Except for this one elderly couple.
It seemed after the show that almost everyone in the cast had some story or other to tell about these two. They quite apparently walked in the door knowing little about what sort of show they were about to experience. It seems probable that they were expecting a conventional play, with themselves sitting anonymously in the shadows of the audience. They didn’t even realize that dinner at the reception was a part of their evening, and they complained that they had eaten right before they came, as if this were somehow our fault.
My personal run-in with them occurred during dinner. The character Barry Wheeler, who is the best man, called me over to the table to assist in his conversation with the couple. I got there in time to hear the husband, with completely undisguised sarcasm, asking, “So did you people actually study acting in school to do this, or did you just walk in off the street and get hired?”
Our marching orders as actors are to remain in character at all times, so Barry and I (I was Father Mark), pretended not to understand. The man turned to me and said something like, “Maybe we’re a little spoiled; we go to shows at the Marriott.”
For my non-Chicago readers, this was a reference to the Marriott Lincolnshire in suburban Chicago, which has a sterling and deserved reputation as a premier venue for quality musical theater. I once again feigned ignorance. “Oh yes, I love the Marriott!” I gushed, “The rooms are wonderful – and you can get extra pillows if you call the front desk!” The other people at the table found my remark amusing, but it glided right through our unamused audience members.
“No, we go to the plays there!” he snorted back, his tone implying that I must be an idiot if I didn’t get his meaning. He was actually prepared to believe that I had no idea what he was talking about, and he was nowhere near accepting the notion that he was a guest at a wedding.
Other cast members were treated to remarks from this fellow such as, “We came here to be entertained. Where’s the entertainment?” By the time they got around to complaining about the fact that they’d eaten before they came, caterer Vinnie Black had had his fill. He laughed at them and said, “Well it looks like you guys didn’t do anything right tonight!” I suppose that might have been a little harsh but by that time, those two had earned it. By the mid-point of the reception, they had disappeared and were not seen again.
As it happened, they had shared a large table with two other couples with whom they were unacquainted. And as I was leaving after the show along with my fellow cast member Grandma Nunzio, we happened to get on the elevator in the parking structure along with those two other couples. I smiled and thanked them for coming, but did not intend to make any other comments. But our Grandma Nunzio, who is played by an 84-year-old woman, leaves little unsaid. She immediately asked them, “What was up with that couple that left?”
They shook their heads. “I don’t know,” said one of them. “We were having so much fun, but those two just couldn’t enjoy themselves. It was probably for the best that they left.” No argument here.
Not that unhappy audience members are anything new to us. There was a woman who came to the show a while back who seems to have walked in with the intention of stirring up trouble. Before the show had even begun, she walked up to one cast member and said, “Do you guys realize how much you suck? I mean, you do know you suck, right?” She continued this sort of abuse right through the show, getting progressively drunker and louder. She ended up provoking an actual fistfight between her table and the next one over that we had to call building security to mop up. I should point out that I’ve done roughly 1,000 performances of this show, and that was the only time I’ve ever seen such a fight between patrons (we did once have a fistfight between two cast members during a show, but that’s another story!). It was also the only time I’ve seen building security called in. So please understand – it’s not really THAT wild of an evening! Don’t be afraid to come on down. But every once in a while, shit happens.
There was one other memorable unhappy customer I want to mention. She was there with two of her girlfriends. I was Father Mark and I approached their table during dinner, just to say hello and exchange pleasantries. I didn’t get more than a few words out before this woman blew up at me. “Just keep on walking! Don’t you say a f-----g word to me! Get the f--k away from me!” I must confess that I was a little shocked at her vehemence and I stood there for a moment, so she continued. “My father had cancer and I prayed to God for six months to save him, and my father died a painful death, so f--k you!” I moved on at that point. She was in a lot of pain and needed some help, but this wasn’t the time, wasn’t the place, and I wasn’t the person to help her. Her friends each took one of her arms and led her from the room, and they did not return. I felt sad for her.
I want to close by saying that the above incidents are worth relating because they stand in such sharp contrast to the literally thousands of people I have amused and entertained in my 3+ years in this show. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to personally make hundreds of people laugh every week, and it’s taught me a lot of little things along the way about myself, my craft, and my fellow human beings. Maybe I’ll go into more detail about that another time.