Your RDA of Irony

The Limits of My Masochism

On this day in 1865, Abraham Lincoln had a really bad time at the theater.  Of course, many of us have sat through plays, wishing that John Wilkes Booth would put us out of our misery.  Let me recall some of my traumas….

I once worked in Springfield, Illinois.  (There’s a Lincoln coincidence.)  Our state capital has the charm of a big city and the culture of a small town.  One of the aesthetic highlights of the town is wait outside the Statehouse Inn and see the state representatives stagger out and throw-up.  In addition to the unintended farce, Springfield also attempted–or perpetrated–community theater.  While I was there, the repertoire offered “The Lion in Winter.”  It was an unique experience to hear 12th century Plantagenets speak with southern Illinois accents: El-LEAN-or of Actquitting.  I only wished that the cast considered ‘act-quitting.

However, professional productions can be just as dreadful.  Chicago’s generally esteemed Goodman Theater did an updated production of “Richard II.”  The cast wore business suits instead of doublets.  Unfortunately, the Brooks Brothers’ wardrobe does not include gauntlets, so how would feuding nobles challenge one another?  In this production, they slapped each other with legal briefs.  I was actually disappointed that the deposed Richard II was not pinched to death with cell phones.

Now, I would never be so callous as to include school plays in this list of horrors.  No one expects them to be good (although perhaps the seven-year-old Meryl Streep was a remarkable exception–doing “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” when the rest of her class was performing “Peter Rabbit”).  They are just the unavoidable consequence of having relatives.

However, you may also have to endure plays by friends and acquaintances.  I have known several aspiring playwrights.  One colleague from work was impressively prolific without the least talent to justify it.  She wrote a sex comedy without humor, titillation or anything else that be remotely interesting.  Another acquaintance felt obliged to dramatize his wife’s nervous breakdown.  If boredom is a treatment for psychosis, she now must be cured.

I have since received further invitations to even more plays by my prolific and talentless acquaintances.  For one reason, I am always unable to attend.  You see I am not Catholic.  So going to dreadful plays would not count for time-off in Purgatory.   


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