I was in the front row, so I was forced to keep a smile plastered on my face as the man two feet in front of me wailed a horrible off-key lament, and three other poor souls in tattered white sheets backed him up as bravely as they could. I tried not to make eye contact with the actors. The rock opera songs were what I think of as “lemon juicers,” because they made you want to scrunch up your face in pain. The plot featured dinosaurs, the Rapture, a car accident and zombies. The props included puppets, a kitchen ladle and some kind of fog in a spray can.
There are not too many things worse than a bad musical (especially a bad musical endured while sitting in a bad folding chair in a tiny room with no air.) But if you live in New York or LA, you are bound to know people who are performing in shows (or writing or directing them)--friends to whom you feel you must demonstrate your support. And even a talented friend can have a misfire or get cast in a clunker. So what do you say to these people afterward, when you feel obligated to go backstage (if there even is a backstage) or--worse yet--go out with them after the debacle? Do you lie to their faces or just evade? Do you hightail it out of there and later email them: “Had to rush home to spell the sitter but congrats on the show!”?
For those who have trouble with out-and-out lying but still want to be polite, here are some strategies:
The Obfuscator: “Wow…What you did out there!” (This is my uncle Herman’s favorite post-curtain line) or “I’m so impressed with anyone who can get up there and do that!”
The Therapist: “So how did you feel about it?” (Whatever they say, keep asking them questions.)
The Filled-with-Joy Ploy: “I was just so happy to be able to come to this play! What a great night! I love the theater!”
The Pin Pointer: “My absolute favorite part of the production was you!” Or “The very best thing about it was the beginning of the second act.” (Even if you hated everything, you can still differentiate, right?)
One last note: Never forget the “Two-block Buffer rule” when dissing whatever cultural event you may have just seen, whether it’s with your companions or with other audience members. You’d be surprised how fast the actors can get out of there.