The Cement Traveler Diaries
September 13, 2017
By Gregory Bernstein
I never forget the first time in The Comédie-Française, The National Theater, Tovstonogov’s BDT, Mariinsky, Chicago Symphony, Covent Garden, Vienna Opera, Musikverein, and the Alabama Football games. They are the moments, which separate the future from the past, the time from space, when the program is a trophy, when you come to the right country, in the right city, at the lucky time, fight for the right tickets, and leave the coat in the cloakroom pondering to tip or not to tip. It all ends with one euphoric short moment of the perfect silence and darkness, when you seat in the famous chairs, look up at the famous ceilings and think proudly: “Roll Tide”.
Tonight, was my first time to attend the Arlington Mill Community Center, room #526, where I saw a play “Charleston Revisited” – the first theater production that I ever saw about Charleston. I will cherish this evening forever, just as all the other famous venues, and not because the room #526 is near #508 “Employment Center”, or the room #523 “Department of Human Services & Community Outreach Program Satellite Office”, nor because I arrived there without a ticket or coat, after a still drive through the stalled cars on #66, the bus lanes, the metro stations, and missing several exits I should have taken to the concrete in nowhere, where I parked illegally between the trash bin and CVS.
One email from Mr. Anthony Ernest Gallo has triggered this journey. How wonderful is to call a real playwright Tony. “My friend Tony”, just as our Greek friend Tony who catches perch in the Chesapeake, just as Tony Chekov, who is as Tony as Tony Gallo - in Russian Anton is Anthony, Tony. The email said: “Invitation to Charleston Revisited production at Arlington Mill Stage on Wednesday, September 13 at 8 PM. Tony”.
Anna was surprised with my departure since I wanted to join Sophie’s first singing lesson, where they practice “Do-Re-Mi” from the Sound of Music in French. “Where are you going?” they both asked, but left even more puzzled with the word “revisited” than I was. Revisited by whom, why, where? All I could say, that a real dramaturge has personally invited me to see his play, and that’s the first time. Ibsen never did. Bad.
My surprise continued in the room #526, since it was not a theater. Now I understand, that it was my first ever play to see not in a theater, but I asked the most stupid question in the room: “Is this a theater”. I was expecting a theater since I am preconditioned to see plays in a theater. I once saw a play in an underground bar in Leipzig, but they spoke German, I understood nothing, everyone smoked and I was washing off the smell of beer for days. Ironically the friendliest lady responded to my stupid question positively. She could have said something like: “No, it is room #526, where we revisit Charleston”, but she simply said “yes”, and her simple “yes” commenced my hour of complete joy. In the corner stood a wide cardboard box with two people behind it (eventually I realized that the two were three). They were holding two puppets – the yellow fat fluffy bird in sun glasses and the blue bird which looked similar to a beach ball. With the widest smile, I ventured to that corner and pulled out my camera. “Ladies, up with your birds, we got a photographer”, announced a rich voice from nowhere. The birds appeared immediately and bowed like Guignol marionettes. Suddenly a serious fit man stood up, and explained everything. The original production was in a theater, and tonight they thought to make a short reading version of it, but without memorizing the lines. He sounded apologetic, but he should not have. What they did was magnificent, professional, original, sad, funny, strange, new, and very Charleston. I know Charleston well since our cement terminal is right there at the port. The photographs serving as the stage set were excellent and instantly recognizable. I love shrimp, butter, and grits, but sorry – it has nothing to do with the play, just my memory revisited Charleston.
The first I realized that the 79 years old man could meet his 95 years old mother, and 97 years old dad. I was thinking that the age difference between my parents and me is 30 (or something like that, I should count more carefully one day), and therefore once they hit 100, I will be 70. It made me feel young for the first time ever. It’s a strange thing, but I always felt old before prior to this play. I remember thinking: “I am already 3 years old, that’s so old”. I then thought of being old at 14, 18, 22, 27 – lot’s of famous people die at 27, and 37 – alsomanydie, and 40, 45, 48. Sophie says she is “so old, she is already 6, she wants to be a baby”. Tony turns age into time, and time into relativity, and he even quotes Einstein. He also turns Charleston into space, space into time, time into birth, and death, and space again. His birds live, just as all his other characters in a swirl of space, and time. Nothing ever dies, and everything is dead, nothing ever lives, and everything lives. They walk to the cemetery and the kitchen, the garden, and the congress. The North street NW in Washington - does it even exist, who cares, and it does if you revisit Charleston. I guess the play may come across as tragic, may be even melancholic, perhaps as Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler but “a parrot is not a crowd”, that’s just as profound as “wait and hope” in the Count of Monte-Christo. “My future is now”.
This is the play which must be acted well. Tony is lucky. Every actor was absolutely superb. I assume they are not professional actors, but it may be their secret of success. Actually, I am not sure, they may be professional, or at-least taught in some of this craft. Their voices were strong, the movement natural, the dialogs polished, and most importantly they were the real Charlotte, Mark, Gin,Jay and Finch. Absolutely real.
I have only two grumbles – the program was from May 25th, and I can’t have the first theater without the right program. I also missed the fire truck toy. There had to be the fire truck, where was it? Therefore I have to revisit Charleston. It is not going to be the first time, but I will bring home the right program. I left this play younger than I entered. If I see it many times, I may become so young, that Tony,Sophie and Anna will let us take the parrot home, the birds, and hopefully the fire truck. This play makes me young.your paragraph here.
ANTHONY E. GALLO 202 544 6973 email@example.com
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