What I am about to share is not by way of confession because I am not ashamed of it. It simply is a fact of my life. It is an oysters-or-snails issue and after many years of wholehearted attempts to engage with the theater I can now safely generalize.
I do not care for plays. Then again, I might tend to care for them if I saw more of them.
If I had been awake in 1973 in Stratford-upon-Avon I would have seen David Suchet’s Orlando in As You Like It. Directed by a woman enticingly named Buzz Goodbody, The Spectator called the effort a “twee little romp.”
Several years later I slept through another Royal Shakespeare Company production, this time The Tempest. I imagine now that it might have been interesting to watch Mr. Suchet tread the boards again, along with Alan Rickman, Michael Hordern and Ian Charleson. But I did not see much of them except when they took their bows.
In London that year there was a John Gielgud vehicle called Half Life. The Evening Standard reported, “Gielgud spits and hisses insults like a self-satisfied snake, enchanted with the sound of its own rattle.” That sounds arguably appealing, but the only thing I remember is Mr. Gielgud referring to someone as an “addle-pated beetlehead.”
16 months later I found myself in the Circus Maximus showroom at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas with my mother, who took me there as a post-18th-birthday gift to see Frank Sinatra. Mama sat quietly while a young woman named Marlene Ricci sang. She didn’t budge while Pat Henry, Sinatra’s longtime opening act, told jokes. No, she waited until the curtain rose on the headliner to take her leave for the restroom. (It wasn’t an up-tempo number either. Mama got up to pee during “Angel Eyes.”) I truly believe that she did this to spite me because I had taken those two little naps in Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire.
Oddly, I stayed awake through Neil Simon’s The Gingerbread Lady, starring Shelley Winters, in Chicago in 1981.
The same year in the same city, though, I snoozed through the second act of Othello, starring James Earl Jones and Christopher Plummer.
I am proud to report that I remained awake throughout Blake Edwards’ and Julie Andrews’ stage rendition of Victor, Victoria in Chicago in 1995, though by then I knew Calvin and he does not hesitate to jab me in the ribs if I even blink too long in a theater.
I think it may be too late for this situation to change.