably enjoy myself once doing them, there's that little hump of committing to go out, the ticket-getting and plan-making, that lately I've been lacking the steam to get over.
I knew it was getting bad when after I let "Henry V" come and go at the Chicago Shakespeare. Uncharacteristic. Younger Former Me would have never let that happen. But Old Tired Current Me heaved a sigh and let the production smack into the catcher's mitt, the bat resting on my shoulder.
That is how it's been. And how it would be still. My saving grace is that, when other people are involved, I leap to my duty, panting enthusiasm like a dog.
The weekend before last, we had a young cousin in from St. Louis, so of course wanted to show her all that makes Chicago a far better place than the Gateway to the West—the Art Institute, Millennium Park, the Chicago History Museum and such. She was here for nearly five days, so as a change of pace we headed up to the Renaissance Faire in Bristol, Wisconsin. It was good, sarsaparilla-soaked fun, as it always is, with cast members and visitors lost in private fantasy intermingling, hard to tell apart, and of course the Mud Show, even funnier than I remember, and a new trio of acrobats that had me muttering the highest praise I could think of, "Very Cirque du Soleil-like."
Or last weekend. I cruised into Friday delighted to have no plans at all. At last! I thought. Then my older boy, on the train into work, asked: are we not going to see "Brigadoon" at at the Goodman? It got good reviews.
I almost replied that the Lyric's "Sound of Music" had used up our allotment of musicals that we'd never wanted to see again in our lives yet somehow do for the year, and since that turned out to be inexplicably splendid—the absence of Julie Andrews is a wonderful tonic for a production—we ought not to press our luck. I am not a big fan of musicals—not tragic enough to mesh with my understanding of the world.
But lately my teenager expressing interest in events that I might be involved in has been pretty much limited to ... ah ... this. So what I actually said was:
"I was in 'Brigadoon.' In high school. Mr. Lundy. 'There's a gunna be a weddin'."
He looked at me, quizzically, like Nipper on the RCA label, and I recovered.
"Right," I said. "I'll see if I can get tickets."
I could and did. Goodman's "Brigadoon" was, to my surprise, as good as all the raves said it was. Excellent dancing, the show stolen by Meg Brockie, who played the (checking the thesaurus for a word that means "slut" but won't bring down feminists in Australia upon me) village tramp with great red-cheeked gusto and humor. I am not in love with the Lerner and Loewe songs, with the possible exception of "Almost Like Being in Love," but the choreography and costumes were first rate and it scored as a charming spectacle.
Most impressive was the presence of Chicago stage veteran Kevin Earley, playing the romantic lead Tommy Albright, in best the-show-must-go-on fashion, despite the fact that his mother, former Marriott Lincolnshire artistic director Dyanne Earley, had died the night before. There was a moment, at one song's end, when he looked up and smiled, and the audience, most of whom seemed clued in to what happened, applauded warmly.
Saturday was an impromptu dash to the United Center ("Kent doesn't want to go hang with Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose, does he?" I had asked my wife, on my way out to the garden, only to look up with slight puzzlement when she called out, an hour later, "He wants to know when you two are going.")
By that night, when my wife dragged me to Loyola Park to see "A Midsummer Night's Dream" performed by the Chicago Shakespeare Festival, I had surrendered. Though I had initially resisted when she asked if I wanted to go. ("God no," I said. "Do you?") I have learned that there is an inverse relationship between how little I want to do something and how wonderful it turns out to be. Lowered expectations perhaps. Shakespeare's romp, with its fairies and tangled up love, was perfect for a pleasant sumer night, the crowd colorful and engaged, the Bard with his full compliment of royal tricks—a queen, a duke, quarts of potions and a play within a play, all whittled down to an easy-t0-swallow two hours. "The course of true love never did run smooth." Aint it the truth?
Society takes the time to warn us of all sorts of stereotyped Bad Men: Stranger Danger, the Phony Nigerian Prince, the Quack Doctors and such. But there is rarely a murmur about the risk of becoming Grumpy Stick-in-the-Mud Dad, a species I imagine is very common and probably causes his share of damage to the collective good of humanity. The one escape hatch to salvation for me is that I've know that kind of guy, and as much as I just want to go home, crawl into bed, and read, I want to be that person just a little bit less, so out I go. Something to think about. The Renaissance Faire runs until Sept. 1. "Brigadoon" until Aug. 17, and "Midsummer's Night Dream" is playing tonight, if you're reading this Tuesday, July 29, in Rilis Park and tomorrow, Wednesday, July 30 in Piotrowski Park. Admission is $24 for the RenFaire, tickets start at $35.50 for "Brigadoon" and "Midsummer's Night's Dream, " the deal of the three, is free.
Talking to the Sun-Times Miriam Di Nunzio, Kevin Earley said, “It will be hard [to go out on the stage tonight], but as mom often said, ‘Go out there kiddo. That’s what you do’.”
That's good advice for anybody. Life is short. Summer fleets. Go out there, kiddos. It's what we do.