Yeah, we, my dad and I, were quite the odd couple. I was thirteen-years-old and he sixty-three; we made for a pair as odd as anything Neil Simon had ever dreamed up. It made perfect sense that we should go to work at the Venice Little Theater, our community theater, on its production of the comedy play “The Odd Couple.”
I had fallen in love with theater from a very young age, practically as long as I could remember. When my dad and I settled in Venice, I figured the theater was a good place to go. At thirteen, I certainly couldn’t appear on stage, far too young, and besides, I was rather shy. Instead, my dad and I worked backstage, which was a lot of fun.
First off, there was the decorating of the set. That was Oscar’s apartment while he was living alone, which was a massive and horrible dump! Ah, but it was not quite as it appeared. It was an organized disorganized apartment. It had to be, as my dad and I as well as a couple other stagehands had to be able to make it pristine and perfect in a few minutes.
It was quite the task.
That was because the second scene was after Felix had moved in and completely and totally sanitized the place. No, it had to look beyond clean; the place was cleaner than a hospital operating theater. After that, there were no major scene changes.
There were props to handle and some special effects, in a manner of speaking, to carry out. The first one was actually early in the play. Oscar opens two cans of warm beer, which spew all over the place. Let me tell you, agitating cans of beer in just the right fashion, to have the can merely foam, but shoot a stream of beer in the air is tricky. It’s practically a blending of science and art.
Next there was the London broil used by Felix, which burns up in the oven. We had to create a pile of blackened “meat” in a pan that we could add in a little smoke bomb. Then, at the last second, we covered the pan, handed it to Felix, he took it out on stage, and then opened it. If we’d done our job correctly, a perfect little cloud of smoke would rise from the incinerated flesh. It never failed to get a laugh.
Then there was the big one, the one my dad had to take care of each night: the linguini. Oscar, fighting with Felix over the debacle of the date with the Pigeon Sisters, grabs Felix’s dinner, a plate of linguini with red sauce, and hurls it into the kitchen. Naturally, he couldn’t really do that, as it would make a mess. That was where dear old dad came in. He would stand just off stage, in the kitchen, and hold a large “Catcher” for Oscar to throw the plate into it. The Catcher was quite the neat little gizmo we’d cobbled together: A tall cardboard box that we cut two sides off and then lined with plastic. Oscar had exceptionally good aim.
We worked that show, six nights a week, twice on Sundays for over a month; it was a sell-out hit and its run extended. We had a ton of fun.
The memory of that show, of that time spent with my dad, burns very strong and bright in my mind. To this day, anytime I see the movie version of that play or see a production of it, a few more memories sparkle and careen through my aging gray matter. This time of year, approaching my dad’s birthday, I often think of him, and it is so very nice to have some fun memories of him to recall.
We should all have such memories of our Dads.
Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.
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