A few days back I drove into Oak Bluffs for a morning cup of joe from Mocha Motts. As I turned onto Circuit avenue a car ahead was backing out, so I stopped and waited for the lane to move. Idly, I looked about, and my eyes came to rest, as they have a thousand times, on the Island Theatre off to my right. It’s almost showtime. Right? I am by nature optimistic. I do not instinctively incline to random scarifying scenarios of what might go wrong at any given moment. But at that particular moment, I heard myself say aloud: “That damned wall could topple right over on me right now as I sit here.”And the notion gave me pause. I was relieved when it didn’t, and I moved up the hill beyond any crush zone.

Examinations by qualified structural engineers have determined that the decaying carcass of the Island Theatre constitutes a clear and present danger. Enough of a threat that we were recently asked to allocate $200,000 to scotch tape the thing together, and Mark Barbadoro, the building inspector, has hinted it may be necessary to revoke occupancy certificates for the surrounding buildings and fence off the road. Clear. Present. Danger.

We voted down the stopgap measure, and I understand that. It would be easy enough to spend the money, and then we would face years and ledgers of legal fees trying to recoup our expenditure from the parsimonious Hall family.

But imagine how we will feel if, God forbid, something cataclysmic occurs to that infrastructure, and because of the failure someone, some actual human, gets hurt, or worse. Yes, fingers will point at the Halls, and deservedly so, but the blame will not end there. Any harm to any person will weigh on our collective consciences for the rest of our lives, and for the life of this town. Remember the scene in Jaws when the victim’s mother says to the sheriff, you knew that it was dangerous, but you didn’t do anything to stop it? A dereliction like that is a moral lapse of the first magnitude. And we are not like that. We have to stop this before someone suffers from our lack of doing so.

I wish I had the answer. I don’t. I am not a lawyer. I don’t know what legal resources are out there to effect this. But there’s a way. There has to be. We just need to find it.

I say we take care of this.

David PB Stephens
Oak Bluffs