Last night I saw a new play by Beau O'Reilly, a Chicago playwright and director. My
friend Charlotte drove me. She and I took one of O'Reilly's week-long classes in Iowa
City last summer. He's got one of these immense personalities that fills a room when he
speaks, so we thought it'd be good to see him onstage, as he acts in this recent play.
I've spent many hours on stage, in varying states of consciousness, steadily getting sharper
in recent years. Playing bass in bands, my big thump and crush Fender keeps time with a lot
of musicians named Dan, and many others with single syllable names, Pat, Bobby, Brett, Ben.
My favorite frontmen and the occasional women were probably better with talk than with
song. I hear Tom Waits is like that, but I've never seen him. Once, a band called Horse
threatened to murder the entire front row if another audience kid called the piano player
Napoleon Dynamite again. After the threat, the singer kept whipping people with his mic
cord and made fun of everyone for having the same haircut. It was beautiful.
The play I saw is Evanston, Which is Over There. The TV Guide type summary might read,
"neurotic people enter middle age in Roger's Park," but I don't know what else. There were
two chairs, a small stage, and O'Reilly plays a side bit as an old prostitute who's slept with
Ray Charles and BB King. There are aging musicians, loser sons, Montenegrins, lovers gone
friends. At one point these two ladies double as an elevator; at this my heart had palpitations.
I tried to make sure everyone in my dreamband Krayola acts as a defacto frontman. Our
playing can be staggeringly bad due to tuning and nerves. But everyone has to talk. We
have routines at practice that take a second life on stage. Our music set is so short, I try
to see how long we can go without playing a song. Only five minutes is the answer.
Some nights, I've looked at the crowd with shame and grief, but afterward people ask us
back. I think because of our banter. But I never think about acting and I am a bad, bad
dancer. Still, I would like to write a short play if an idea ever came. Part of me also
wants to drink coffee in Roger's Park on quiet intersections or drink beer on dates near
the lake. I get these Chicago fantasies in my head and I can't shake them out.