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The Play's The Thing

But the beer helps

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I'm not the biggest theatergoer in the world, even though I love the art form. I'm the same way with movies, too. I want to lose myself in the story and acting, and forget that I'm sitting in a theater with a hundred other people around me.

The problem, of course, is the other people around me. Much like a bat, my radar picks up someone talking during a show quicker than Donald Rumsfeld equates Al-Qaeda with Saddam. It's for this reason that the last couple of plays I've seen have been at the Off-Tryon Theatre Company. People here know enough to be quiet, and if someone does start a running commentary, you can always order more beer.

At Thursday's opening of Rebecca Gilman's stalker drama Boy Gets Girl, a friend and I ordered our requisite oat sodas and took our seats. Director John Hartness soon appeared, and jokingly told the audience to settle in for the "feel-good comedy" that was to come.

As the lights dimmed, I noticed a yellow-green light coming from in front of the stage that suggested the mysterious glowing suitcase used in Pulp Fiction. With a little spywork, I was able to deduce that it was none other than CL theater writer Perry Tannenbaum, pursuing his craft with a fancy light pen (check out Tannenbaum's review of Boy Gets Girl elsewhere in this issue).

Soon, the play began. In the first scene, actor Ryan Stinnett's "Tony" (our stalker) and Iesha Hoffman are meeting in a bar for a blind date. They order two India Pale Ales and settle into conversation.

About an hour and a half later, I decided to further enhance my theatergoing with another beer, at which point the lady behind the counter informed me that my friend and I had in fact been drinking props for the entire first act. "Like Props Blue Ribbon?" I asked.

"No," she replied. "Prop beers. They were for the actors!"

After the show, I ambled over to the Evening Muse -- a mere block away -- for a nightcap. After watching an entertaining but sparsely attended installment of "Songwriter's Night," I stepped outside for some fresh air. I bumped into the genial-enough Stinnett on the sidewalk, winding down from his performance with a cold one of his own. I apologized for drinking his beer, and shot the shit for a while. He assured me he wasn't stalking me, but I kept my eye on him all the same. Damn method actors ruin it for everybody.

Friday evening, it was time for a fix of the one and only Rene Escharcha, aka Renelvis, this time performing at Joe's Raw Bar. For the uninitiated, Renelvis is a Filipino Elvis impersonator who travels with a karaoke machine. His routine includes covering Elvis, doing his own original songs inspired by Elvis, a song or two about the dangers of drunk driving, and any number of Beatles hits (Artists hate to be pigeonholed, I guess).This time, Renelvis brought a ringer with him, a man whom he introduced as being from "China and...Japan." Wherever this guy was from, he could shred like Fawn Hall, even while dressed like a mild-mannered businessman. Combined with the Raw Bar design aesthetic, which one attendee described as "Captain D's as imagined by William S. Burroughs," it was almost too much to take.

Between sets, a young boy of about 10 would sing and do the King's karate, which Renelvis seemed to approve of. It was as inaudible as Elvis himself after a handful of Dilaudids, but in this environment, it didn't seem to make a difference.

For the second set, Renelvis introduced a huge Beatles medley by relating the story of when Presley met the Beatles in his Bel Air mansion. Thanks to sound problems and Renelvis' accent, much of this was inaudible, too, although people guessed right and laughed and applauded during the pauses. One part came through loud and clear, though: Elvis' famous introductory line to the star-struck Fab Four. "Look, guys," Elvis said, "if you're just going to sit there and stare at me, I'm going to bed."

Thankfully our man Renelvis -- the object of much staring himself -- did just the opposite, and went to freakin' town with yet another set of tunes. Long live the King!

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