|Jul/Aug 2009 Fiction|
It was quite a production. One written, directed and starring Katherine "Kitty" Hoyt-Stephenson. The Kostroff family had never seen anything quite like it. So spellbinding, so convincing. They laughed; they cried. They still cry. It made such an impact that Mr. Kostroff remains essentially speechless.
While the stage is now practically bare, during the production the set scenery was breathtakingly exquisite. Although six dreary months have passed since the close of the production, Mr. Kostroff remembers the set at that Rosemont Green as if it was yesterday. It was hot, the middle of summer. Up and down the lane teenagers pedaled their bicycles wearing only shorts and flip flops, and homeowners rolled their convertibles at a snail's pace, waving when passing by. Every other yard had the sprinklers going, kids too cute for words bounding through the water. The girls pirouetted with giggles; the boys dunked their hair and drenched their clothes right at the sprinkler heads. Mr. Kostroff noticed the twinkling of his watchful son's eyes, and latched onto Matthew's belt loop to keep him from getting any funny ideas. They were dressed in their Sunday best, having just attended a neighborhood church service at the behest of Kitty. The scene made believers out of the Kostroffs, that's for sure.
Yes, it's true. It was an interactive production, and Kitty, the Orson Welles of Pridemore Realty, introduced them to actors of all ages, playing genial folk, throwbacks to another era, people too good to be true. People too good to be true. In reflection, Mr. Kostroff realizes how contrived and over-the-top their bits of acting were, but at the time their thespian skills were remarkably persuasive. Matthew played catch with assorted props—baseballs, footballs, Frisbees—that young male actors dug up, and Deirdre jumped rope with the girl her age playing the role of "next-door neighbor's daughter." As the production continued, Mrs. Kostroff found she had much in common with those whose parts were of wives and mothers. She not only traded recipes with them, she even joined their neighborhood book group. What's more, she read vociferously during stage intermissions when the family returned to Johnson City and the lives they planned to leave. When the curtain re-opened and a new act began, Mrs. Kostroff felt she greatly added to the discussion of the new thriller by What's His Name and the dreamy new Southern romance by the woman made famous for writing about honeybees.
And what of Mr. Kostroff? The man who ultimately came to determine the value and worth of Ms. Kitty Hoyt-Stephenson's work. Well, he was overwhelmed by the production most of all. The neighbor on the home's left had a gas grill and a special rub recipe and loved to slow-cook ribs. The one on the home's right was a fan of all the hometown teams and had a high-definition television set like no other. And across the back fence, a friendly and voluptuous neighbor had a habit of appearing every so often with a smile and a bend under the yard's clothes line, where she tended to an inordinate amount of laundry. Rosemont Green was a dream. The American Dream.
But dreams are what they are. They are abstracts dancing along the synapses of the mind; they have nothing to do whatsoever with reality. And now Kitty Hoyt-Stevenson, real-estate impresario, is over a hundred-grand richer thanks to her commission. But the Kostroffs live in Dullsville. They are stuck in a ghost-town community where home upon home is empty and the nearest neighbor is more than screaming-distance away.
It's almost commendable, Mr. Kostroff thinks, the duplicity—the audacity of such duplicity—and the end-to-end execution of it all. But when he considers the depression that greets him each day along with the steely gaze of his wife and the pitied looks of his son and daughter, he feels as if he might blow a gasket.
He's talked to his lawyers but hasn't heard from them what he's wanted to hear. Staging, they say, is a known and law-suit proof part of real-estate. Is now, has always been, and will be for time immemorial. Suck it up, they say. Things will turn around.
Mr. Kostroff hopes they will, but in the meantime he has to fend off the betrayed looks of his family, and the thought of his two-point-two-million dollar ticket for front-row seats at Kitty Hoyt-Stephenson's production of Rosemont Green: Your Family's Lifetime in Paradise.