This week my lawyer daughter and I are going to Vancouver to see Aida. I tell you this because I don’t want to suggest Canada is without high culture. Indeed, there are lots of wonderful museums and theaters in Vancouver that I like to visit. But then there’s comedy theater.
Jerry and I and our friend Ria delved into the other sort of culture last weekend. We went to the birthday party of a dear friend who takes care of our finances. The party was at a dinner theater (comedy theater) in Port Coquitlam, near Vancouver. We drove up, leaving early since the border crossing can be long. This time it was fast. First we stopped for me to buy a rug at a little shop in Burnaby. The shop-space was tiny but there were many handsome rugs of just the size I wanted and in my price range. The proprietor (I guessed he was Egyptian) was courteous and helpful. All the rugs I really loved were Persian, but he explained that I could not legally import a Persian Rug into the US. If the border guards inspected they might recognize the rug as Persian and make us take it back. I didn’t want to risk it, so I bought an Afghan rug. I like it but I don’t love it.
Next we went to lunch at an Italian pasta restaurant, Anton’s, recommended by the rug merchant. The pasta was good and we ate heartily. We had been warned that the food at the comedy theater, Giggledam, was, like the carpet, “good, but not great”. I would have been hungry later but for the pasta.
Then we went in search of the hotel where we would spend the night “a short taxi ride from the Giggledam”. It turned out that the address that Jerry brought with us, which I plugged into the GPS device, was the address of the Giggledam. The printout on the hotel Ria had left on her table at home, and we couldn’t remember the its name. The streets of Port Coquitlam were congested but, with difficulty, we found a parking place outside a store-front labeled “Quick Cash”. I thought I would recognize the name of the hotel if I saw it in a telephone book. Quick cash was without customers and the young lady attendant was happy to help us. But we didn’t need the phone book. When I explained our problem she immediately came up with the name of the hotel. “There’s only one,”she said. She gave us directions.
When we arrived at the Giggledam at the appointed time a crowd was waiting for it to open it’s doors. The nice young woman who does our taxes, a good friend of the birthday girl, greeted us and took us under her wing. We had good seats in front near the birthday girl and her father and his wife.
There was a master of ceremonies.
He spoke with a British accent which was clearly not real. The name of the show, Cirque-du-So-lame, was based on the premise that all the circus performers had run off, leaving the original circus family (all of whom had Britishy accents – none convincing) to do the show alone. There were a lot of jokes about sex — all sorts of sex. There was a lot of male cross-dressing and male nudity (everything was uncovered except the main frontal components — but these were frequently clutched or pointed at).
Not much female skin was revealed. I wondered why.
The show was long and loud. Dinner was slow in arriving and the food was really bad. After the main course there were short scenes in which members of the audience were recruited to participate — birthday celebrants or anniversary celebrants.
After dessert came the musical part of the show in which the actors shed their wigs and accents and played instruments and sang. The master of ceremonies did an impression of Elvis Presley during which he summoned a lady from the audience (one who was celebrating her 35th wedding anniversary) to dance with him. There were insinuations of sexual intercourse and orgasm. “Was it good for you too?” he asked her. “yes,” she replied, “I didn’t know you were up to it.”
Jerry was fading fast. In the ladies room somebody told me it would end at 11. I thought the end of the show would never end. The master of ceremonies thanked everybody: the chef, the sous chef, the waiters, the musicians, the each of the other performers, the show’s promoter, the audience, the stage manager the lighting engineer. He recited individual bios and heaped extravagant praise on all. Then one of the other player/musicians grabbed the microphone and thanked the MC. “None of this could have happened without this man.” At the same time the wait staff handed out little paper Canadian flags on sticks and at the final, final end everyone (except the Americans who didn’t know the words) sang a patriotic Canadian song while gently waving the little flags.
Now, I am not saying I didn’t have some fun at this event. Everyone was jolly; I was with people I love, and although the premise of the show was silly and many of the jokes were, as billed, lame, there was yet a lot of energy and talent displayed. The music was far too loud for old ears, the taste of much of the performance was marginal, but clearly these were people who were deeply dedicated to a life on stage, and that’s not an easy life. For the most part the audience (mostly white, some Asian, very few Indian) responded with cheerful enthusiasm. I like Canada and Canadians. This was a side I hadn’t seen before and it rounded my view and showed me that Canadians are not really so different from us Americans.
I promise to tell you all about Aida next week.