It was a full weekend of relevant and somewhat irreverent theater-related incidents for me. I went to see "Over the River and Through the Woods" on Thursday, though because of the rain earlier in the day a better name would have been "Through the Floodwater and Into the Woods" as we were almost swept away by the impromptu rivers running across Rte. 301 on the way. I had a very enjoyable time, finding myself laughing much more than I expected, particularly during the first act. Given that, I was very interested to read Ms. Haubenstock's review in the T-D on Saturday. As you'll read in a couple of days, in contrast to her opinion, I actually thought the humor was largely un-like what you find in the typical sitcom.
What I respect about Ms. Haubenstock in this review, however, is the line "...they say marginally funny things that repeatedly amused the opening-night audience, but left me cold." For one thing, it acknowledges that the audience was having a good time which I think is important, particularly if you weren't. And for another, it describes pretty succinctly an experience I've had before where I'm sitting amongst people laughing riotously and I'm wondering what it was they smoked or drank before curtain to make them so impossibly giddy. On one level, I think there is a sort of fundamental difference between a regular theater-goer and a critic in that, since the average person has paid money, they really want to have a good time (particularly if the ticket price is exceedingly high). On another, humor works in different ways for different people on different nights. My sister can sit through a Monty Python movie without cracking a smile while I dissolve into a giggling, sputtering puddle on the floor.
Anyway, this is one of those times when I disagree with -- yet respect -- the critic in question. There are plenty of times (like when reading a Daniel Neman review, for instance), when neither agreement nor respect is part of the equation.
I also spoke to several people on Sunday who are either in or involved with "Mame" and they said opening night went off well, though the last week before opening was a bit hectic (like 98% of productions, I expect). I also got the news that "Snowflake's" star wrenched his back and so Theatre IV is going to be hastily putting together a replacement production. Man, T4/Barksdale just seems to be getting hit with these kinds of curveballs lately (last minute cast changes, leaky roofs, etc.) While these are the times that try men's (and women's) souls, I expect the highly functional crew at T4 will come out of this just fine (knock wood). "Snowflake" was a bit of a tough sell anyway -- a silent clown for the holidays? I'm sure he's as magical as they say, but still, I was hemming and hawing on going and there were probably lotsa other folks in the same boat.
Finally, I had this totally surreal interlude at Lowe's on Saturday where a complete stranger walked up to me saying very emphatically "You should really..." just as I was answering a call on my cell phone from my lovely wife. So, I had to very upruptly shush this stranger while I completed a 5 minute phone call involving the very intricate and confusing details of which light switch plates I should buy. I expected this strange man to simply walk away since clearly I did not work at Lowe's (or was their most clueless employee) and was not going to be available to talk with him anytime soon. He stuck it out, however, and when I hung up he completed his sentence: "You should really take your boys..." -- I had my two youngest with me -- "...to see 'Amahl and the Night Visitors.' It's a great show and your boys would love it and I don't know why they don't do more to advertise it but I'm telling everyone because it is simply a great show and the boy who's in it this year -- sometimes it's a black boy but this year it's a white boy -- he is just fantastic..." at which point I had to stop him to tell him that I knew perfectly well that it was a great show, that I had seen it before, but please do go on and spread the word to as many other people as possible because gosh darn it, word of mouth is the best advertizing there is, even if it is some strange man who walks up to you at Lowe's.
When he walked away I couldn't help but wonder, do I just look like someone who wants to hear about theater?