Everything was big in High Scape, Taro had been told so several times, but he was still struck by the size of the theatre when he walked through the door. Four stories high and a diameter of at least one hundred feet. Fifty round tables covered the floor before the stage, and luxurious private boxes were built into the walls.
The size was not the only impressive aspect of the theatre. The décor was rich, awe-inspiring. Gold figures lined the sides of the stage and ran above the velvet purple curtains. The plaster work on the ceiling was magnificent, full of swirls and curly-qs.
Michael looped his arm around Taro’s. “What do you think?”
“Told you it would be. Let’s get a table at the front before they’re all taken.” He pulled Taro through the thickening crowd.
Taro had met Michael only two weeks before, a few days after settling in High Scape, and the other man seemed determined to show Taro everything the city had to offer, both good and bad.
“The food here isn’t great,” Michael warned him as they took their seats. “But no one comes here for the food.”
The theatre was quickly filling up. Michael had wanted the content of the production to be a surprise and Taro had honoured his wishes by abstaining from seeking to learn about the play, but Michael had told him it was enormously popular and had been running for months.
Servers placed platters of sliced cold meat and vegetables on each of the table. Scanty fare, and bland. The wine was watered down, too.
The curtains were drawn back, revealing a set comprised of blue white-capped wooden peaks – water, he supposed – up stage, grass downstage, the walls of a castle stage left, and the foot of a mountain on stage right. Everyone in the audience quieted.
A young woman left the wing and stood at centre stage. “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen,” she said in a surprisingly strong voice. “Welcome to tonight’s presentation of The Tested Connection. Anyone who throws food at the actors will have it thrown back at them, and we have better aim.” She walked off the stage.
Was throwing food at actors common? That had never happened during plays held at the academy. Of course, the professors would have had their heads if they’d degenerated into such childish behaviour.
Two women walked onto the stage. One had a strip of black material on her left shoulder, the other white. They weren’t identical to Triple S braids, that would have been illegal, but it was clear that those two were meant to be a Pair.
The crowd applauded. Taro looked at Michael curiously.
“Patrice McKellen and Iana Stewart,” Michael whispered. “Very talented.”
It took a few lines to determine the play was a comedy.
It took a few more lines to learn that Shield Morgan Ragnell and Source Russi Servinik were lovers.
Taro groaned and slapped his hand over his eyes.
“What’s wrong?” Michael asked in a low voice.
“Pairs don’t sleep together.”
“Shhh!” said a man from another table.
There were the elements most comedies had. Mistaken identities, troubles that could be solved if the parties would just talk to each other, and a lot of sexual innuendo.
It turned out that the connection being tested was that between the Source and the Shield, with one of the other characters trying to seduce the Shield.
The lines were clever, the acting superb, and the blocking brilliant. Taro was impressed by the way they were able to push the stage in a circle to move from one set to another. The plot was funny. Taro couldn’t help laughing despite the fact that they got everything about how Pairs worked completely wrong.
Some of it, he could forgive. Some things had to be made visual. Pressing fingertips against the temples, something Taro never saw any Shield or Source do, let the audience know they were channelling. Shaking the set made it clear an earthquake was coming, though no competent Pair would let an event progress to the point that regulars could perceive it.
But the rest of it …. Just, no. At one point, the Pair stopped rain. Where did anyone get the idea Pairs could influence the weather? The Pair could speak to each other with their minds, their lines delivered by other actors off stage. When one was struck, the other could feel it.
No one else seemed to be disturbed by the errors and no one threw food at the actors.
The heroes prevailed, the villain was arrested, and the Source and Shield announced their sexual connection was stronger than ever.
Taro had to join the others in the standing ovation, the actors had done a fantastic job, but he was shaking his head at the same time.
“You didn’t like it?” Michael asked as they followed the large, slowly-moving crowd back to the foyer of the theatre.
“I did, but … people don’t really see Pairs that way, do they?”
“That’s not how they are?”
Taro groaned again. “Haven’t you been around any Triple S members before me?”
“Not really, no.”
“Just disregard everything in the play. It’s all wrong.”
“Still, a fun play.” He had to convince Lee to see it. All of the inaccuracies would make her head explode.