Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Three Acts And Three Hours Of Ennui

On Friday evening, Joshua and I and my middle brother attended a performance of “Dial M For Murder” at Jungle Theater.

None of us had seen the Alfred Hitchcock film, and none of us had seen a staging of the play before Friday night.

“You are in for a long evening” was my father’s warning—and, as always, he was right. The play proceeded at a glacial pace as the plot spun its supposed web. We were not ensnared. To the contrary, we were bored out of our minds the entire time we were in the theater.

“Dial M For Murder” was a 1952 product of British playwright Frederick Knott, who went on to author another once-popular thriller, “Wait Until Dark”. Knott, not a talented writer, wrote to formula—and the conventions of the formula were already long outdated before Knott began his writing endeavors.

The Jungle Theater production was not good. I can offer no praise to the production other than to note that the set design was apt and effective.

Oddly, the local press had lavished praise on the production. Jungle Theater generally receives notices more favorable than its work actually warrants, and I have always assumed that the positive coverage for Jungle Theater is due to the company’s assiduous if not aggressive courting of the press.

There was nothing worthy of praise in the Jungle Theater “Dial M For Murder”. The staging did not even arise to the level of a high-quality civic theater presentation. The cast was dreadful.

Before the performance, we went to a nearby restaurant that serves new American cuisine.

Once we were seated and presented with menus, we had an unhappy surprise: there was nothing on the menu that even remotely appealed to us. Appetizers, salads, soups, entrees, desserts: all were weird fusion foods that sounded positively frightening.

Before we had a chance to order, we saw dinner entrees delivered to another nearby table—and the food looked revolting. We had to restrain ourselves first from gawking, then from laughing.

When our server returned to our table to take our order, my brother, Josh and I looked at each other and squirmed.

After a few seconds of uncomfortable silence, I stepped up to the plate and said, “Let me handle this one”.

I looked at our server and said, very quietly, “I’m sorry, but I think we shall have to leave. There is nothing on the menu that appears to be edible unless one fancies some bizarre Peruvian/Cambodian/Tunisian/California nightmare—and it seems rather pointless for us to order food we cannot eat, as I’m sure you would agree. So the best thing for everybody is for us to leave as unobtrusively as possible, and for you to have a free table.”

The server’s jaw dropped—and we rose and left the restaurant.

Now pressed for time, we went to a nearby German brewery and ordered fish and chips, which we knew would be served promptly. The food was perfectly fine.

We made the “Dial M For Murder” curtain with time to spare—after which we suffered through three acts and three hours of ennui.

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