Sunday, December 07, 2008

Crotch Monsters On Parade

For the second year in a row, my Mom has taken us out to see "The Nutcracker" ballet at Indiana University's Musical Arts Center. It's her intention to make it a tradition for Gradndma to take Lily to see the show, and as long as the kid digs it, it's cool.

I go along because I am invited, and there's dinner in the deal.

If you're not familiar with it, here's how "The Nutcracker" goes down:

In 1800s Vienna, a family is having a Christmas party. One of the guests is a one-eyed dude named Herr Drosselmeyer, who lets us know early on that he's a wizard when he starts throwing glitter all over the place and casting hold person on people.

Herr Drosselmeyer has brought a special gift for the family's daughter, Clara--a wooden nutcracker fashioned to look like a soldier. (It's worth mentioning that I only know their names from a Little Golden Book. There's no dialog in ballet, and I'll get to that later.)

Clara digs the gift to the max, but her little brother dorks things up for her by playing too rough with the nutcracker and he breaks it. Clara weeps, but Herr Elminstdorf fixes things or something. Anyhow, it's late so Clara hits the sack.

Here's where stuff gets crazy.

Apparently, an army of man-sized, anthropomorphic mice lives in Clara's house, and this nutcracker biz has them all riled up. They attempt to steal him from the kid, but Gandalfmeyer shows back up and my wife pokes me to wake me up and then HOKEY SMOKES THE NUTCRAKER IS ANIMATE. Not only is he skipping around the living room waving his cav saber but he's also in command of a bunch of soldiers. Generalisimo El Crackonutero gives battle to the mice, who haul out their secret weapon--The Mouse King, whom we know is The Mouse King because he is a mouse who wears a crown.

Fightification occurs. The Mouse King overpowers The Nutcracker. Before Mickey can deliver the death-blow to his prone victim, Clara tugs off her slipper and throws it at him--thereby distracting the tyrant long enough for the soldier to skewer the rodent. Fight over. Mice carry away fallen ruler. Nutcracker, uh...he...

...

I dunno where he goes.

Next thing, Clara and The Wiz are out in the woods. Some girls come out and dance, then Drosselmeyer summons up a boat. He and the girl hop in and sail off, stage left.

Did you get all that? I hope so, because that's the end of Act I and, incidentally, the plot.

After the intermission, we find our protagonists (but not the titular one, who is no longer invited or something) in The Land Of Sweets. Drosselmeyer introduces Clara to some folks and Clara recaps Act I for those who didn't bring wives. So the Sweetsians--I guess we can call them that--put Clara in a chair, and show her some dance routines.

It's not clear why they do this, but I like to think that it's because they peg the girl as an experienced, accomplished regicide who enjoys the tacit protection of an eye patch-wearing badass planes-hopping spellcaster, so they decide to play things safe by keeping her entertained lest she start throwing footwear and the halls begin to echo with the ringing of blood-stained crowns striking the flagstones and THAT, my friends, is a pair of NPCs to use. We're still a gaming blog, after all.

Anyway, there's a whole fnordload of ballet as groups of dancers come out in turns to do their thing. Some of the dancers represent different nationalities, while some are flowers and some are candy. A gigantic woman with inhumanly wide hips gives birth to octuplets live on stage. More dancing. Finally, Her Drosselmeyer comes to take Clara home because the show is over, and I get to go to Cracker Barrel an have a steak.

The experience isn't an unpleasant one for me; it's just a weird one--ballet is like a foreign language to me. It doesn't click in my head. You see, I'm one of those uncultured idiots who needs to have his hand held by things like plot, dialogue, narrative, characterization, drama and rising and falling action, so a medium whose primary expression is movement--graceful and beautiful as it may be--come across to me as a joke told in Japanese. I mean, I can tell what it is, but not what it means.

Add to this the fact that the plot and one of the main characters gets unceremoniously shoved off the stage and into the orchestra pit halfway through the show, and it's a recipe for explosions inside the minds of the dramatically-inclined.

Okay, MY mind, anyway.

Tchaikovsky's music, now...that's aces. That Arabian number in particular thrills me for sure. Still, I'd rather just enjoy the music on its own without the 'noise' from the dance getting in the way.

I accept that it's just a different medium, but I also acknowledge that it's a medium that I can't really interpret.

And then there's the dongs.

Look...I'm sure there's an audience for it, and I'm not gonna dog on anybody who belongs to it. But when you go to the ballet, you're gonna see more vac-packed man-meat than you probably EVER HAVE BEFORE IN YOUR LIFE, and it's distracting.

The steak was good, by the way.