Holding a colorful, glossy program booklet in his hands, a tall and fairly thin man waited in a line just outside the Belasco Theater amidst a crowd of eager spectators. Tonight's performance was a reprise of Kiss of the Spider Woman, a classic favorite of long-ago Broadway.. reprised for tonight only in this off-off-Broadway playhouse by an unknown production company. The lanky fellow, dressed rather nice this evening in a black suit and tie, stood reading segments in the playbill describing the play, as well as a brief synopsis given to each of the actors as well as the play's director. Musing over the photo of the actress playing The Spider Woman, a faint grin rose upon the man's lips in those moments before the line suddenly began to move forward.
Yes, showtime at the Belasco Theater! The doors were pushed opened by smartly uniformed ushers who collected tickets from each person who passed between them, then indicated they should follow the gold stanchions to the appropriate, reserved seating sections. The event was gala, even though it was nowhere near Broadway. Then again, New Yorkers were often fond of dressing to the nines when out on the town.
Edward Holliday -- that was the lanky fellow's name -- followed the gold swag ropes around through the doors that led straight up into the theater's upper balcony section up above the stage. Most folks up there brought with them a fancy pair of opera glasses, those tiny little binoculars on a stick, enabling them to see just as well as the folks down on the front-row, floor-level seating. Edward hadn't thought to bring a pair of opera glasses, however. He didn't really need such aids, for he could see extraordinarily well, and even at fairly good distances. But as he settled into his seat, he seemed briefly amused to find that he was seated right next to an attractive woman in a pretty, form-flattering, white cocktail dress.. who seemed to be doing her best to ignore the fact that he was staring at her.
It took about a half an hour for the theater to fill up, but once the crowd had settled to a dull roar of enthusiasm, the lights suddenly dimmed low and the opening music played over the theater's sound-system. Well.. what did you expect, really? It was the Belasco Theater, and the productions weren't ritzy enough to bring in the New York Philharmonic for musical accompaniment. Ahh, but who cared? It was still a night of glamor and excitement.
By the time the orator took the stage, setting up the gist of the story in the play while engaging the audience's participation with cheers and applause, Edward dropped his playbill to the floor, evidently making a convenient excuse to lean down and retrieve it again. And in so doing.. rather precariously brushed the side of his face against the pretty woman's crossed legs.
She gasped softly as she shifted her limbs aside, and also glanced down at the floor where the man was reaching. And in so doing, inadvertently flashed him a glimpse of her panties before she crossed her legs again, this time the opposite direction.
"I dropped my program," he whispered to her from down low, taking much too long to pluck the glossy booklet from the floor again.
"Well.. hurry up and get it!" came her tersely whispered reply as her brows arrowed downward in slight irritation.
When the orator finished speaking, he left the stage just as the red velvet curtain began to rise upon The Spider Woman's opening prologue --
"Come and find me, hear my song. Let me hold you here where you belong... Lips are waiting, pain will cease. Calm your anguish. I can bring you peace.."
Yet right where a chorus of prisoners should have expectantly followed their cue, the lights over the stage took on a hazy, almost ethereal hue. And over the audience there fell a breathless hush as the stage itself wavered briefly in and out of focus, causing a few in the crowd to inadvertently rub their eyes. It was instinct, you see, to doubt one's own vision.. rather than to believe in weird, inexplicable paranormal events. And there suddenly, just as plain as day in the center of the Belasco Theater's stage --
-- a tiny spider descended from a single silk thread before an unknown, young woman, who was straddling a toilet seat with her panties down around her ankles, as she nervously fumbled with tearing open a small box.
The spectacle down on the stage caused a faint murmur in the crowd, though nothing such as would cause any vehement protests. It merely confused the audience, as evidenced in the lovely woman's reaction -- the same one in a white cocktail dress who was seated next to Edward Holliday.
"I.. don't.. see this part in the program. Is this a new piece?" she whispered, almost rhetorically to herself as she flipped through her glossy playbill under the too-dim lighting.
But by then, Edward seemed to have lost interest in the woman sitting beside him. He'd never seen Kiss of the Spider Woman before, and likely would have never noticed that the scene below was not part of the original play. Too, he'd never been to the Belasco Theater, either.. and seemed the only one in the entire audience who wasn't confused, as well. The rift in the time-space fabric, which occurred on rare occasions in that particular theater, was no doubt, one of the most beloved aspects of the old building's alleged hauntings. It might have been caused by the infrequent restlessness of old ghosts. Or perhaps even by Edward, himself. Though the most likely cause was that Edward had inadvertently stirred up those old ghosts by his very presence. Finding his footing in both worlds, you see, was bound to cause paranormal clashes between the planes of existence now and then.
The stage lights buzzed very softly again, and there arose the sudden chorus of actors' voices -- as the Prisoners: "Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh!"
Then the actor playing the Warden: " Prisoner 16115, name is..." and again there was a wavering of sight and sound as two distinctly separate worlds collided. "Prisoner is currently being interrogated... We will break.. We have our ways."
And alas, the Spider Woman: "Sooner or later you're certain to meet. In the bathroom, the parlor, or even the street..."
No.. it was most definitely a bathroom. For as the actors faded into the background again, there was once more, the most surreal scene ever to grace the stage -- the same young woman who had been moments ago, preoccupied with her restroom business, now laying on the floor in a pathetic fit of tears. And this time when Edward dropped his program to the floor, he didn't chase after it. Instead, he was rather transfixed by the apparent reality that this.. unknown actress managed to portray. Transfixed in such a way that he coveted what he didn't have. Namely.. her.
No longer the object of the man's roguish fascination, the woman in the white cocktail dress naturally found herself even more irritated now than when he was blatantly hitting on her.
Her Name Is Aurora.
The actor playing Molina spoke: "Aurora, help me...I need you...Come to me like you always have... Her name is Aurora and she is so beautiful. No man who has met her can even forget her. They're madly in love, forever in love. I see her so clearly, I know her so well... She steps to her glass now... the sight of her dark eyes..."
And there she was again, her eyes briefly glancing to the audience as she peered into her mirror over the bathroom sink. A collective hush fell upon the spectators as she opened her vanity drawer and drew out a blade. Truly an odd place to keep a knife. And as she raised it before herself, poised as the glint of steel flashed briefly over her breast --
-- The chorus of Prisoners rose yet again: "Look at her radiance; See how she glows! Look at her silken cheeks, pink as rose. Tell us, you secret madam, tell us, please do.. What is this happiness shining from you?"
The Spider Woman answered the Prisoners: "So, you want to know why I'm aglow. Oh! Last night I went to see the Gypsy, and oh the things she had to say! She told me I would meet a stranger; a lean, handsome hero... Who'd sweep in, and sweep me away!"
The young woman in the mirror seemed briefly hesitant with her dagger poised, only to turn it at the last moment, down upon her wrist where she sliced open her flesh --
The Spider Woman continued on: "'Someday you'll hear a cry', she told me. 'A sharp piercing sound and when you look around, the love of your life will be there! I cannot tell you how you'll meet him. Or when you'll meet your love... or where. But soon you'll hear that cry', she told me. 'And you'll look around...'"
And the Prisoners in unison all did agree: "You'll look around!"
Aurora spoke, alas: "At that sharp piercing..."
Prisoners: "Sharp piercing. Sharp piercing. Sharp piercing. Sharp piercing..."
And her second wrist, likewise, did she slice open like the first. Bleeding. Her blood splattered and dripped over the edge of the white porcelain sink, and down to the floor where she sank down a second time. And was that it? Was that all there was? To simply wait for death?
Next to Edward, the pretty woman in her white cocktail dress slowly reached over to pluck a white embroidered handkerchief from her small white clutch purse. As she held it's perfumed fabric to her nose, she drew in a breath and turned her gaze upon the fellow seated right beside her. Whether the staged attempt at suicide was real or fake, she did not know. But the woman had a fairly weak constitution, nevertheless, when it came to the sight of blood. She could look no more, imploring the man with her eyes: Tell me when it's over.
And once again, the voice of the actress playing the Spider Woman rose above the silence in the theater: "The moon grows dimmer at the tide's low ebb. And your breath comes faster. And you're aching to move. But you're caught in the web..."
Yes, a web.
That tiny little spider dangling from its single strand of silk, descended yet further until it landed right upon the shoulder of tonight's despairing soul. And amidst that dull glaze of finality that had settled into her dark eyes, it began to spin its tiny little web --
A Gypsy. (Zora?)
A lean and handsome hero. (Me?)
But the play was not over. No, not by far. It had only just begun. For once the interruptive scene with the girl in her bathroom -- the girl and her dagger, the girl and all that blood -- had ended with nothing more than her blank and starry stare, the play resumed full force with nary a gap until the Intermission came. The Bluebloods, Valentin, The Prisoners, Molina, Marta, and her Mother paraded across the stage, pitching their lines to the dimply lit audience, never once aware there'd been anything other than them upon that stage.
Intermission came and went, and once the play had reached its finale, the curtain fell and rose again, allowing the troupe of actors to take their bow before an applauding audience. Minus one, of course.. as Edward had risen from his seat and taken his leave rather abruptly, leaving the pretty woman in her white cocktail dress behind. Forgotten.
Patrick S. © September 2011