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Published by Alex Miller
A theatre reviewer who can't stay awake during plays gets a lesson from his latest girlfriend.
A theatre reviewer who can't stay awake during plays gets a lesson from his latest girlfriend.

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Published by: Alex Miller on Jul 26, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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SoporificBy T. Alex MillerJeff had been writing theatre and film reviews for the newspaper in his small town for —what was it? — five or six years now. He was driven by what he told himself was a truelove of theatre, but there were other reasons. At $35 a pop for a ticket, being on the presslist was a real savings – especially if he brought a date, which he nearly always did. He’dlost track of how many different women he’d surprised by asking them to “the theatre,” thephrase rolling off his tongue with the suggestion not of one particular venue, but of amagical place where everyone is smart, dressed nicely and somehow more polished thanthose attending the tractor pulls, the bingo tournaments, the drown nights at the local bars.It took about 90 minutes to drive from his mountain town to most of the Denver theatres;more if it was snowing. That gave him plenty of time to acquaint his new date with his vastexperience with the theatre. He never laid it on too thick; just enough background to fill inthe picture for them. Implied beneath it all was the fact that, not only was he taking her tothe theatre while other local suitors were plying their dates with Jell-O shots, he was thengoing to write about it, critique the show, and the review would appear in the local paper.And not to mention that, when they arrived at the theatre, the PR person would treat himand his date like royalty. He’d get the folder with the tickets, the press release, the CD fullof production photos. They’d be given excellent seats, and the flak would seek him outafter for a quick reaction:
 How did you like the show?
Sometimes, wise theatres even gavehim drink tickets. But not always. You couldn’t count on it, so he always had to bringsome cash for drinks and, at the bigger venues, parking. He chafed at the expense, butsmiled to himself when he watched all the other schmucks paying top-dollar for tickets.
Miller/Soporific/2Even if the show sucked, which it seemed to do about half the time, he was only out 10,maybe 15 bucks.His current theatre date was a leggy waitress new to Elmo’s Brewery. Jeff was in there atleast once a week after work, so he noticed her immediately. Usually he sat at the bar andhad the beer-and-burger special ($5 on Tuesday nights), but when he spotted her, he askedRick at the host stand to seat him in her section.“Good luck,” Rick said, leading him to his table through a spring-break crowd of collegekids powering down pints and burgers. “She’s kind of a cold fish.”
 No problemo
thought Jeff, warming up his spiel in his head. He was a master at effectingtransitions between unrelated topics and the theatre. He could move from a question aboutfries or slaw to the new Stoppard at the Denver Center with practiced ease; effortlesslymake the leap from a comment about the Broncos latest losing season to the Gurney revivalat the Curious. And he’d done it with how many waitresses from Elmo’s? He did a quick calculation as he sat down: It must be at least five, maybe six. He’d literally never beenturned down.Her nametag said “Kathy,” her manner said don’t even think about asking me out. Jeff skipped the transitional phase and jumped right in. Track records don’t lie, so why wait?“I’ll have the beer-and-burger special please, medium-well with Swiss and a pint of thewheat,” he said. “And I’d like to know if you’d accompany me to the theatre Thursdaynight. In Denver.”She stopped scribbling and looked down at him. “What?”He smiled up at her, very much the rake in form.“The theatre. In Denver. I’m the entertainment editor for the
and I have to goreview a play at the Arvada Center. I’d like you to come with me.”She wrinkled her nose, narrowed her eyes and flipped to a new page in her book.
Miller/Soporific/3“Here,” she said, dropping a page on the table. “Call me tomorrow.”When she delivered his meal, she made it clear that there would be no further discussionon the matter, and Jeff went along with it. After all, why mess with success? All he need dois utter that magic phrase, “the theatre” and they dropped their guard — and often theirpants — like autumn leaves. It was pretty rare to bed his theatre dates on the first try – afterall, it was usually a weeknight, they’d get back to the mountains pretty late and the drinkingwas confined to a glass of red at intermission – but it usually happened pretty soon after.He figured Kathy was the second-best-looking woman he’d ever gone out with (afterJennifer, of course, his junior-year prom date who, he’d found out later, had gone with himon a dare). Kathy had reddish-blonde hair, a slightly upturned button nose and a lightspray of freckles visible from just below her neck and descending down her blouse. Heimagined following that trail – maybe in a week or two? – and seeing where it led. Hesmiled at the thought, sipping at his pint and watching her move around her tables with thegrace of a veteran stage actress.On Thursday, Jeff filed a profile about some other no-name jam band playing at theBighorn Bistro and left the newsroom early. He was already concerned about the eveningfor a number of reasons. For one, Kathy had been less-than-warm on the phone when he’dcalled to make the arrangements. “Please don’t think of this as a date,” she’d said. “I have aboyfriend back in Minnesota and … I just don’t know where that’s going.” But she hadsaid she was “happy to accompany him,” adding that she had a BFA in Theatre from NYU.That was bad enough: who knew what kind of theatre knowledge – or lack thereof – shewould call him on during the course of the night? He also hated to think he was wasting anevening of theatre with a woman who had no intention of sleeping with him (he’d feltsimilar misgivings when he’d taken his cousin, visiting from out of town, to a plum freebie:

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