Saturday, January 3, 2009

Tis the season to be jolly

Eventually I'll give you my serious appraisal of the two plays I saw this week. For now I'll just tell you about the exciting circumstances under which I saw them both.

First, spotted in the audience at The Cripple of Inishmaan: Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick! A celebrity twofer! Coincidentally, they were also at the same performance of The Homecoming as I was. Are they following me?

The December 2008 Playbill I got at the Atlantic was highly collectible. On pages 16-18 I found a feature article on Christian Hoff, ousted star of Pal Joey. The pull quote was what caught my eye: "It's taken him until the age of 40 to have his name above the title -- to be a Broadway star -- and he's savoring the moment." Ouch. And on page 49-51 you can read an interview with Haley Joel Osment, in which he explains that he took a semester off from NYU to appear in American Buffalo. I guess it's back to the books for HJO.

The article about Osment was headlined "Buffalo Boy." One of the two young men sitting behind me must have been looking at it, because the other one said, "I heard that play was really bad -- Buffalo Boy." There was a pause before his friend replied, "...It's American Buffalo." The first guy was unperturbed, "Whatever it's called. It got terrible reviews." You know, he heard. He didn't actually read them himself, or know anything about the play. Conversations like that make me wonder how anything ever stays open longer than a week.

Last night I went to the first performance of The American Plan, MTC's revival of the Richard Greenberg play. The husband and I were in the first row of the mezzanine, which was nice (you don't want to sit farther back than that, because the mezz is so steeply raked you'll be looking down at the actors' scalps all night). Behind us were a couple of middle-aged guys. They seemed the cranky type. They also turned out to be the type of audience members who react out loud to things every now and then -- the kind that hear a significant line and acknowledge it by going "Hm." Why do people do that?

The mezz was only half-full, and just before the show began I saw the usher encouraging people to move down and fill in the empty seats. So at intermission a couple must have decided to do just that, and settled on a pair of seats two rows behind me. Alas, that was their fatal mistake. I didn't notice them until I heard a woman's voice protest, "...I didn't kick you!" And one of the guys behind me roared back, "Well, SOMEONE kicked me, and if you don't WATCH IT I'll call the USHER over here!"

The woman gasped, "Well!" And her husband (I assume -- I was trying very hard not to get involved, so I didn't turn around) said, "I don't think we want to sit here after all..." I can't really blame him for adding, as he was leaving, "...Not with this jerk."

Of course the guy behind me reacted as though this were an outrageously unjust attack. "Ex-CUSE me?!" He shrieked. "You're a jerk!" the man who actually had been unjustly attacked replied. (He was ignoring his wife's attempts to drag him away from the maniacs in row CC.) Then the jerky guy threatened to beat up the other guy, and the other guy called him "insane" (again, only speaking the truth). It culminated in the jerk behind me shouting, "Well you're a fucking ASSHOLE! FUCK you!" Getting the attention of everyone else in the mezzanine. For a moment I really thought these two late-middle-aged audience members were going to start slugging each other in the aisle. But happily, the not-obviously-crazy man decided to walk away, though he tossed off a final retort: "Fuck YOU. You're a nasty old... fart." And I admit I was cheering inside when I heard that, because, Ha! This guy was totally a nasty old fart.

I don't know what the other old fart who was sitting behind me did while this was going on. He may have been participating in the shouting of insults and threats -- since I was trying not to look in their direction, I couldn't exactly tell these guys apart. Or he may have been pretending he'd found a really interesting Playbill article at just that moment. He certainly didn't try to talk his friend down, and I didn't get the sense either was embarrassed. I suppose this wasn't the first time Old Fart #1 went off at some innocent bystander because of a very minor perceived slight. You'd be pretty used to it if you hung out with him a lot.

I guess the old farts were emboldened by their thuggish behavior during intermission, because the unnecessary vocal reactions got worse during Act Two. Now it wasn't just "Hm," but "Oh Jesus" and "Ohhhhh shit!" and "She's got 'im now" and "...That was a good line." I had assumed these guys were gay (as I normally do when two middle-aged men are at the theatre together), but they reacted to a smattering of "homosexual content" like they were eleven years old, so now I don't know what to think (besides GROW UP, LOSERS). Also, one or both of them had purchased a box of Good & Plentys at the concession stand (Dear Samuel J. Friedman Theatre: Please don't sell those), and they ate them noisily throughout the evening. Rattling the box... Chewing loudly... Rattling the box some more. Normally that sort of thing calls for a meaningful glance or two over the shoulder, on the off chance that the person will realize that he is disturbing people with his behavior and (this is the iffy part) care enough to do something about it. But no way was I shooting any dirty looks at these guys. (The people next to me were similarly stoic.) Who knows what kind of profane tirade that would provoke. So, as usual, I just made mental notes and saved it all for you. Happy New Year!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Where do you find these people, and how do they know when you will be at a play?