What's it about?
A Ride on the Irish Cream is a musical about the (very, very) complicated love forged between a woman named Reagan and the pontoon boat/horse her parents purchased when she was two years old, named Irish Cream.
What'd I experience?
I arrive at the Abrons Art Center early enough to check out the original artwork lining the walls.
The house opens and I am quick to grab my favorite seat ( front row, center). I read a chapter of my book, Before Ever After, to kill time before stowing it in my bag along with my newly silenced cell phone. I happen to glance at the screen of my neighbor's iPhone (Okay, it was a deliberate glance) and see her text someone the following:
"Lolllll Alan Cumming is in the audience."
Immediately I turn and am greeted by the sight of ALAN CUMMING sitting in the back row!
There he is, and he doesn't even have any bodyguards with him. He's just a regular guy, sitting in a theatre to see the same show I'm about to see, breathing the same air as me. My fingers tingle and hover over the clasp of my purse. Should I snap a picture of him? Nobody will believe me otherwise. I look back at Alan, then back at my purse, and decide that the memory will be enough.
The performers enter the space, band members all dressed in psychedelic outfits that go with the bright pink rug and large painting of a duck on the wall.
Then the actors enter and the room blacks out.
There's uncomfortable laughter, and the only sound is Reagan's amplified singing voice. The more she sings, the lighter the room grows.
The story isn't easy to follow. Sometimes it's so easy to believe that Reagan and Cream are just a regular human couple in love. They certainly are affectionate enough with one another, never shying away from a kiss or a touch, and their language, while childish at times, consists of the kind of complimentary and teasing words you'd expect from a love-struck pair. But every now and then Reagan will mention that she needs to brush Cream's mane or that Cream's engine is running, and I'm reminded Cream is part horse, part boat. Cream will also don horse hooves for random intervals, all the while wearing jeans, a button down shirt, and sneakers.
When the musicians aren't playing, they are blatantly observing Reagan and Cream. The pianist even whips out a crossword puzzle and one of the singer/guitarists snacks from a bag of potato chips.
I don't know how old Reagan and Cream are supposed to be. Reagan has the body of a grown woman, but her bearing, dinosaur t-shirt, and tendency to break into a high-pitched babyish language (of her own creation) make me think she's far younger than she looks. This makes it especially uncomfortable when Reagan sings about things such as having sex for money. Cream looks much older than Reagan, clearly grown in a physical sense, but Cream's personality betrays an immaturity I cannot ignore.
Reagan and Cream play games together. They rely heavily on their imaginations, miming walkie talkies and dreaming up scenarios where one of them has to call the Cost Guard for help. While their games seem innocent on the surface, things definitely feel sexual.
At one point during a particularly dramatic game, Cream plays dead and Reagan engages in mouth to mouth resuscitation while simultaneously humming the melody of Amazing Grace.
Cream regains consciousness, lips still suctioned around Reagan's mouth. Reagan exhales into Cream's mouth and Cream exhales into Reagan's. They are one, filling and emptying each other, and all I can think is:
What must it feel like to have a person sing into your mouth?
What must it feel like to have a person breath for you?
During the bows, The Phantom of the Opera's famous theme blasts from the speakers, the performers stone faced and their arms extended (zombie style). As I applaud and shriek in appreciation, they march outside, single file, the dramatic theme echoing throughout the intimate space.