The Playgoer: One Problem with Broadway

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Wednesday, January 02, 2008

One Problem with Broadway

Many...questions, answered in The Homecoming's startling last scenes, will be old news to those familiar with the work. But today's Broadway audience, largely reared on musicals and nearly two-thirds made up of out-of-towners looking for a good time, doesn't contain a lot of cognoscenti. The more knowledgeable may derive a good deal of fun from listening to the yelps of surprise around them, or to the abruptly suppressed giggles and sniggers of those who find some of the startling events funny and then firmly decide they shouldn't: The tourist audience has grown up largely sheltered from Pinter's unsugared view of family values, as well as from his slash-and-fold modernist way of conveying it.

A compelling aside in Michael Feingold's review of The Homecoming on Broadway.

So, remind me again why it's a good thing this masterpiece is on Broadway? At ticket prices too high for many Pinter lovers to afford yet not high enough to deter the clueless?

Readers here have been right to caution me against painting "tourists" with too broad a brush. After all, there are a lot of genuine theatre lovers out in the rest of the country, so bless them for coming back to check out the offerings. But obviously something is broken here with the current demographics of the Broadway business: selling increasingly to Americans who don't identify themselves as theatre lovers, at ever higher prices, yet clinging to dreams of Tonys and "prestige."

1 comment:

J. Kelly said...

I can't tell you how wrong, wrong, wrong I find the underlying assumptions behind this post.

The reactions that Feingold describes The Homecoming getting are surely the reactions that the play is intended to get... Pity the people who have read or seen it several times can and sit through it coolly, garnering "fun" only from observing other "clueless" audience members engage and react with the humour, the menace and the surprises of the play.

While I yearn for "Americans who don't identify themselves as theatre lovers" to see Pinter and other great playwrights, your desire to have only "genuine theatre lovers" see his work is a recipe for the (continued) death of your favourite art form.