On stage in a darkened theater, the audience a fair bit shy of halfway full, a dark-skinned dancer bathed in blue light gyrates silently inside a silver ring suspended in midair, her eyes obscured by a mask made of golden leaf. The play, in which she appears so far to be the only cast member, is called What if Nothing We Can Say Will Save Us. The program is a sheet of paper, cobalt black, with no text. Meant to be enigmatic, to me it mostly inspires curiosity over how much it cost to buy the ink to print all of the copies, considering that by its weight, printer ink is worth more than oil, gold, and human viscera. The show so far is not inspiring, but I maintain an open mind. Something compelled me here tonight, after all.
When the dancer crashes sickeningly to the floor, there are gasps throughout the audience, muted screams, and some even take hurried steps toward the stage with an aim on rendering some sort of assistance—but the eerie absence of a back of house response is suspicious enough to stay our urgency. Moments pass by agonizingly before the dancer is inevitably raised up, suspended in the air by a previously unseen cord, her body hanging limply but apparently unharmed. The tension dissipates, to the relief of many. Everyone reclines back in their seats. There is some grumbling, at least from me, at the amount of aggression toward the audience the play has demonstrated so far. A half-hour so far without dialogue, the movements of the actress barely motivated, no meaning to be divined in them at all, at least not without deploying the most tormented logic. I unfold the program again, reassuring myself that there’s really nothing there, at least nothing that I’m clever enough to get. I decide I’ve given enough of a chance to the production. No one protests when I leave.
I exit the theater and emerge onto an empty street, the rain-slick asphalt reflecting streetlamps and neon signs, their brightest points of light diffusing in the mist. Across the street, beneath the dark sky, the luminous sign of SONIC DRIVE-IN beckons like warm fire in the mist. I cross the road, avoiding puddles. It’s one of the ones with the rubber tables outside, where you can sit and enjoy your meal in the open air. The fluorescent light is not what you would call transgender friendly, but so be it. Through the speaker, I order a crispy Asiago Caesar chicken club sandwich, and cold water. The red wine from the theater bar I ordered for myself was cheap, bitter, and by now was giving me a headache—that, or the dreadful show.
My sandwich arrives and I consume it at the table, in small bites. It’s very dry. Asiago is a type of cheese, reminiscent of Parmesan, and if present within the sandwich is only so at levels undetectable. This is not a good version of the grilled chicken sandwich, but my body says that it will do. Too late to do anything about it, anyway. Everything is oversalted, covering a lack of flavor and finesse. I consider what it means that I’ve spent my whole night making bad decisions. At some point, one of the high schoolers sitting at the table across from me calls me a slur word for a gay man. I’m not sure exactly what I did to deserve that.
Photo Credit: Dairy Queen