An evening at the PNB with Giselle

The scene is set: A couple of finely-dressed young adults have joined high society to attend the Pacific Northwest Ballet’s presentation of Giselle; one of the oldest ballets. Giselle is set in the Rhinelands during the grape harvest: it tells the story of a young woman, Giselle, her love for a nobleman who has disguised himself as a peasant*, her betrayal and death by grief when she discovers the man she loves is betrothed to another, and her life after death as one of the Wilis–young women who were jilted before their wedding days who take revenge on men by making them dance themselves to death. The artistic director of the show, instead of having the troupe perform the more well-known and recent Russian iteration, went to the oldest source he could find and directed the show to mirror the 1841 original as closely as possible. The beautiful sets and costumes were on loan from the Houston ballet. All in all, it was a powerful, moving ballet experience, save for one thing.

That damn burger rolling around in my stomach from earlier in the day. It wasn’t merely a burger, it was a burger monstrosity. A burger so fatty and dense and calorie-laden, I’d already been forced to take a nap to allow my body to process it. Now, in the middle of the seemingly interminable pantomiming portions of the first act, the burger was making an angry reappearance. The burger was officially ready to Bring the Pain, involving feverish amounts of nonsensical praying to the God of Bowels that can he just please hold off for just a little while, please, anything, an offering of nothing but healthy fibers will be forthcoming if he will just PLEASE keep me from crapping my dress at the ballet. Occasionally, these prayers will be heard, and the evening can proceed as normal. My prayers were, and a mighty offering of fruits and veggies was laid upon the altar of the God of Bowels the next day.

The second act was much more interesting and enjoyable than the first, particularly since I no longer had to focus on a brand new method of humiliating myself in public. What I DID have to focus on was a group of women chatting behind me in Russian for nearly the entirety of the second act. Chatting, giggling, and some form of giggling cry I’d never heard before. I turned and glared, not wishing to be as rude as them or draw as much attention with any vocalized admonition. Jason turned and glared. The man seated next to me in a glittery suit turned and glared. They were impervious; if anything, their volume increased, as did my loathing for them. There is at least one of these people in every crowd and they are ALWAYS seated near me, from the man who would not stop talking during a showing of The Dark Knight, to the couple who would not stop thumbwrestling and chatting while everyone around them was straining to hear the soft-spoken Adrienne King, to the drunken Stephen King lookalike who kept resting his beer-holding arm on my head while shouting to Electric Six to “Play Freebird, fuck yeah, man”–there’s always one. Why, if you want to talk through a show, do you bother attending a show in the first place? Why, in a theater so conscious of the enjoyment of all that it even stresses to patrons to wear minimal perfumes if they must wear perfume, would people assume that talking loudly during the performance is acceptable? Why, if they are always to be seated in my vicinity, am I not given some sort of electronic device to jolt and irritate them as much as they’re irritating the people around them? As much as they’re irritating me? Or if not tasering, why can’t I be authorized for sharp slap across the face when the need is dire? I almost reconsidered praying my illness away so that I might dump on them the way they crapped all over my theater experience, but ultimately decided “assault via poop” is not the sort of recommendation I need beside my name in any publication. Theater-talkers, think on THAT. You don’t know what sort of fury your conversations may bring down upon your heads, so it’s probably better to save the whole thing for coffee after the show. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

*What did this nobleman hope to achieve by disguising himself as a peasant? Was he looking to live a more honest, peasant’s life? In which case, why did he keep his servant? Was he just slumming? Why did he actively pursue a peasant girl when eventually he’d have to marry the woman to whom he was betrothed? Why does Giselle, who dies of shock and grief, mind you, so readily forgive and protect this cad from the Wilis? If these questions have not been addressed in the last 170 years, why do I think someone will suddenly pop up with satisfactory answers?