Without understudies, there is no one to pick up the slack if someone falls ill. Is this acceptable? Is it just how it is, as a couple of patrons told me in the elevator on the way out? I think not.
The postman no longer rings twice, and you will not get your mail in a storm despite the USPS motto: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”
Now, you also can’t rely on the theatre’s most famous promise.
You might think that Will (now a TV series, seemingly inspired by our friends at Something Rotten!, in which The Bard is a Rock Star) would not approve.
In truth, though his plays had many acts, folks walked in and out as they saw fit. The audience were a rowdy bunch we probably would not tolerate in our theaters today. Theatrical etiquette is far more decorous these days.
I make that statement despite having to sit through a show next to an apple-chewing patron once upon a matinee. Cell-phone incidents are another of the annoyances that Shakespeare’s contemporaries would not have had to contend with, but that are very common among today’s audiences.
All this off the beam, however, as I was lauding the show without an interval. In that vein, I will admit that the above mentioned Something Rotten! was NOT a musical without an intermission. Many of the plays I have enjoyed over the years have been multi-acts with the obligatory pause for the audience to find refreshment and stretch their legs.
more shortly, so come on back, after this brief intermission…. and it’s July 11th, so we are back in 1, 2, 3:
n William Shakespeare’s (and Kit Marlowe’s) time, eating oranges and throwing tomatoes were not unusual activities during the course of a theatrical performance. The audience hardly needed a pause in the action to eat or drink or wander about. The interval was not for the patrons but the actors to regroup. It was for a change of scene; the groundlings bustled about throughout the show.
Get to the point, we say, and so the one act does. It suits our times as a longer play fit other eras and fashions.
A story told in one breath, without a break has a different arc from the one that follows the convention of three (or five) acts. It is shaped and shared differently. In some ways, it packs more intensity by providing a continuity of action.
And 90 minutes or an hour and forty-five is a manageable chunk of time for those of us whose attention spans have been shortened by social media.
A one-act play is a haiku, often the more beautiful for being succinct.
Little annoyances in the theater loom large because of the sense of confinement we have sitting next to strangers. Cell phones are not LITTLE but they are annoyances!
News from the annoyance front: Impolite theater-goers of the umpteenth degree spotted recently at a matinee of The Cherry Orchardwere talking quite loudly. When asked to sush, the response was “Other people are talking.” The other people in question were the characters on stage, I swear.