Tonight we went to a flamenco show in the recently renovated Muni Theatre of Capital City. Right after I got to my seat, I started feeling jittery: the nouveau-riche attitudes, the Bourgeois Gentilhomme outfits, the small-town ‘everyone-knows-everyone’ small talk around me. Spectacularly stupid (and loudly uttered) random comments during the show followed this prelude, as well as some people’s inability to comply with a request not to shoot flash into performers’ eyes.
Then I remembered the two shows I saw in New York. The first one was Spamalot. The show was inept, flat, awkward (or should I say maladroit? English pigdogs!): a fretful playing-out of the original film with some extra tits (tits, bits — whatever) added. The audience just loved it. They were raving. They were orgasmically ecstatic, some were maybe ecstatically orgasmic, too. They gave it a standing ovation. We did not think too much about it: it was a musical, after all, most of the audience were out-of-towners and stupid tourists like us — end of discussion. Jod even came up with a clement excuse: “Maybe they haven’t seen the film; in that case Spamalot could even pass as hilarious, with Clay Aiken, fake English accents and all”.
Our second theatre night this time was traumatic audience-wise, though. We got tickets for Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof with James Earl Jones, a spectacular Anika Noni Rose and an altogether wonderful all-African-American cast. This should have been a totally different story. The audience looked different, too: they mostly seemed regular theatre-goers and the majority consisted of African-Americans. The play is a sombre bitter-sweet interweaving of many yarns (homosexuality, the politics of sex, alcoholism, sterility, money-hungry religion, moneymaking, prejudice crushing individuals, old age, cancer, dysfunctional families, poverty and how it degrades people) woven around a thread: mendacity. So, it’s not funny. It’s actually very potent T. Williams fare. It’s not even bitter-sweet, really. At times it is sarcastic and venomously sardonic. That’s it.
Now, the audience treated the play as ‘you-will-laugh-you-will-cry’ material. They behaved like they were waiting for sitcom cues to burst out laughing in unison. They laughed a lot. They laughed a lot LOL-wise. They laughed and they laughed. I was continually perplexed and horrified. During the first break I asked Jod whether I was missing something, whether there was something in the way the piece was directed playing on the (conceivably) funny bits of the text. “No, it’s not you, it’s not the director, it’s not the text, it’s not the actors: it’s them, raised on sitcoms”, she said.
The play was magnificent (of course, it was also given a standing ovation — maybe this is just a sort of mild stretching exercise after all). However, the audience was largely insolent and insensitive, living up to the stereotype of superficial, clueless and philistine Americans.
Bile aired, I’m off to bed now.