The Reproach

I took my orange plastic seat. I saw a backdrop of scrubbly wildlife with a couple of primitive set pieces stuck in the canyon. I saw, projected onto the hills, the light splitting over a two-dimensional cut-out of a Spanish Mission, a 20-foot long logo for Southwest Airlines, corporate sponsor for the season.

Sitting there in a twilit amphitheater with a thousand other people rustling and murmuring did somehow intensify my normal pre-show anticipation—that squirmy, excited feeling that something big was about to happen. I get that feeling every time I sit down to see a play. I’m always excited, expectant. Perhaps that’s why the word I use more than any other after a play ends tends to be “disappointed”.

Then the show started—and I mean, blam, it started. The house dropped to black, and performers began surging onstage in a rainbow of neon ruffles and white spandex, blazing some serious energy, all dancing to “La Bamba.”

Just when I thought more people couldn’t come onstage, they did—in lime green and neon pink, and sequins, with aggressive, take-no-prisoners smiles—while colored lights flashed and loud music blared. It was a jazz recital on steroids: at least fifty dancers moved on and offstage, performing simple steps with crisp execution, shimmying relentlessly, forming lines, circles, crossing in pairs, waving streamers and carrying flags and marching forward with big signs that spelled out “V-I-V-A.”

I was paralyzed by the sight—tears burst out of my eyes without permission and rolled in streams down my cheeks as I broke into a fit of uncontrollable giggles, my body shaking in my seat, trying to maintain some semblance of self-control and realizing it was useless. The earnest, radiant spectacle caught me completely off-guard. I could not remember the last time I had been rendered so utterly helpless by theater.

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