07 October 2013

That Coveted Garage Parking Space

Mark and I used to belong to an organization in New York called Audience Extras. For a small annual fee we had access to a wide choice of theatrical events for just $3 apiece on a last-minute basis. Seats that would otherwise have been vacant got filled and we got to go to the theater at low cost. It was a real win-win. We saw innumerable shows through Audience Extras, very few of which either of us remembers. What we do remember, though, are the venues, because outside of a few theaters actually on Broadway, most of the plays on the Audience Extras list were in interesting off-Broadway and off-off-Broadway spaces. They were mounted in drafty old factories, in churches, in no-longer-used schools, and in rooms hidden away on the upper floors of Lower East Side commercial buildings. Sometimes our seats were right on stage, sometimes we had to stand around the edges of the set. But the play that Mark and I just saw this past weekend in Rio de Janeiro wins the prize for the most unforgettable venue.

Garagem (Garage) tells the story of a guy who loses his job and his marriage, and finds himself with no place to live. While going through his papers he finds the deed to a second garage space in his name in the condominium where his ex-wife still lives, and decides to move down to his space and live there. What really makes the play is that it’s set in a real garage, specifically on Garage Level 3 of Rio Sul shopping center. As it happens, this particular section of Garage Level 3 is slated to become part of the shopping center’s movie complex, but the shopping center agreed to turn it over to the play’s producers for two months. The producers mounted a large "set" with enough room to park 15 cars, along with an elevator and 80 seats for the audience. This was seriously cool.

There was a time when stories were set in hotel lobbies, because that was where people "milled about" and crossed paths with others (Grand Hotel comes to mind). Dining rooms were also good meeting places (Separate Tables) as were train stations (Brief Encounter). But this fresh idea of using a condominium garage as the place where people come and go and interact is as original as it seems obvious. Once I dismissed the thought that crossed my mind a few times about the slight danger of our sitting right in the midst of fast-moving cars ("Mark, what if the brakes fail tonight?!") I was able to get into the story. Billed as a comedy — and indeed there were plenty of garage and parking jokes — the play turned fairly tragic at the end. (However, as a former New York co-op board president I had to appreciate how the building’s resident manager finally outmaneuvered the poor guy in the garage space.)

Just get the car and go . . . but  imagine living here!
This has to have been the easiest cultural event we’ve ever attended in Rio. In a city where parking spaces are getting harder and harder to come by, there sure was plenty of parking! After the last bows were taken, Mark and I blithely strolled up to Garage Level 4 and drove home. Too bad the plan is to turn this great theater space over to enlarge an already too large movie complex. But I’m glad to have seen Garagem before it moves to São Paulo, into some parking garage there.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, TROPICAL DAYDREAMS! Wednesday marks my two-year blog anniversary. When I started blogging, I thought I would do it for just one year, yet here I am at the two-year mark. One year more?

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