Lame Adventure 374: Disappearing Act

Over the years I have seen many plays and musicals with Milton. Nothing is better than seeing theater magic with one’s dearest friend and fellow theater whore. But every so often, we draw the short straw and see a dud. That is exactly what happened the other night when we attended the Lincoln Center Theater production of Nikolai and the Others.

Nice cover.

Nice cover. When can we go home?

Since we’re members of LCT, we get the discount ticket price, $40. Non-members pay $85. When we see theatrical gems like South Pacific for pennies on the dollar, we gloat, but when we see the theatrical equivalent of a sedative, we snore.  Or at least I did.

The play was set in the Connecticut countryside in 1948 where several prominent Russian artists living in the US have gathered for a languid talk-filled weekend. They talk, they eat, they talk more and I sleep. George Balanchine and Igor Stravinsky are two of the characters. They’re collaborating on adapting “Orpheus” into a ballet. We even see a small preview of that ballet as imagined as a work-in-progress dance by the playwright Richard Nelson and the director, David Cromer. I regain consciousness for that dance segment, but when intermission finally arrives a fortnight later, I blurt:

Me: I feel like I’m being held hostage!

Milton blurts back:

Milton: If you want to leave right now, I’m completely okay with it!

Was I content with attending only $20 worth of this production? Even though I completely lost consciousness through approximately $18.47 worth of my ticket’s price, I have a natural aversion to walking out on shows that cost me my hard earned shekels. I reason that I can survive sitting though another hour of this yak-fest, but if we left early, I can also get a jump on cleaning my bathroom, a project that would be so much more stimulating. Milton senses my ambivalence about what to do. He turns Ninja and goes for the kill.

Milton:  What if you only have one hour of life left? Would you really want to spend it watching this?

What a horrible way to go, literally bored to death. I know I hate this play, but maybe there’s a pleasant surprise in the second act, maybe there’s a live animal on stage. Last month, when we saw the flaccid Broadway adaptation of Breakfast at Tiffany’s there was a cat actor playing the cat called Cat. Milton observed about the cat that played Cat:

Milton: The cat was the only actor on stage that I liked.

Me: The cat’s what got me through it.

We later learned that we were actually watching the cat understudy for it did not look like either cat in our Playbill, Moo or Vito Vincent.

Mystery understudy cat at our performance?

Mystery understudy cat at our performance?

Back to our more recent situation with Nikolai, Milton reads his Playbill. His eyes widen in horror.

Milton: Oh, my! We just saw the short act. It runs another hour and a half after intermission!

Less than five minutes later, Milton and I are out on the street breathing in the cool night air. We embrace our liberty. Milton declares for all to hear on upper Broadway:

Milton: I much prefer breathing, walking, moving, anything to having to watch any more of that!

Me: Why was it even staged? It’s not very theatrical.

Milton: Michael Cerveris [the actor who played Balanchine] must have an expensive mortgage. Were you awake for any of it? Every time I looked over at you, you looked asleep.

Me: I enjoyed watching the actress that played the ballet dancer Maria Tallchief.

Milton: You liked her? How could you? She was so thin! All I saw when I looked at her were bones. Bones sticking out everywhere! Ugh! Eat a sandwich, please!

Me:  Date-wise, yes, I prefer women I’m not going to cut myself on, but I thought the dance sequence was good. Did you at least like the guy?

Milton: Yes, I did. He was beautiful. What buns on him!

Me: If you were so fixated on his ass, we could have stayed.

Milton: Those buns of fun weren’t enough to keep me in my seat.

When I return home, I finally read Ben Brantley’s review in the New York Times. This is my favorite passage:

“”Nikolai and the Others,” … cannot be recommended to people of limited patience. Honesty compels me to mention that there were an appreciable number of empty seats after intermission and that the elderly fellow behind me, who stayed on, snored heartily through most of the second act.”

Can of Red Bull atop trash can outside my building when I returned home. I would have needed at least three to retain some semblance of consciousness during that play.

Can of Red Bull atop trash can outside my building when I returned home. Every Nikolai audience member should receive a complimentary one with their Playbill.

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64 responses to “Lame Adventure 374: Disappearing Act

  1. Your post is a great addition to a long line of perfectly crafted satirical prose. I don’t get to attend many Broadway plays, so reading about your outings with Milton is a highlight for this harried mom. Thanks!

    (any chance you would see a play with me sometime?)

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    • Gee, thanks for the kind words Dorothy. I’m blushing from the soles of my feet to the gray roots starting to peek out from beneath my dyed hair. I never say never to most things, but if I ever get my act together and do a reading from my book, maybe you can attend and see me in action. I guarantee you that will be theater, or at least performance art of some kind.

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  2. My heart bleeds for you. Nothing worse than bad theater. Although a proctological exam sans lube does come to mind.

    Glass half full guy says at least it was at a discount. Sorry to hear about Breakfast at Tiffany’s and the fact that the director decided to cast a human being as Cat. Maybe he wasvconfused and thought he was staging Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

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    • No I wasn’t stoned but I should have been. I wrote this response this morning as I lay (lie?) in bed with a fever. It would have helped if I’d looked at the graphic of the cast psyer and had seen they cast an actual cat as Cat and not some reject from that musical I once heard about…some adaptation of a T. S. Eliot poem I think. Anywho , in the words of the inimitable Emily Latella, ” never mind.”

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      • Yes, I noticed that your comment seemed to be written as if you were under the influence but you have a long line of commenting credit around here so I figured it has something to do with your iPhone. Now I realize it must have been the Nyquil gnawing at your brain. I hope you’re feeling better now.

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        • Wish it were simply an iPhuckup. Alas it wasn’t. On the positive side the iPhone has learned the word iPhuckup so I don’t even have to spell it correctly. Isn’t that somewhat ironic? Truly a smart phone I guess.

          Am feeling better. Helps that Sawx have gotten off the schnide at least for one night AND the Yankees were spanked by the Mariners.

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    • Milton, Coco and I are saw Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in January. That was another dud. Scar-Jo wore a yellow dress and then a white slip throughout. She was never in a cat suit.

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      • I would take a pass on her in that as well. Loved her in Lost in Translation, but don’t see her in Tennessee Williams.

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        • She didn’t pull off Maggie at all and the entire play was structured around her. It was a huge dud. Coco sat between Milton and me and paid a hefty price since she had each of us snoring against her shoulders. Somehow, our mutual friend managed to remain alert, possibly because she was stunned that the production was such a misfire.

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  3. We were subscribers to Cincinnati Playhouse for many years, and wow …. the duds sure stick me. Then again, just goes to show why we need satirical reviews!

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    • Actually, Frank, this post will help me recall that this play was a dud, but at this point in life, I have so little extra room in my head space, I quickly delete anything I’d prefer to forget. Milton mentioned another play we saw at LCT tht we walked out on a few years back. I had completely forgotten about that one, but there was one thing about that I still recall: it was another snore-fest. Fortunately, most of the plays they stage are worthwhile. Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike written by Christopher Durang transitioned to Broadway. We laughed uproariously at that one. It’s a winner.

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  4. Something about Lincoln Center. In 1980, we (my family and I) went to a Mostly Mozart event, a screening of a movie called (probably) “Mozart.” I recall it being something along the lines of 6 hours long, and mostly shots of people in carriages, in black and white, and no talking.

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    • Nice to hear from you, Jeremy! Milton’s seen practically every movie ever made. I’ll ask him if he saw that one. Knowing him, he even owns it on blue ray. If you ever have an opportunity to see Bela Tarr’s, The Turin Horse, 146 b&w minutes of peasants basically eating potatoes, you might want to pass.

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  5. I’m on the westcoast, and love me some Hollywood theatre! Your post perfectly illustrates how inane (or perhaps, insane?) that production was, because all I’ll take away is the understudy cat…the one from a different play:) Entertaining piece on boredom. Hmmm

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    • I love both theater and film, Angie. If a play called The Flick is ever staged by you, I urge you to check it out. It’s three hours long and about three people that work in a theater near Boston. I was blown away. It perfectly weaves cinema with theater. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry and you’ll fall in love with Annie Baker’s writing. She’s the playwright and barely 30 years old. I will see anything with her name on it.

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  6. I’m glad you and Milton were brave enough and self-assured enough to regain your freedom, V. You describe my own feelings about leaving a play early – what if it gets better? What if I miss some amazing revelation in the second act? But Milton’s right, would you want to spend your last hour snoozing in a theatre? I certainly wouldn’t. Maybe you should have read Ben Brantley’s review before you went and gone out to dinner instead…

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    • Milton thinks it’s better to read reviews after seeing a show, so one’s opinion remains uninfluenced while sitting in the audience. I read them about half the time before going, and I always read them before working an ushering gig. That helps me prepare for audience behavior; you would be amazed Cathy at how many people grouse before seeing a play if they know in advance that the reviews were mediocre. They love to grouse at the usher. I do regret not reading the review for Nikolai, but not as much as I regretted dating Edna Clapper in high school.

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  7. Ha, ha! Love Milton’s line about “buns of fun!” What a hoot–and thank God you prefer women whose protruding bones won’t slice and dice you to death. Though that may be better than being bored to death! You should bring Milton along to Ecuador. Would he like to come? I expect we’ll have 2 guest rooms.

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    • Kathy, I am a staunch believer that real women have curves, not clavicles that draw blood. Your comment made me recall that Milton called that play “smothering”. There was just no escape from it, except slipping out at intermission.

      I am working on Milton to visit you guys in Ecuador, but this might take a few years to pull off.

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  8. Sometimes we cut our losses, leave early, and invest in ourselves instead. I often think I need to stay to get my money’s worth – but it’s better to enjoy myself doing something that having to suffer. Glad you got out alive!

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  9. Vito for a cat name? Works for me!

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  10. Thank God for the cat, Lame!

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  11. At least you gave it a go, LA… and had a good sleep whilst at it too! Sometimes, it’s best to just get up and go…

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  12. You would have been even more fidgety if you’d had the Red Bull first and possibly charged the stage to gore the actors. They call it acting because there’s supposed to be some ACTION. At least you get that when you’re cleaning the bathroom.

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  13. writerwendyreid

    I don’t know how you managed to write an entire blog post about a crappy, boring play. Your post was entertaining, even if the play wasn’t. 🙂

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  14. I love that even the cat in Tiffany’s had an understudy. Maybe you and Milton should have understudies when you go to boring shows.

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  15. Sounds like it was booooorrrrinngggg. **yawn**
    I have to admit to falling asleep during Lincoln the other night. It was a yawnfest. Whoever edited it, kept it from winning best picture… it went on and on… now I am really sleepy with all this talk of yawning…

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  16. hahahahaha
    Too funny and relatable.
    I once went to see a piece Off-off-off-off-off Broadway (was more like Secaucus), a friend was “acting”, I swear to Zeus, I wanted to cry, I’ve never been so bored in my life and I couldn’t leave because my friend was there.

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    • So off Broadway you were in Secaucus! That’s great, Leo! That happened to me, too. Some years ago, I was friends with a woman who was in an acting showcase. On the night she was to perform a scene in a play (I’ve long since forgotten what play her scene was from), she learned that Alec Baldwin would be in attendance. He was. He sat next to me. When it was my friend’s turn to perform, her jitters got to her big-time. She was so stiff and unnatural she seemed like a talking block of oak. AB, to his credit, was a very gracious audience member. He didn’t groan or moan or sign loudly. In fact, he seemed sympathetic. My friend was so devastated, she quit acting, and then proceeded to dump all of her artsy-type friends including Yours Truly. Upon reflection, I now think she had quite a flare for drama.

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  17. Yes, it is better to leave than fall asleep like the old man. I’ve done both.

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  18. At least you lasted till the intermission. I’ve perfected a hacking cough that takes us out of the theatre in an emergency boredom situation. Fortunately I don’t have to use it TOO often, but I’m always prepared. I figure it’s better to get out before I start making rude comments that might spoil things for the other patrons.

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    • Terri, Milton and I have very good communication skills with one another so no need to resort to cough signalling, “Let’s get outta here!” I have suffered genuine coughing fits in the theater, most recently when we saw Nathan Lane in The Nance when I was still recovering from a butt-kicking cold. My fit of uncontrollable hacking was during the most emotional scene in the play. I was in agony and felt like that theatergoer the actors surely wanted to strangle. Hey, I wanted to strangle me.

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  19. You know it’s a bad sign when you are thinking about cleaning your bathroom in only the first act. Thanks for making me laugh, as always!

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