Your RDA of Irony

Irony in Two Acts

Act I:  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 to wait outside the Statehouse Inn and see the state representatives stagger out and vomit.  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 would 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.

 Act II: What If….

Welcome to SciFi-History. What if Galileo had experimented with electricity instead of celestial voyeurism. The Church would not have objected–so long as Galileo did not deduce that Jesus was a robot. Now, in this technologically advanced world, here are the events of April 14, 1865:

President Lincoln would have preferred watching Artemus Ward on HBO, but Mrs. Lincoln demanded that they go out for the evening. They teleported to Ford’s Theamax and began their standard quarrel over what to see. Her choice was “Our American Cousin”; he didn’t like foreign films. Robert had suggested “Naughty Nurses of Atlanta” but the President didn’t dare see that in public: a private screening could be arranged. The Lincolns would end up spending two hours debating the merits of the fourteen films before giving up and going home.

All the while, John Wilkes Booth had gone from theater to theater, lunging into seven Presidential boxes and firing away. So far he had killed a meat packer from Wisconsin, a postmaster, and the Siamese ambassador. He had also shot a critic from the New York Times, but that had been intentional.

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