There’s just something about live actors, flesh and blood people on a stage right in front of you, that works your emotions.
Yes, we all know that going to the movies is a good time, and million dollar budgets, dramatic lighting and outfits that match the backgrounds all make for wonderfully modern cinematic masterpieces. But when you are feet away from the actors, looking them right in the eyes, it just becomes so much more personal, and envelopes you immediately.
We had mistakenly thought tonight’s production of Circle Mirror Transformation (yes, it’s a mouthful) was a few blocks over at the community theatre, and so out of breath from running the length of downtown Asheville, we burst through the front doors mere minutes before the play was to begin, worried that we’d find ourselves locked out and out of luck. A couple was still smoking out front though, and the crowd gathered in the lobby, sharing coffees and beers from local purveyors and chatting up the evening’s affairs, left us assured that we weren’t, in fact, too late. We picked up our tickets, and it being “Pay What You Can” night, we scored two seats normally priced at $17/piece for a total of $15 all together. The cash only situation at the small coat closet serving as the concession stand, where local beers from local Highland Brewing Company and various other beverages were on sale, left us holding a useless credit card and nothing to wash down the sweat on our brows with.
The usher began herding us all into the auditorium, a rather small room, certainly not what I’d expected, with enough seats to hold 110 people total, and each and every one full tonight. The stage wasn’t raised, and so when the lights went down and then came back up to reveal the actors, they were all at eye level or below, depending on how far back your particular row was, though you could never be further than maybe twenty feet from the action.
The first half of the play was just so so, a somewhat slow moving affair where local actors played the part of a small community theater class where a divorcee falls in love with a classmate, only to be later rejected, and then the class’s teacher’s husband falls in love with the same women, and the resulting interactions between them unravel. A short break for cigarettes and then on to the second half where things began to move much more quickly and, much to my surprise, left me holding back tears at the developments unraveling on the stage. We left wondering about the characters, the actors who played them, and vowing to come back in a couple of weeks for a production of In The Next Room Or The Vibrator Play.
There is not terribly much else to describe. The setting is intimate, the availability of beers welcome, and the crowd ranging from teenagers taking notes presumably for some homework assignments to an older gay couple enchanted with every word falling off of the stage. “Pay What You Can” Night, which is the first Wednesday of each Mainstage production, means that you can get in for as little as $6 at the door, or $1 if you buy your tickets online, though reservations are likely a must as from what we saw, these nights fill up quickly. Otherwise, prices range from $17 to $29.
The Asheville Community Theatre is a few blocks east on Walnut Street, and offers an alternative to the North Carolina Stage Company’s more professional performances. For those of you who just can’t bring yourself to trade in the big screen for the mainstage, though, there are two great places to see a movie in town. Asheville Pizza and Brewing Company’s northern location offers new releases and you can down a beverage and a slice of pizza while you watch. Six miles south of downtown on Hendersonville Road is the Carolina Asheville, a movie theater where again, you can grab a brew with your ticket, as well as the standard pop corn, nachos, and candy you find in your typical theater, but the highlight here is that certain movies are shown in their Sofa Cinemas, where you and your significant someone can curl up on a couch, complete with ottoman, and watch the big screen as though it were in your own living room. Just remember not to fall asleep, as there are no overnight stays from too many drinks during a boring flick.