Monday, February 16, 2015


The theater looked older than its 100 years.  It could not be described as dilapidated, but it was being held together by love and tradition at best.  Ethan looked about as he always did when entering a new place.  Snow fell outside and he pulled Brit to him rubbing her arms to help warm her from their brief walk to the doors.  A woman and man sat at a table just inside the door and bid them ‘welcome’ as they entered the Plays and Players Theatre.  On the table was a display of sparkly objects, postcards, and posters.  “Would you like to consider a souvenir to remind you of the evening?”   

Bridgette smiled at the offer and looked slowly over the items on the table.  “A postcard perhaps?” she asked Ethan.  “I can put it in my book!”  Over the past two years, Brit had started to keep a scrapbook of sorts filled with pictures and small items to remind her of things they did.  Ethan admitted to the guilty pleasure of peeking at the scrapbook once in a while.  The memories were warm and pleasing.  His eyes scanned the table surprised that Brit had not sought sparkles.   As he looked at the items, he blinked seeing that all of the sparkly items were pasties.  Some had tassels and others had shapes such as stars and hearts. 

The woman giggled, “I am sure we shall sell out of those tonight!”  Ethan smirked as his fingers went to the tickets in his jacket.  The man sitting next to the woman said, “We have a bar both upstairs and down.  It is open seating and the doors shall open promptly at 9 PM.”  The woman asked for their names and Ethan gave her one that he often used when traveling.  Scanning the list, the woman checked off the names on her roster beside the ticket numbers. 

Ethan dropped a $20 into the box labeled “Donations” for the postcard.  “Let us see the bar, Brit,” he said in a low voice as he directed her toward the steps.  Brit looked from one set of stairs to the other.  Ethan read the tickets carefully.  Not getting an idea of which direction she should go, she skipped down the steps with him following at a slower pace still examining the tickets.  Other than the name of the show “Fin: Two Acts, 400 Years. Vampires, Courtesans, and the End of Love” and the ticket numbers, there was no other information.  Ethan pursed his lips considering that he should have read the information that Brit had given to him when she first found the play.

In the basement, there was another couple who seemed normal; however the bar was nothing more than a small table with several bottles of wine, beer, and water to be served in small, red solo-cups.  A total of two other tables and four chairs were all that was found in the room.  Shortly after, the small room filled up with an artsy crowd.  Ethan mused that he had challenged Brit to find something she wished to do for Valentine’s Day.  After all, she had learned to do simple searches using the Netbook he had purchased for her.  Though he thought she would find something within New York City where they had been living for the past year, but he counted himself fortunate that she had selected a venue in the correct country and on the correct coast.  Philadelphia was a short trip. 

Ethan observed the crowd while Brit studied the post card.  Both wore black tonight.  Ethan in a simple black pullover and black slacks.  Brit wore a black tunic with leggings and boots.  "Did you read any reviews or anything about this show, Brit?”  

She shook her head, “No.  Just that it was only for two nights for Valentine’s Day.”  Ethan grinned as she returned to viewing the postcard and tried to imagine the search criteria.  The room filled up with more patrons and he nodded for her to make her way back up the stairs.

The doors opened as they returned to the lobby.  Inside, the décor looked as if it had not changed in most of its years.  Another glance to the ticket indicated that seating was open, so Ethan guided Brit toward the front just to the left side of the aisle facing the stage.  Patrons streamed in.  Most carried their drinks with them.  Even the balcony of the theatre was packed.  People behind them talked about how quickly the show had sold out.

The lights lowered and a black man wearing clothing from a century prior appeared on the stage.  He introduced himself as Armand and the date was 1875.  Armand spoke directly the crowd and the crowd sometimes would answer.  Throughout the show, the actors and actresses interacted with the crowd. 

Others entered the stage.  Innocent Cherise and her young fiancé, his employer, the rich and powerful senator and the senator’s paramour Camille and two of her friends.  The introductions were witty and humorous.  As music and dancing started, it was obvious to all that Cherise was not as enamored with her fiancé as he was with her.  Cherise caught the senator’s eye and he invited her fiancé to his home for a drink and “entertainment.”  The boy is obviously flattered and Cherise is delighted to encourage the boy to accept the invitation.

As the two arrive at the senator’s home, which was simply a brothel, Cherise was whisked off by the other girls to find a more fashionable dress.  The boy is plied with liquor.  With the senator and Armand, the boy watched a fan dance by the lovely and shapely Camille.  The dance started playfully and very sensually.  Then, one item of clothing after another was removed until the girl was on the stage with nothing but a G-String and pasties!  Throughout, the talk and behavior of the actors was both bawdry and light-hearted.  Ethan raised an eyebrow, but could not help but grin at the antics and words of the actors even as he wondered how much of the story Brit followed.

The boy became wide-eyed and started to worry about his sweet Cherise.  The senator then accused the boy of being intoxicated and told him to leave.  The boy demanded to see Cherise who tells him that she wishes to stay and that she does not love him.  Her heart-broken fiancé is thrown to the streets.  Without Cherise’s fiancé, the senator obviously has eyes on Cherise.  Camille started to try to pull the senator’s attention from Cherise seeing the danger of being replaced, but she started to cough badly indicating that she was in advanced stages of consumption.

It had been decades since Ethan had witnessed a burlesque show.  The play was authentic to the style of original burlesque given a setting of a comedic, dark storyline.  Time moved on.  Cherise was willingly auctioned to the senator.  Her fiancé was fired and fell into ruin, and Camille was cast aside and replaced by Cherise as the senator's new woman.  More burlesque acts, a can-can with a twist, and more dialog were interspersed with macabre and witty humor.  Both the boy and Camille grow sicker – the boy by his addiction to the bottle and Camille ravished by the disease.  Armand appeared and took the boy’s life as a vampire does.  Then he took Camille’s giving her the dark gift at the end of Act I.

The lights to the theatre came up.  Brit sat wide-eyed as she mused over what she had seen.  Ethan chuckled at his wife’s racing thoughts.  She needed time to process it all, and so he said, “I shall get you refreshments, Brit.“  Seeing that she gave a slight nod and sensing absolutely no malice in the room, he returned to the lobby.  Brit sat blinking for a moment and pondered the relationships.  Armand told Camille that she did not love the senator and more was her woe if she had.  He told her that she should focus on what she is rather than seek another to fulfill her.   And then there was Cherise who betrayed her beloved and, in conversations, was cruel to Camille.

In the lobby, Ethan also found himself lost in thoughts.  Brit had not been bewildered by the multi-faceted relationships or messages.  He also realized with no sense of irony that he was thoroughly enjoying himself with his wife at a bawdy theatre show on Valentine’s Day – a day made popular by a card company, no less.  Picking up his purchase, he returned to Brit noticing the many couples in the audience marveling at the range of ages from the very young to very old, and not all couples were traditional in nature.  He shook his head slightly and handed Brit a small cup of red wine. 

She whispered, “Cherise.  She is not way nice.”  Ethan blinked and turned to Brit fully.  Before he could ask her to explain, she lisped softly, “She only cares for herself.”  He wanted to know more but the lights started to fade.  In the second act, Armand and Camille were shown years later still together.  Whether love or companionship, it was hard to tell.  They met Cherise again who was much aged and done with life.  Her hardness never faded even as time passed. 

Armand told both Cherise and Camille a story of a famous courtesan in Venice in the 1500s.  As he tells the story, the courtesan and her mother appear on the stage with the mother giving humorous lessons to the girl as to how to be pleasing to her benefactors.  At one point, the girl ends up in a tub with the mother pouring melted chocolate over the girl’s body now clad only in a g-string and pasties.  The mother then beckoned audience members to come up and lick the chocolate from the girl.  To Brit's astonishment and Ethan’s surprise, several audience rushed to the stage to the laughter of the rest of the audience. 

Armand’s story continued explaining how the Spanish Inquisition ended the Era of the Courtesan.  The scene faded to an exchange between Armand and the courtesan where it is seen that he valued her poetry and mind more than her body.  He told her that she only need to ask if she needs him to help her in the changing political times.  Shortly after, the girl is captured by priests along with a common street girl and a gypsy.  The three are taken to the church’s dungeon to await their fates.

Chained to a St. Andrew’s cross, the three girls bantered between each other and tried to seduce the common priest and almost succeed prior to the entrance of the Grand Inquisitioner!  Dressed in red, the priest comes forward and the girls beg for mercy.  Removing the hat, the Grand Inquisitionor proves to be a nun rather than a priest and, after removing most of her clothing, ends up dressed like a dominatrix to question and whip the girls.  Armand came to save the courtesan, but the nun turned the cross on him.  Just as it seemed he would perish, the girls escaped their chains and started to chant a demonic incantation until the inquisitioner is vanquished and Armand is saved.  Rubbing his head in wonder why he was not be angry over the heretical turn of events, Ethan shrugged slightly with a soft chuckle.  “Tis only a Valentine’s Day play,” he muttered to the raising of the house lights.  He steered Brit through the crowd of people who were talking to the cast who had emerged from backstage to greet them. 

After Brit was bundled, Ethan swept her into the street and walked with her through the falling snow.  They had been together in such a short time, Ethan mused but, from the first Valentine’s Day over the diner to tonight, he had delighted in watching Brit’s growth in all things from her art to her thoughts.  Tonight, he watched her be able to not only watch, but comprehend a fairly complicated story.  Impishly, he chuckled at the burlesque and admitted to himself that he would not have enjoyed it as much in its hey-day. 

In their room, he twirled Brit playfully before landing in a chair in their suite.  “I have a present for you, Brit.”  Reaching in his pocket, he pulled out two sparkly items handing them to her.  The corners of his mouth danced a bit as he cleared his voice and said, “I wish to see you dance.  You will find that the backs peel away for attaching.”  His hands pantomimed the placement.

Brit’s eyes grew big as she examined the pasties.  “ want me to dance?”  He nodded quite seriously.  She giggled, “Like on the stage tonight?” 

Chortling, he nodded again and said, “To one of the songs in the show.”  Motioning her to get dressed, he reached in his pocket to do a quick search on his phone.  She stood for a moment blinking until he motioned to her again while enjoying the blush creeping on to her cheeks. 

Brit scampered out of the room and he heard her fumbling in the closet selecting something in which she could dance in as he attached the phone to the speakers beside him.  The song started to play.

“Dance me to the end of love?” she lisped.  “I don’t want you to stop loving me!”

He grinned at her words and paused the music.  “You know that will never happen, baby, and I don't think that is the meaning of the song.  However…”  He covered his mouth for a moment and continued, “But if you dance well-enough, maybe just for a moment tonight...well, we shall see what I feel.” 

Silence followed as she peeked cautiously out from behind the door.  “You….you are joking.”

Ethan could not resist a short laugh.  “Indeed.”  She giggled and popped back into the room.  Noting she was ready, he pushed the play button and actually wished for the briefest moment that he still drank cognac.

Dance Me to the End of Love - Leonard Cohen

Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic 'til I'm gathered safely in
Lift me like an olive branch and be my homeward dove
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love

Oh let me see your beauty when the witnesses are gone
Let me feel you moving like they do in Babylon
Show me slowly what I only know the limits of
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the wedding now, dance me on and on
Dance me very tenderly and dance me very long
We're both of us beneath our love, we're both of us above
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to the children who are asking to be born
Dance me through the curtains that our kisses have outworn
Raise a tent of shelter now, though every thread is torn
Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic till I'm gathered safely in
Touch me with your naked hand or touch me with your glove
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love


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