Thursday, April 21, 2011

At the Theater

Broadway theater is better than ever. In the midst of a lingering recession, the Great White Way is lit up like a Christmas tree with one great show after another packing them in every night. New Yorkers and tourists alike flock to the world's mecca for live theater. Some shows have been running for ages: Phantom of the Opera, 9700 performances ; Chicago, over 6000; The Lion King, over 5500; Beauty and the Beast, 5400; and so many more. What's nice is to see is children watching live theater. True, some of shows are aimed at them, but we see kids at other shows too. What better gift to give a child than an appreciation for live theater. That's the silver lining, now here's the cloud: the way people behave at the theater.

You know I have very little patience, but even normal people are hard pressed to excuse the terrible rudeness exhibited by modern theater-goers. Let's start with punctuality. My mother was a stickler for being on time, and I guess it rubbed off on me. I would rather be 20 minutes early for any event than risk being late. When you travel into Manhattan, you need to budget extra time, especially if you are driving. Theaters have already shamefully surrendered to late arrivals by starting shows ten minutes after the scheduled curtain time, yet still these morons waddle in 30 minutes late. Instead of being so accommodating,  theaters should return to the traditional rule: if you arrive after the curtain rises, you stand in the rear until intermission. Why should the actors and the audience be disturbed because you are so thoughtless.

Many New York City theaters are old, and therefore the seating is tight. They were built at a time before people felt compelled to eat every meal as if they were going to the electric chair the next day. OK, fine, I know I'll be cramped and I'm more than happy to meet you better than half-way on things like armrest etiquette. It's what civilized people do. Then in walk these behemoths who need to be coated with Vaseline before they have even a prayer of getting into a seat. Invariably they are wearing bulky, Mount Everest-worthy parkas that they proceed to drape over the back of the seat into your space. They wheeze through the entire first act because the strain of walking erect has been too much for them to bear. Memo to theaters: we need "fat people" seats. Charge more if necessary, but get these walruses away from me. 

And what don't you understand about the perfectly clear announcement: No photos please. Aunt Ida back in Sheepdip, Montana will not die if she doesn't see a blurry, off-center picture of you grinning like a fool. Even worse is the bane of theaters everywhere, the cell phone. They make these cutesy announcements at the start of the show to turn off all cell phones. It's their nice way of telling you not to be an a**hole. That doesn't stop anybody. "Yes, we're at the theater now. The show is about to start." Is that information so important to the person at the other end of the line? Are violent kidnappers holding your son hostage and threatening to kill him if they don't get that phone call? The frenzied texting at intermission gives everybody's face an eerie, greenish glow like they were passengers on the Starship Enterprise. Put the stupid toys away and act like grownups.

We saw Million Dollar Quartet last night and enjoyed it despite witnessing all of the above. Two women sitting near my wife disturbed the entire row to get to their seats. After exactly one minute, they got up and left again to use the bathroom, repeating their insincere "excuse me's" all the way up the aisle. One had a giant satchel that she kept banging off my wife's head. What's with the backpack...who are you...Lewis and Clark! I used to suffer these indignities in silence. Now I speak up, much to my wife's delight. I'm too old to suffer a**holes any more. If they don't know they're a**holes, somebody has to do the world a favor and tell them.


Children's Craniofacial Association


The Whiner said...

Best blog EV-er! I am proud to say it was written by my father! (Am I back in the will?)

Jim Pantaleno said...

Let's wait for my birthday and then we'll see.