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2005-04-21 - 10:58 a.m.

The basement of the Booth theater is a lobby all by itself: a large empty room, with what seems to be an excess of pillars holding up the sometimes weighty theater crowd rustling above. Done up in periwinkle and ridged white plaster, the effect is your standard Broadway opulence. At the far end, two wide hallways lead the way to the bathrooms, each marked with a barely visible sign tucked into the surroundings that points out the gender of those who should be entering stage right. Between the two halls, probably to give the impression of depth and size, the designers planted a ceiling to floor mirror.

I’d guess this looking-glass has been a respite for the nervous dates to tug on their rarely worn Saturday night best: a scoot of the dress, a re-centering of the belt buckle, just to be sure all is well before the curtain comes up on their evening. This particular afternoon, however, there’s a man playing golf in the mirror.

Somehow I’ve managed to live in this city for years, all of those years as a fan of theater, without anyone having the courtesy to tell me about Rush tickets. Apparently if you’re under the age of twenty-five you can wander up a couple hours before the show and claim the shitty seats behind the lighting booth for seventy-five percent off. Not exactly the best view, but if you’re going to see Fiddler on the Roof, do you really need to see Harvey Fierstein? Isn’t listening to him funny enough?

My friend procured us a couple seats in the booth at the Booth. At far left, hovering apart from the rest of the seats we had our own little box, complete with our own little door. Our own private little space with an only slightly awkward view of the festivities.

“Too bad I couldn’t bring a date. We could’ve make out.”

“This is a play about a guy who kills a lot of kids, right?”

“Yeah.”

“Ummm…you’ve got to be a special kind of horny to make out to kid death.”

This is not to mention that we were positioned so the entire balcony would have a good look at whatever activities might go on in that box. Exhibitionism and kinky kid death!

Still, this did mean we had just as good a view of the audience as we did of the stage, and throughout the performance, watching the show was occasionally pre-empted by the theater going on in the risers.

Most intriguing, still, was my bathroom break. Slaloming between columns on my way to a precautionary pee, I spotted the lanky man posing in the mirror as my fellow urators shuffled past him.

With his hands curled, fingers out, one on top of the other, he checks his stance. Squares his feet. Readjusts his hands. He looks up, catching his own eyes, before looking out to his left to check the distance and curve of the terrain. I guess he’s putting. For a moment, I actually lament that I must have missed most of this hole. It would have been nice to how good of a long shot he has.

A deep breath flows out of his puckered lips as he takes one last look at his target. He stares at the ball that isn’t just in front of him, and starts to pull back the putter that’s still in the trunk of Miata. He makes contact…but doesn’t.

The ball apparently takes a bad roll, and he winces with anticipation, but judging by the muted smile, it just caught the edge of the cup, and slipped in. He hides his pride.

At this point I’d been blocking the entrance for a few moments, and had to make way to a disgruntled gentleman in a sweatshirt and jeans. Apparently he’d missed the memo, as his girlfriend was dressed to the nines in a low cut, above the knee, lookie-lookie satin dress. She wasn’t pleased with her escort’s baseball game appearance, and didn’t seem to have much trouble telling him as such. His shoulder bumped mine, and the momentum carried me into the bathroom, as the doffer lined his next shot.

When I came back out, he was gone. I told my booth-mate the entire tale, and we spent the rest of the lapses in entertainment trying to find him again, but, no luck, despite him having the frame of your average New York Knickerbocker, and wearing a bright red button down.

It occurred to me that I may have come into contact with the ghost of the Booth. A spirit who’s soul is trapped preparing for a golf game that will never come. His wife dragged him to see the latest work of Pinter, he missed a day on the links with his boys and upon riding back to New Jersey they were slammed by a wayward eighteen-wheeler, ironically carrying sporting equipment. His soul, tortured with his lost opportunity, was drug into that basement, where he’ll suffer forever.

It’s not exactly Phantom, and I can’t quite figure a way to drop a chandelier in the plot, but I think it’s enough for a blurry picture and a small plaque by the bathrooms.

“The phantom of the Booth Theater is there, just off the green…”

During the show, I leaned over onto the railing and planted my head on folded arms, watching the show askew. Midway through the second act, I leaned back into my chair, and caught a couple in the audience dart their eyes off the left box, and onto the stage. I smiled, stretched for a moment, and went back to my place, leaned over the rail, and turned my attention back to the best lit show in the theater.

It was a good play.


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