The snows came, strong enough to postpone a family road trip to Bellefontaine, but not enough to keep us from making other plans. Cleveland Public Theatre's Big Box series is in full swing, this week presenting an hour-long adaptation of Neil Gaiman's short story October In The Chair.
We have a new friend in town this year, someone who went to grad school with the wife and who found a job here in Cleveland and moved from Boston, here to Cleveland to live and work. We will call her Kim. Kim also happens to be a big fan of Neil Gaiman, and she claims October In The Chair is her bestest, most favorite short story ever. What better night to show her the sights and excitement that is the Gordon Square Arts District?
Good Lord. I am a cupcake.
Speaking of cupcakes, while we were dining and drinking at the xyz (don't ask me what we ate or how good it was, I don't do that) I spotted a cheery band of Millennials sitting in the window, and in particular a woman sitting at the far end furious texting. I recognized her face - it was Amanda from Clue Into Cleveland! I'd never met her before.
I walked up and asked, "Are you a blogger?" We introduced ourselves, and professed our mutual admiration. She admitted Centennial confuses her, and I said that's all right. You just need to know exactly what I am thinking about at any one moment.
I mean, I'm my blog isn't that obtuse, is it? Could be worse. Could be even*cleveland.
I asked if she was going to see the show and she told me no, that they had just come from Progressive Field Snow Days and after warming up with cocktails at the XYZ Tavern they were going back to one of their stylish downtown loft apartments to cook up some locally sourced produce from the WSM.
I made that last part up. They were just going home after.
The Bog Box production was exactly what I wanted to see on a cold January evening, and just why I go to Cleveland Public Theatre. I do not know what to expect, I am always glad to see familiar faces on stage (and in the house) and to become acquainted with new artists.
Unfamiliar with this particular story, it was obviously Neil Gaiman. People representing abstract concepts (in this case, months of the Julian calendar) sit around and tell stories. You're not allowed to do that yourself, Neil Gaiman does that.
Produced by Danielle Hisey, Rose Sengenberger and Benjamin Gantose, this adaptation of October includes plentiful, enjoyable shadow plays. Part of the thrill of seeing a show at Big Box is knowing they have only a few days to knock their technical elements together, and to see how much our artists can accomplish using so little. Sheet, lanterns, ropes, lights and a generous amount of keenly-shaped luan to create sailing ships, mountains and graveyards.
The most delightful moment of the evening for me came when one of my favorite former actor-teachers, the honorable and decent Annie Hickey, playing a bridge troll, had to yell the word "SHIT!" into the face of our ten year-old protagonist.
The ending was a bit confusing -- I mean, not to me, I read Neil Gaiman, and if a live young boy has a conversation with a dead young boy, then that live young boy is either in the process of dying, or will be dead very soon. That's not a spoiler, Neil Gaiman does that. You're not allowed to do that. But the story ended so abruptly in this adaptation, it left me worried for all of the children sitting in the front row, just as I would have been if I had my own kids with me.
Why? Because the certainty of death is something my children understand. Fear of the unknown in this world is what scares them. Watching the boy walk into that decaying house is a symbol I understand. Receiving it on a literal basis (Boy Walks Into Scary House) and being left to imagine the monsters and terrors that await him would have meant for a long night sitting up with my shivering son.
I am very sorry I cannot use my pulpit to further promote this show, you should have seen it. I love seeing kids doing good acting onstage, it was so nice to be in the same room with Anne McEvoy and Robert Hawkes and Annie, as always, and there are some new faces that I am becoming accostumed to that I would like to see again.
They changed the schedule for Big Box this year or last to include a Thursday evening performance and to eliminate the Sunday matinee. You know what? That's right, screw old people, they don't want to see this new-fangled shit, anyways. I've done Big Box a few times and it is a drag to follow two sold-out evenings with a Sunday house of 10. Check out the complete BIG BOX 2012 schedule!
Afterthe show, our happy trio ambled up the frozen Cleveland boulevard to imbibe bourbon soda pop at Luxe.
Bonus: New specs.