New York: Me and Theater Tickets

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I tried to scale back my manic theater-going schedule a bit this trip, after having marathon’d through far too many shows in far too few days the last time I was in New York. Five days. Three plays. Reasonable, right?

There’s this thing I do with tickets that’s very annoying. I know what plays are going up. I know which ones I will want to see. I know some of them are going to be popular and maybe sell out, so I…do nothing. The reviews come out, the general public joins the fray, some of the plays sell out and then I scramble to find seats. It’s like a twisted hobby I’ve adopted, like water skiing with one ski or kiteboarding with a bed sheet. Maybe it’s because I’m over-competitive and scoring seats doesn’t feel satisfying unless I’ve had to fight for them. Weird.

In this case, I’d had my sights set on A Steady Rain since the summer. Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig in a new play by Keith Huff about two Chicago cops, a he said/he said drama.

Generally, I don’t like going to see shows with celebrities, especially ones without stage cred, because a.) they often suck, b.) I disagree, in principle, with giving plum roles to unqualified actors just so the producers can pay the Broadway bills (although I agree that bills need to be paid and, no, I don’t have an alternate suggestion), and c.) intermission is a hot mess of groupies misquoting the star’s latest movie and talking about how hot s/he is.

Lately though, there have been a number of serious plays produced featuring screen stars who do have backgrounds on the stage, so I’ve anted up. Waiting for Godot in London with Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan this summer was excellent. The other Waiting for Godot in New York last spring with Nathan Lane and John Goodman was OK. God of Carnage with James Gandolfini, Hope Davis et al was a waste of time. Macbeth with Patrick Stewart in New York last year was unexpectedly weak. You win some, you lose some.

I wanted to see A Steady Rain on the strength of Daniel Craig, who had a successful stage career pre-Bond and is, by all accounts, very, very good. Hugh Jackman though is a wild card. He’s endearing, I’ll agree. Charming, yes. But he’s a musicals guy and that’s not usually a plus in a gritty drama. Plus, the play looked dubious and not up my alley, probably because I’m already saturated with CSI and Law & Order.

So I prevaricated on tickets. Our dates weren’t 100%. I tried to imagine Jackman, all bulked up from Wolverine, all smiles at the Oscars, toning it down for an intense tete-a-tete. I couldn’t. The show sold out.

Then, of course, I kicked into gear. I had to go. Tickets on eBay and Craigslist were going for $350-600. For a 90-minute, no-intermission show. Seriously? You would need to give me a Tony for that price. Or at least a full day at a spa with the massage administered by one of the stars. Maybe the three of us could get full-body waxes together.

I’ve had absurdly good luck scoring last-minute tickets this year, so I let it ride until we got to Manhattan. (Some research, some flexibility and a willingness to show up early and risk disappointment have yielded excellent results.) New York’s a busy place: someone was bound to have a scheduling conflict. Sure enough, face-value tickets for a matinee came up on Craigslist on Wednesday.

I didn’t buy them and I didn’t go.

Why?

Because Ben Brantley at the Times said exactly what I thought he might – weak play, weak Jackman, annoying audience. Because life is short and money’s tight. Because I’m perverse or edgy or just a New Yorker: when something’s wildly popular, it makes me want it less. Because life is short and I’m trying not to do any more things just to say that I did, just because they’re there just so I don’t theoretically regret not having done them.

So there.

Until next time, James Bond.

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