The Revisionist Starring Vanessa Redgrave and Jesse Eisenberg. A TRUE REVISION
FIRST RESPONSE EARLIER TODAY AT 9:00 AM (There is a happy ending. See UPDATES below.)
For me and a friend who went to see the The Revisionist, starring Vanessa Redgrave and Jesse Eisenberg this past Saturday, the occasion was a nightmare. I had seen Redgrave live on Broadway and elsewhere a number of times as had my friend, Emily. Brit theater snobs, we happily anticipated seeing Redgrave’s performance remembering with enthusiasm her Driving Miss Daisy with James Earl Jones on Broadway. How could this be a bum night? Impossible, right? “Ha!” (said with bitterness).
Well, thanks to the production company and the gods of chaos and disorder, not only did our anticipation turn out to be a botched abortion, the occasion left me with the nightmare portent of fascist attitudes and a longing NEVER TO DO BUSINESS WITH THE RATTLESTICK THEATER COMPANY OR ANYONE CONNECTED WITH THE PRODUCTION AGAIN, INCLUDING THE PERFORMERS, DIRECTOR KIP FAGAN, ETC.
I don’t say this lightly. I’m an avid theater goer and supporter, albeit not a huge patron of the arts with thousands or millions of dollars in donations. I am little person, one of the tendrils in the nervous system of the average New York City theater going community. Typically, I spend thousands on live theater each year. And as a little person, I bristle like a porcupine when tossed to the trash heap, an inconsequential serf. Ms Redgrave, for years an avowed communist, should be able to understand and empathize. Maybe not.
The city via the Midtown Tunnel is 20 minutes away from my friend’s house. I picked her up at 6:30 pm and speeded merrily down Woodhaven to L.I.E. with over an hour and 15 minutes to spare. The drive should have taken us 1/2 hour to the theater. Then THE EVIL showed up after the rise in the road, stunning us with a garish display of red brake lights that snaked for miles of incredible delays on the L.I.E. There was nowhere to get off. And it wasn’t an accident which would have been a temporary hold up. No. The tunnel was closed off inbound to one lane. I hadn’t seen such a traffic problem on the L.I.E. since before I moved to NYC permanently 30 years ago.
There we sat with no way out. I was frantic, nearing hysteria, my insides, worms. All I could squeak out was, “This is really bad, really bad.” Emily attempted to reassure me. What good was it to heighten the drama with more histrionics? There was nothing we could do short of press the ejector seat button, plunge through the opening roof and with our jet packs roaring and blazing zoom to the theater.
Of all days, we had to be stuck in traffic, missing all alerts the tunnel was closed! This was the fastest route, according to my Australian cousin who had used his GPS to figure it out two years ago when he and Anna visited….13 minutes from Kew Gardens to 34th street. Not this day. It took us over an hour to get through the Midtown tunnel. The normal passage downtown was blocked and we had to spend another 10 minutes to get to Lexington heading downtown and finally over to 7th Ave. downtown. The theater is the Cherry Lane on Commerce. We arrived nearby at a garage at around 8:00 pm, SHOWTIME.
Then we got lost. What more could go wrong? Emily and I reassured each other, “Well, we have 10 minutes grace period before the show begins,” as per the usual MO of NYC theater. We asked directions; the results were somewhat helpful, and finally using my iPhone, we found the theater. Whew!!!! Emily again was calming and reassuring us, “We’re here!” It was 8:11 PM. We had made it The Revisionist was just beginning.
Then came the blow. KABOOM! “NO LATE SEATING,” said the demonic looking box office agent in a defensive upper register. My jawline crashed to the pavement. ”NO LATE SEATING!” I got it but I didn’t believe this could be happening after the ride in from hell. I was in shock. What did that mean? At Brooklyn Academy of Music, The Harvey Theater, it meant that you had to wait until they were good and ready to seat you. You watched the show on the monitors until they let you in. Same on Broadway and Off Broadway. “NO LATE SEATING,” meant we seat you AT OUR CONVENIENCE.
Not so for The Revisionist. NO LATE SEATING MEANT, “Screw your late ass. You’re closed out, late fool!” NO LATE SEATING MEANT, “Amscray. Get out! Leave! Todaloo!” It meant, “You are locked out from seeing this show…forever.” NO LATE SEATING MEANT, “You lost your money. You might as well have thrown it down the toilet.” NO LATE SEATING MEANT, “It’s your fault you were late and F%#K YOU!” NO LATE SEATING MEANT, “We’re not sorry. If you’re one minute late, it’s your fault and you can’t get in even if you are President Obama, The Queen of England or Edward Albee.” (Somehow, I don’t think this applies for them. I know it applies for the little people who can least afford to throw money into the toilet with or without poop in it.)
Is it on the print out? Yes, this is listed on the print out, but the print isn’t very large and since this phrase is used in other theaters, the given is that you are seated after a time of their convenience. I have been late maybe once in hundreds of performances including Broadway, Off Broadway theater, philharmonic, opera, dance, etc. This was the first time in my decades of life that I had the pleasure of experiencing, NO LATE SEATING when it meant, ” You’re finished!” “Go home, chump!” “We’ve got your money, sucka!” “Don’t even think about a refund!”
To add to the indignity, the monitor showing the performance was not only inaudible and unintelligible, but the lights were so bright, the screen was washed out and a blur. If Emily and I wanted to view the performance in the lobby, we would have had to have dog hearing and overexposure goggles to make out the uber blurry images of a tallish women and scrunching kid to her right and their etherealized movements. And there was no where to sit. There was no attempt to accommodate the faintest possibility that something might have happened beyond a patron’s control to make them late.
This was so counter to NYC theater operations, which do treat you humanely. Here, the fascists were clearly stating the message. You committed the sin of all sins, lateness. There is no second chance and to punish you forever, (The performances are sold out, by the way.) it will not be possible to even see a glimmer of anything on the defunct TV monitor. The message again? TUFF! IT’S YOUR FAULT. THERE’S NO RECOURSE. I and Emily paid $91.50 each to be thwarted at every turn. There is a devil and it is called The Revisionist and Rattlestick Theater.
We went back to the garage. We had parked less than an hour. The cost? It was $26.00. With all the complaints about Broadway being pricey, I’LL TAKE BROADWAY. I get my money’s worth! There aren’t these dictums on high from production company popes. Discount parking is available and there are good restaurants in the theater district.
Never until this experience did I understand how a company through arrogance and ineptitude can be so self-destructive. When money is given for a performance, there is a warrant. Despite the stated terms and conditions, it should be understood that theater and any live performance depends upon the good will of the individuals who come to see it. NO ONE. I DO NOT CARE WHO THEY ARE SHOULD BE ALLOWED THE PRESUMPTION OF THIS PRODUCTION COMPANY. Accommodation should be made when money is paid out by the purchaser and every effort is made to satisfy the company’s requests. Smaller venues than the Cherry Lane with cheaper seats have been more accommodating. Of course, Broadway and Off Broadway are accommodating. This production company? The treatment we received was egregious.
I do not blame the Cherry Lane. The production company rented out the space from them so the Cherry Lane is not the decision maker. I think, but I’m not certain, that the production company is responsible. I paid the money to them; they should at the least have made sure there was a working monitor if extenuating circumstances occurred and people were late. The constipated box office attendant who was not schooled in how to gracefully handle our situation and who kept on blabbing about, “I can’t do anything. I can’t do anything,” was an annoyance. At the very least he could have pretended like he listened, directed us to the monitor (though I can’t imagine why) and said two mollifying words, “I’M SORRY.” Indeed, his guilty response made me feel as if he knew the rote lines he had to tell us were egregious and he found them loathsome to say. In fear of this guilt, he couldn’t even hold the production company line and try to make the situation better. He worsened it.
Everyone involved with this production collectively is responsible for not making a better arrangement. A small print notice on a sheet will not cut it in the arts. It is abjectly beneath artists, creators and intellectuals to be so inflexible, arrogant and punitive. Actually, that is what grieves me the most. Artists, above all the individuals on this planet, should not behave with a dismissive, corporate, lizard mentality. Sometimes, there are extenuating circumstances. Things do happen and people may be late. Accommodate. If the artists are as great as they think they are, focus is a skill and distraction will not throw them off their roles to accommodate a late seating. Are they going to repudiate coughing and sneezing as distractions? I’ve been at performances (Frost/Nixon) when some hacking seal coughs are actually worse than seating late comers. If there is an emergency during a performance (James McAvoy during a recent Macbeth performance helped out an audience member who was sick and then picked up the character of Macbeth seamlessly. Kelsey Grammer did the same when a sound board blew. Countless other actors have done the same, my God, a testament to their brilliance.) what are the cast going to do? Just “Go on with the show,” and let the person die in the audience? Infantile, arrogant, inexperienced, not worthy of the craft.
Kelsey Grammer embraced the beauty of live theater. After the performance of La Cage Aux Folles, when I complimented him for his brilliance entertaining the audience when the sound board blew then picking up the character like there was no break, he said, “That’s what’s great about live performances. Anything can happen.” I reiterated that a brilliant performer like Grammer is ready for anything. Great actors should not be thrown by coughing, sneezing, farting, collapsing audience members, or late seaters, etc. With live theater they should be able to go with the flow.
Late seating should have been NO BIG DEAL for Redgrave and Eisenberg. If individuals have paid big money (for Off Off Broadway) to see a production and they have taken the time and effort to travel to the Village which is far from convenient, then it is a mere courtesy to accommodate them for a seating at a point in the play when there is a pause or lull. And if there isn’t, then the play is not well written or true to life with natural silences and pauses, and the art is a contrivance as is the arrogant assumption that the audience is expected to bow to these “greats,” like Lilliputs. Sorry. Performers, productions and theater companies should behave better than this and those in NYC mostly do. The Revisionist is a rotten exception. I will not support the performers, the production company or this theater group in the future. I’ve had enough of corporate arrogance and lizard brain behavior. Artists are supposed to create art to DRUB THE PHILISTINES. The Revisionist policies exemplified the epitome of commercial and supercilious attitudes. As for a wrecked monitor in this day and age? Pleeeassse. Keep mine and Emily’s money. Use it to buy some new used equipment.
UPDATE: I contacted Theatermania’s Ovation Tix about the matter. They are contacting the theater. So at this point, action will fall directly on the production company, The Revisionist, and the theater if they do not refund our money. The show is sold out. There is no way we will see it. I will not go to another venue if it is produced there unless our money is refunded. Let happen what must. I’ve already blamed myself a million times, to no avail. I do not share in this completely alone. At least Theatermania is trying to mediate so I will use Ovation Tix again.
UPDATE 2: Theatermania made an arrangement with the theater and production company. REPRIEVE!!! There are second chances, thank goodness. We have been allowed to see the show, a matinee, on April 27th AT 2:00 PM. Two seats have been reserved for Emily and me. NOW, I JUST CAN’T BLOW IT A SECOND TIME!!! I WON’T. Thanks, hugs and kisses to everyone involved. My faith in the production company has been restored as has my faith in the performers and artists. Whew!!! Yeah!!! Maybe I’ll spend the night in the city to make sure I’ll get there on time. Never want to go through this again!!!!!