Category Archives: theater

Silver Rain Was Falling Down

It’s a misty, rainy morning here in the English countryside, and the British appear to need the rain just as badly as we do back in Maryland.  We’re staying at a lovely country estate out in Hertsfordshire, a place that appears to be straight out of an Agatha Christie novel, all the way down to the tall windows that you can step in and out of, spacious sitting rooms, and gravel paths winding through the lawns. It’s too bad we have to leave here this afternoon to head home.

We had a fantastic time at Avenue Q last Friday evening.  The show was just as zany as we thought it would be, and one of the puppeteers — a young man named Tom Parsons, who performed Trekkie Monster and Nicky — was particularly impressive. While this was the first time we’d seen the show live, we’ve had the soundtrack for several years now, and Barb made the observation that it was almost a shame that we were familiar with the songs because we were unable to be surprised by the jokes. As if to make her point, the young man who sat next to us — he was by himself, and merrily clutching a beer in each hand — howled with laughter at all the right places. Still, there were many moments that surprised us (the Bad Idea Bears were new to us) and, knowing the songs as we did, it was fun to notice where lyrics had been slightly amended to make the jokes clearer to British audiences.  While Americans know who Gary Coleman is, for example, when the character makes his first entrance, the lyrics were modified to explain exactly who he is (as I told one Brit, it would be like making an East Enders joke in the American theater — we wouldn’t quite get the references).

There was a bit of an awkward moment, too, immediately after the opening number when a woman walked out on stage with a headset and stood just off to one side.  As the applause faded, she announced that there were technical difficulties, and they would be stopping the show until they were resolved.  There was some nervous laughter from the audience, as some  folks (including me) were uncertain whether this was a joke or not.  It wasn’t.  The curtain came down, the lights came up, and we sat quietly, like dutiful schoolchildren, until the curtain went back up.  The show went the rest of the way without a hitch.  We never did know exactly what the technical problem was, though it did seem there had been some fiddling with a mics during the opening number.


We spent Saturday and Sunday mostly at the British Museum, which was just around the corner from our hotel, and wandering randomly through the National Gallery. Our impulse buy for Saturday was a performance of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap at the St. Martin’s Theatre, where we saw performance number 24,010 of the world’s longest-running show.  It was a fun evening, with a neat moment at the curtain call when one of the actors stepped forward and, with a wink, informed the audience that we were now all co-conspirators and thus asked not to disclose whodunnit. So I won’t.

We’re finishing out our week abroad here in Hadley Wood, where Barb is attending morning meetings at Potter’s Bar and I’m bringing this to you from a Very Proper Sitting Room, where I keep hoping to catch a sign of the ghost that allegedly haunts the place.  I’ve had no luck so far.

We’ll be back stateside this evening — and then I’m off to New York for a few days on some Project Blue Harvest business. More information shortly.  I know I keep saying that, but it really is true.

The Sou*kaff!*d of Sil*cough!*nce

Why is it that when you take 500 otherwise perfectly healthy human beings and put them within the confines of a theater, that suddenly half the room develops some sort of respiratory disorder that causes them to cough incessantly?

You know what I’m talking about: you sit down in a theater, read through your program, and all seems well . . . until the lights go out, and suddenly, the Sickness Symphony begins. The coughing fits start first, like an overture played on trombones. Then someone sneezes, near the back, four or five times — each one a stifled sneeze (more like a “guh-TEW!”) that makes it all the louder. A hard candy is unwrapped slowly somewhere, the crinkle of the wrapper crackling like a fire. And the quieter the action on stage, the more people begin coughing, as if the silence in the theater is a blank canvas that simply must be painted on.

On Saturday night, Sainted Wife Barb and I attended a performance of Antony and Cleopatra at the new Sidney Harman Hall in DC — a theater I’m already disenchanted with because of acoustical problems — and Cleopatra’s “salad days” speech sounded something like this:

My salad days,
*KAFF! ACK!*een in judgment: cold in b*snuf*od,
To say as I said then! But,
*SCHNORT!* way;
Get me ink and paper:
He shall have every day a several greeting,
Or I’ll unpeople

For this and various reasons, we did the virtually unthinkable: we left at the intermission. We went home and watched The Muppet Show on DVD instead.

And we didn’t cough once.

Footnote: Apparently, I’m not the only one annoyed by this phenomenon. Read Why Coughing Brought Down The Curtain on Our NSO Years in The Washington Post.