My husband Wally and I are compatible in many ways. In the areas where we don't mesh, I guess you could say we're complementary. Yin and Yang, so to speak. This give and take, and always living in a big house with plenty of “time out” space, has served to keep our marriage intact.
Visiting New York City is something about which we don't agree. And when we used to live across the border in Connecticut, we “discussed” it many times. To me, it's exciting Manhattan, full of wonderful Broadway shows, fine restaurants, and fascinating museums. To him, the only borough is the Bronx and it's only open during baseball season.
Wally hates Manhattan. He says it's crowded and dirty and expensive. That's the way I feel about the Bronx. But for him, it was nothing to drive an hour to Yankee Stadium after a full day of work for a full night of baseball regardless of the hundred dollar seats, $20 parking, $7 hot dogs and $9 dollar beer, along with the cleanliness of the restrooms and the roominess of a sold out major league ballpark.
The first time I got him to go into the city with me, I did it by promising him lunch with a former major league catcher. I knew that was enough to get him on the train. Once we got to Grand Central Station, I 'fessed up that my ballplayer friend was a Met, not a Yankee. Good sport that he is, Wally stayed, but he didn't pick up the check.
After that first time, I only asked for an annual New York City trip when we could take a small luxury bus to a Broadway show with a group of teachers from my school. The bus would drop us off at a restaurant for lunch and then take us to the theatre for the show and pick us up right after. In reality, we only spent a total of about 10 minutes on an actual New York City sidewalk. It's the perfect way to experience Broadway for a man who hates New York.
Over the years we saw A Chorus Line, Phantom of the Opera, Beatlemania, The Full Monty and maybe one or two others. He resigned himself to the annual trip and I appreciated it. He admitted that the shows were great. So of course that was my opening to push for more shows, if only in Connecticut. I got him to go to some regional theatre and even a few shows at the local high schools. We saw student productions of Guys and Dolls, South Pacific and Man of La Mancha. Wally especially likes the shows where he knows the music as well as the story. For weeks afterward he'd be singing Some Enchanted Evening, Luck Be a Lady Tonight or To Dream the Impossible Dream. He was becoming cultured, despite being a jock to the core.
So now we're in Florida and he's safely a long distance away from Broadway. I'm starting to discover the local arts scene and he's on his guard. A few weeks ago, a friend gave me tickets for a show at the Bob Carr Performing Arts Center in Orlando. We've never been there and I wanted to go no matter what the show was. It was A Midsummer Night's Dream. Shakespeare. Not only Shakespeare but the Shakespeare play with all the fairies and that little impish forest-dwelling guy named Puck. After studying Shakespeare in college and earning a masters degree in English, I can confidently say it's really not one of his better plays.
The production included a full orchestra, the Orlando Philharmonic, and the Orlando Shakespeare Company of actors along with the Orlando Children's Chorus. The children would be the fairies. All in all, I thought it would be a nice evening, but not necessarily a man's night out.
I asked Wally if he wanted to go with me, emphasizing the Bob Carr Theatre more than the show.
“You know honey,” I said sweetly, “The place next door to where the Orlando Magic plays.”
I also mentioned the symphony orchestra so he'd realize that this was a big production that I would like to see. And I know I said the show was A Midsummer Night's Dream. I know that because I already had a list of girlfriends I'd ask because I assumed he'd say no. He went to college. He knew Shakespeare. But he said yes and I knew enough to shut my mouth and thank God for the selective hearing of husbands. He probably heard theatre, Orlando Magic and maybe orchestra and that was okay with me.
In the week leading up to the show, all I did was remind him of “our date at the Bob Carr Theatre, next door to where the Magic plays.” On Saturday night, we got all dressed up for what I called “a night at the symphony.” I never said the name of the play after that first time when I asked him to go.
Walking in from the parking lot, with the car keys safely in my purse, I said, "I really can't believe you agreed to come to this show.”
By this time, I kind of figured out he didn't know the show because he had a week to make Shakespeare and fairy jokes and he didn't.
He said, "I've seen it before, in New York, long before we met.”
“New York!” I was shocked. “You always gave me such a hard time about going to New York. I thought you never went to any shows there until I started dragging you on the bus.”
“Well, New York wasn't the draw,” he admitted. “It was a long time before we met. I was about 20 and an older, 22-year-old woman asked me to go to the show with her. We were staying overnight with friends of hers, so I went.”
“Aha,” I said, “The show wasn't the draw either, it was the overnight.”
He laughed and said, “Well the show was pretty good too."
Now I knew he had the wrong show in mind, but uncharacteristically, I didn't say another word about it.
We had plenty of time to stroll around the lobby and gift shop before going to our seats. Thankfully, all the posters on the walls were for upcoming shows, not this one. And the program highlighted the entire season, with just the middle insert giving information for A Midsummer Night's Dream. Considering we're both at the stage that we need reading glasses, we just flipped thru it to see the pictures and the big print. After all, I knew the show and he said he knew the show and “it was pretty good too.”
I didn't even look at him during the first act. I was enjoying the music, reacquainting myself with all that Shakespeare dialogue and wondering whether Wally was sleeping or just silent. Or was he staring at me? I couldn't look.
At intermission, I turned to him and said, "Well, what do you think?"
He said, "It's not what I expected. Do we have to stay for the second act?"
I said, "Yes, of course. I love it. What did you expect? You said you saw this show before and liked it."
He said, "Where's the Spanish guy with the dream and the windmills? Isn't that A Midsummer Night's Dream?"
“No dear,” I said, “That's Man of La Mancha and the song is The Impossible Dream.”
Wally was a good sport and we stayed for the second act. I knew it was much shorter than the first act, so I knew he'd survive.
The conversation on the way home was lively and Wally sang The Impossible Dream once or twice and then reminisced about seeing Man of La Mancha at my high school. The boy who had the lead studied opera and went on to Julliard.
Wally remembered. He said, “Hey, I wonder how that kid is doing, the one who played Cyrano de Bergerac?”