Four Days, Four Plays

April 13th, 2013

A quick trip to Broadway can be inexpensive if you’re willing to work for it, or you’re traveling with my wife.

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If our family had a coat of arms or a crest, written underneath it — probably in ancient Scottish Gaelic — would be the phrase, Never pay retail. I’m referring, of course, to my wife’s obsession with always finding a deal. This is never more evident than when we go on vacation.

I can’t remember the last time we went somewhere and didn’t stay with someone, get there on the cheap or find deep discounts on entertainment. Our recent barnstorming tour to NYC fulfilled all three of those check boxes. Our incredibly gracious friend Peter let us crash at his place, even moving out for three nights. We drove there instead of flying and then there were those Broadway tickets.

My wife and daughters are huge Broadway fans; they would’ve long ago excommunicated me from the family, taking my last name with me, if I didn’t convert. So nowadays, yes, I dig musicals, straight plays and even random performance pieces that spring up in Lower Manhattan (some of you call them traffic jams, but I like to imagine them as Automobile Flash Mobs all pretending to storm the Holland Tunnel on rainy Sunday evenings).

We saw four plays in four days and we didn’t ever pay the full asking price for any of them. Sometimes that can lead to, shall we say, interesting consequences. For the wonderful Tom Hanks, Nora Ephron play Lucky Guy, we got fantastic last-minute tickets, after standing in line for about an hour and a half at the box office. The problem was, we didn’t have what you might call, ummm, seats. For a very reasonable rate, less than $30 per ticket, we got to stand, or lean against a 4 1/2 foot partition for the duration of the play. When Mr. Hanks came out of the theatre (after we stood again waiting for him) my daughters told him the show’s story, about a journalist with cancer, was sort of like their father’s. He asked if it hit too close to home and they said it didn’t; Tom Hanks is much better looking than me.

Next we saw Once, which is a play based on the 2006 movie by the same name. I’ve never experienced a performance like it. When we arrived, there were audience members up on stage, buying drinks at the pub, which was part of the set. My daughters and Skye’s boyfriend went up to look around. Gradually, some musicians came out onto the stage and started playing Irish pub music. Slowly, the audience members went back to their seats and the musicians picked up the tempo a bit. After a while, a few of the musicians stepped forward and they were the main actors. Without any formal beginning, the play just sort of happened in front of us. It was an amazing, organic experience to be part of.

Oh, and our seats were obstructed-view tickets, purchased the day of the show at the discount TKTS booth in Brooklyn. Retail prices die under Marci’s withering embrace.

Our next show, Peter And The Starcatcher, was billed as “a grownup’s prequel to Peter Pan.” Originally co-written by humorist/columnist Dave Barry (I’m not making this up), I had a special place in my heart for the play after reading the book.

The energy on that stage was incredible. Little kids loved the show; grownups laughed at the jokes and creative staging. Since it was a matinee performance (cheaper) and since we purchased the tickets at that TKTS booth (cheaper still), my wife’s reputation was intact. We also had honest-to-goodness seats to sit in. Life was grand!

It was shocking to all of us in the car when my wife purchased the tickets for our final performance a few days ahead of time. What was her problem? Was she ill? No, it turns out she survived the harrowing experience by ordering us matinee tickets. Even more Marci-ish, we “got to” sit in stools, up in the balcony along the side of the audience. We were all relieved that she hadn’t taken leave of her senses.

The play was called The Last Five Years and was told in quite an unconventional way. Only two characters were portrayed and they were only on stage together briefly.  It’s about a couple telling the story of their relationship over the last five years, but she tells it starting from its end, and he starts from the beginning. The songs were beautiful and the staging was sparse but perfect. Sitting where we were, we had a bird’s eye view from our precarious perches on the stools.

Driving home from the play, and sitting amongst the unpaid actors portraying busy New York commuters, we complimented Marci on the successful defense of her title as Discount Diva. The jam up of extras and chorus members all attempting to cram themselves into the Holland Tunnel didn’t really bother us; at least we got to sit for awhile in some comfy seats.

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