Last week, I did something incredibly rash and intrepid. My actions backfired horribly, and my life will never be the same.
Impulsively, and without consulting my husband Jonathan, I bought us two tickets to see Matthew Bourne’s Play Without Words.
“Surprise! We’re off to B.A.M. tonight!” I said, affecting a bubbly and vivacious demeanor.
It was a stealth attack. I knew that if I had consulted my Jonny about the matter, he would have balked. Since the very beginning of our relationship-we celebrated a 10-year anniversary last November-he has frequently expressed his views regarding the utter pointlessness of all high culture.
The differences in our tastes emerged one soggy Sunday early in our relationship. Jonathan had been stricken with a dreadful flu, and I was dispatched to Kim’s Video to rent something that would (in Jonny’s words) “take me out of myself.” I returned with a copy of Fellini’s Juliet of the Spirits. Incensed, he sent me back to the store to get The Terminator. He has never forgiven me.
Somehow, I persuaded myself that Play Without Words was something that Jonny might enjoy. I had received an e-mail from a friend exhorting me not to miss it. “It’s based on the Joseph Losey movie The Servant. It’s very camp, and when the dancers do the frug, they remind me of you.” That was all I needed to hear.
Last Friday night found us winging our way to Brooklyn on the N train. So far, so good. Jonny was swept along with my arrangements before he could organize a protest or, like Michael Jackson, conjure up a back ailment. I made a mental note to utilize this ambush technique again in the future.
The first act began. I enjoyed the evocation of mod London: The cool kinkiness of the original movie, whose screenplay was written by Harold Pinter, is happily intact. The much-talked-about triple casting, whereby the main characters are danced by three people simultaneously, added a je ne sais quoi.
Interval. The lights came up. I turned to look at my Jonny. His face was literally gray with a combination of rage and boredom. It was more of a je ne veux pas than a je ne sais quoi.
“Fun … isn’t it?” I said in a perky, Maria von Trappish kind of way.
“You have to admit that the dressing scene was a bit of a laugh.”
(One servant undresses the master while the other two redress their respective masters.)
“There were a couple of bearable moments, but that does not mean that it has THE RIGHT TO EXIST.”
The lights went down, and I prayed for a miracle in the second act. It didn’t happen. As the narrative became increasingly incomprehensible, Jonny’s disdain was palpable. I’m sure if you asked any of the Bourne troupe whether they experienced any palpable disdain in the air last Friday night, they would all answer in the affirmative. Had I been there on my own, I wouldn’t have thought twice about it. Seated as I was next to the world’s most indignant potter and philistine, I was filled with dread. I would hear about this for the rest of eternity.
During the ride back to Manhattan, Jonny surprised me by not throttling me or shoving me under a subway car. In fact, he seemed relatively upbeat, and the color had come back to his cheeks.
“I’ve decided that I should be grateful to you,” he said. “You’ve done me a favor.” I was shocked. Suddenly the door had opened to the possibility of more such outings. But then, just as suddenly, it slammed shut.
“You have reaffirmed my commitment to low culture,” Jonny said. “I look upon this evening as a little refresher for my convictions.”
Back home, Jonny dived into TiVo and paraded a million examples in front of me of the excellence of low culture-Will and Grace, Law and Order S.V.U., The Wire, etc., etc.-as compared with the dreary, incomprehensible inconsistency of high culture. I hadn’t seen him look so blissfully happy in months: “It’s as if my roots needed a bit of a touch-up, and you took care of it,” he declared.
For those of you wishing to test the patience of any low-culture-lovin’ friends or spouses, Play Without Words runs through April 3. (Call 718-636-4400 for tickets.) During intermission, do as I did and pop down to the lobby to pick up the brilliantly kicky Terry Davies soundtrack CD ($18.95). I’m getting my own back by playing it nonstop chez nous and frugging wildly.