Friday, August 17, 2012

NY Fringe Trip: What Does Not Kill Me Makes Me More Likely To Kill

It’s slightly cooler this morning in Brooklyn after a number of oppressively hot days.  We began this trip with the best of culinary intentions – to shop at the farmer’s market every other day, to create new and interesting meals with new and interesting ingredients.  But now it is Friday, and I am spending the morning with a bowl of Ramen noodles and a cut up hotdog.
Yesterday’s show was an interesting experience.  I was very excited going in because I knew my friends Larry and Holly were coming to see the show.  Larry’s a screenwriter and Holly’s a playwright, and both are very close friends of mine from grad school.  The cast were all in great moods, we were feeling extremely positive about the show and each other, we were cutting up backstage … so you can imagine our horror when we begin our show and discover that we have something of an antagonist in the audience.  We had … and I guess there’s no other term for it … That Guy.  The moment our show starts, these sharp explosive guffaws come from somewhere in the middle of the audience.  That doesn’t sound too bad, right?
See, here’s the thing about our show.  It’s not a comedy.  Sure, there are a few funny lines in it to break up the tension here and there, but it’s mostly a serious play.  Our audience heretofore has understood that and behaved appropriately roughly 100 percent of the time.  This guy laughed where there were no jokes, did not laugh where there were jokes, laughed louder than any of the actors on stage were talking, and in doing so, largely monopolized the room for much of the show.  All five of us are on stage for the entire play, so there were no moments where we could go backstage, break character, and touch base about what the hell is going on and who in the world this guy is.  My guess is that he was laughing at our play’s perceived “pretension,” which I have always felt is the absolute laziest of insults, and which says much more about the person uttering the term than the artists or work under scrutiny, but whatever.  So we had to put up with 90 minutes of some dude in the audience essentially screaming out, “Hey everybody, look at me!  I’m so much better than this play, can’t you hear how loud I am laughing?  Look at me!  Me!”  (NB: He was also covered in glitter.) 
Pat Ball has a monologue midway through the play about the performer’s sometimes volatile relationship with the audience, and he very wisely tuned it like a laser onto this guy.  Pat told me afterwards that was his most satisfying delivery of that monologue.  It was hilarious.  And by the way, everyone else who was there loved the show.  But everybody started their sentence off with, “What the hell was up with that guy …?” *
In any case, it was fantastic to see Larry and Holly.  We had a great meal at Virage, a Mediterranean tapas restaurant around the corner from the theatre.  Amanda left early, hoping to get home and to sleep, and then got lost in Brooklyn.  Daniel and I went on a rescue mission, but because nobody’s phones work on the train, we made it all the way out to the lost part of Brooklyn only to discover Amanda had taken a cab home and was waiting for us there.  Such is life.

* Update: Learned this morning that Glitter Guy was there with a friend of mine who had seen the show earlier in the week and wanted to bring her friends out.  Glitter Guy had come from his own Fringe show by way of another event and had gotten drunk in the process.  Now, as my friend is one of the sweetest, smartest, kindest people I know, so I’ll just chalk Glitter Guy's behavior up to the sauce and leave it at that.  So it goes.  (Hey, that’s the title of the blog!)


  1. Sure, booze can do that. But that doesn't explain the people in a number of other audiences I've been who do the same thing, without even the slightest intention of being ironic or sarcastic or something else. I have come to at least one conclusion: SOME of them simply expect EVERY play to be either a comedy or a musical. So by golly, they're going to laugh at stuff that isn't remotely funny.

  2. Totally had that happen with a play I directed. In this case, the guy was stoned, but he was also someone who had a lot of repressed anger.

    1. Sorry to hear that, Greg. It's a shame that it's so easy for one jerk to dismantle months of hard work. Fortunately, I think most audiences are very forgiving, and in those cases side with the theatre workers.