So a couple of nights ago, the better-half and I go to see Alan Cumming in MacBeth. There’s only a few performances left, and this is not a review, but here are a few observations:
- That Shakespeare guy, we all owe him for inventing the language: sound and fury, dagger of the mind, be-all-and-end-all, a poor player that struts, milk of human kindness, something wicked this way comes, sorry sight, etc. And that’s just one play!
- Because of the concept, it helps to brush up your Shakespeare – specifically the basics of the Scottish play although the Playbill offered helpful notes.
- It was thrilling and unexpected to see theater this alive on Broadway.
- Alan Cumming was brilliant.
There are two other actors on stage at times, but mostly, this is a one man show, with Cumming playing everyone but Banquo’s ghost. That’s a lot of acting, and it feels both amazingly fresh and original, and also somehow retro – reminding this viewer of the old-timey (1980s) monologists who could fill the stage with distinctive characters, all embodied by a single being. And he doesn’t have to do this either. He’s a television star now with a regular paycheck. He’s there for us. We ought to show him some respect.
Which is why once I was back out on the street, I began to rant.
See here’s the thing: Showtime is at seven. That’s what it says on the ticket, and Tuesday nights most non-musical plays start at 7:00. Remember this is one guy (mostly) on stage for 100 minutes straight. Not only isn’t there an intermission, there are really no “breaks” in the usual theatrical sense. So basically once it starts, there is no point at which latecomers could enter the theater without disrupting other audience members, and possibly Mr. Cumming himself.
People seemed to trickle in for a good twenty minutes, accompanied by ushers leading them to seats, which meant people had to move and stand to make room. Some of these assholes (and I use the word because they are) had seats in the first few rows where it is not unlikely their presence could be felt by the players strutting their stuff.
Maybe you’re an idiot who assumed the curtain was at eight. Maybe you got stuck at the office. Your train was late. Your cat died.
I don’t care.
If you can’t get there on time, please stay home.
Another thing: When did it become permissible to have a snack while watching live theater? Five minutes before the lights dimmed, there was actually a concessions guy walking through the orchestra section hawking his wares. And during the performance, the sound of chewing could at times be heard accompanying the Scottish burr onstage.
I blame cell-phones. Not that I heard any. People did seem to heed the electronic device warning, at least within my hearing, although some pork-pie hat, soul-patch type two rows in front of me was standing and texting right up until the lights dimmed. I mean, I blame cell-phones for being the greenhouse gas of global narcissism, although it probably started before that, maybe with walkmans and oblivious joggers tuning out other pedestrians as they occupied their own private space in public.
I also blame the management of the Ethel Barrymore Theater for not managing this. Are they afraid if they don’t let the latecomers in they’ll make trouble? Are they so hard up for cash they need to sell concessions before the show begins, afraid they are somehow being cheated because no intermission means less money? Or is it just that they’ve accepted we’ve all become such big wah-wah babies that we are incapable of getting someplace on time and cannot go without snackies for more than two minutes? Maybe they were passive-aggressively hoping to provoke Cumming into pulling a Lapone?
Why can’t Broadway be more like the Metropolitan Opera? You don’t see this shit at the Met. First off, the other patrons would beat the crap out of anyone creating a disturbance, and by disturbance I mean shifting too loudly in your seat. Second, the Met just doesn’t play that. They lock the doors when the orchestra starts. They put the latecomers into a special room of shame, in which they must stay, maybe forever.
They check your bags when you walk in the front door, and the ushers give you the once over before you get to your seat. They’ll grab any food they see on your person and feed it to the homeless.
Have I turned into a bitter old coot yelling at people to get off my lawn? No, I have not. I don’t have a lawn. I live in a city with a lot of other people, and space must be shared, which means no one gets to act like they are in their own living room. No one. I don’t care who you think you are, who you work for, what you paid for your ticket, or how very educated you are. People have to look around and get it through their thick skulls that other people exist.
(Enjoy this? There are plenty more rants on these pages, and you can see more of Marion’s work here.)