Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Behave Yourself, Mr. Purple! or, The Gay Man's Conquests?

PDA Bandit Stuns Broadway Audiences

Monday night I had the pleasure of attending a preview of "Round and Round the Garden," one of three installments of Alan Ayckbourn's The Norman Conquests at Circle in the Square. Universally acknowledged standards of reviewer etiquette strongly suggest that I'm supposed stay mum about the performance, but I believe it's okay to take note of a couple of things about the audience.

As mentioned, The Norman Conquests is a trilogy. The idea of this particular type of trilogy is that the plays can be fully enjoyed regardless of the order in which they are seen (although—take noteon "Trilogy Days" they are always performed in the sequence "Table Manners"/"Living Together"/"Round and Round the Garden." So something unusual that can happen at a performance of, say, "Round and Round the Garden" is that attendees who have already seen, say, "Table Manners," might laugh when "getting" an allusion to "Table Manners" while those unfamiliar with "Table Manners" might wonder just what could be so amusing.

I think that's sort of what happened at times on Monday. I don't think it interfered with anyone's enjoyment of "Round and Round the Garden" on its own merits; I'm just taking note that a fairly distinctive aspect of attending this play cycle may be a kind of unevenly shared "laughter of recognition" depending on who in the audience has already seen one or more of the other plays.

What apparently did interfere with some attendees' enjoyment of the play was the behavior of two audience members who sat in the front row (and sometimes in the spotlight) at this theater-in-the-round production. "Mr. Purple" and "Mr. Stripes" caught my eye from time to time—one was kind of melting into the body of the other—but others (especially those facing them and next to them) were extremely distracted by their public displays of affection for each other as well as the comedy taking place right in front of their, um, noses.

This misbehavior is documented in a fascinating thread on a message board at It's the one that starts, "Tonight, I witnessed possibly the most inappropriate theater behavior I have seen in my life." I highly recommend following the discussion as it unfolds. You see, another aspect of seeing this trilogy is that repeat audience members get to observe other repeat audience members over the course of two or three performances. This enables them to notice when someone such as Mr. Purple cuddles with different guys on different nights—which is, in a way, quite apropos considering the plot of The Norman Conquests.

Thanks to Musical Maven Myra for letting me in on the thread.

Here Leonard Lopate talks about the trilogy with actress Jessica Hynes and producer Kevin Spacey.

Source (5:04)


Myra said...

It's, not which doesn't have message boards.

The Norman Conquests opens tonight with "Round and Round the Garden"

Anonymous said...

It's ironic since Kevin Spacey is gay.