Character onstage in theatre of absurd

SHAKESPEARE ONCE said “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players,” but he wasn’t thinking about our local film festival or Fleet Week or Oktoberfest. If he had, I don’t think he would have used the word “merely.”

I had just been put through the cocktail ordering wringer by a bald man with a ponytail, poured a Marzen beer for a muscle-bound “Popeye the Sailorman” look-alike and was now standing in front of the middle-aged brunette who was wearing what can only be described as underwear as outerwear.

Somewhere, a theater absurdist was saying, “I told you so.”

Stepping through the proscenium arch, I solicited a drink order.

“Anything,” she said. Adding “any white wine,” when I didn’t move.

I set down a glass of chardonnay and retreated back through the arch.

He arrived a minute later and sat directly next to her. She picked up her “anything” and moved one seat over, leaving a buffer zone between them.

“Are you two together?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said.

“No,” she said.

“Is this together,” I said, making a circular motion with my hands and removing any trace of personal affiliation from the conversation.

“Yes,” he said, throwing down a $50.

This time, no argument.

Taking their act on the road they moved down to the end of the bar, past Popeye but just this side of Mr. Ponytail.

Again she left one seat between them.

After about 15 minutes of finger-pointing and arguing she took off her wedding ring and set it on the bar.

Mr. Ponytail took this as a sign to take his high-maintenance cocktail and skedaddle.

Popeye soon followed. Now, it was me, Ms. Bustier and Mr. $50 bill.

Soon, it was just me and her.

She looked at me, and I looked away.

“I’m getting a divorce,” she said.

“Hmmm,” I think I said.

“He’s not the man I thought he was,” she said leaning forward making the most of her undergarment.

“I’m sorry,” I said looking around for anything else to do. “How long have you been married?”

“Six weeks.”

“How long have you known each other?”

“Twelve weeks. I have really bad taste in men.”

I thought it prudent not to respond.

She then launched into “the whole story.” A story that involved moving here from somewhere else, a whirlwind romance, an abusive ex-con ex-husband and enough myopic bad choices to populate two Shakespearean tragic comedies, a Camus novel and perhaps a Tarantino film.

Luckily, a friend of hers arrived.

The friend ordered the most expensive wine we carry, put it on Ms. Bustier’s tab, listened to about half of the “whole story” before excusing herself to the bathroom only to never return. Apparently, bad choices in men could be expanded to bad choices in friends as well. Things soon shifted gears.

Ms. Bustier told anyone who sat down next to her the “whole story,” or at least as much of it as they could stand.

The two military guys listened for the briefest few seconds before suddenly having “to be somewhere else.” Bob and Sue visiting from the Midwest got the largest dose because their predinner appetizer took a little longer than usual, something I am sure that contributed to their 10 percent tip.

The hostess got an earful, as did the busboy.

Acting out in public is a performance rarely appreciated by the audience. Damn you, Shakespeare!

She was running out of steam, a combination of anything wine and the retreat of self-righteous rage.

Finally she looked around at the wide berth that she was being given by everyone else and made a request.

“Is there somewhere I can smoke a cigarette,” she said, fumbling with her purse.

“Sure, right over there,” I said pointing through the window to the spot 20 feet from the front door required by California law.

“Is there anywhere else? I don’t want people to see me.”

I looked at her quizzically.

“It would be embarrassing.”

Sure I thought, reflecting on the theater of the absurd that had been her entire evening, that’s what was embarrassing about it.

This has lead me to this conclusion: Next year I’m taking a vacation the first week of October. Preferably in Germany.