What NOT to Do While Attending a Stage Show


I was a fat boy. A big ‘ole fat fat fatty. I am, from long being among their number, quite sensitive to the plight of the overweight, and I denounce those who denigrate people based solely on their waistlines.

Except for this fat, disgusting slob who was at my show this past Sunday.

I know, I know, the fact that he was fat had very little to do with his being a disgusting slob. But it’s very difficult to parse subtleties when you want to wring someone’s jowly neck.

My show was playing in New York for a brief, three night stay, and this was the last showing. Productions in New York are rare for a playwright, unless you have a lot of money and don’t mind losing it all in one glorious shot. They need to be cherished. Like newborn babies, or a really good Jewish deli.

So there I am in the back of the theater, soaking it all in. I always wait in the lighting booth until everyone is seated, then slip out into the last row. I do this for two reasons. First, I frequently have guests in the audience who know me and I would like to avoid that, “Hey, there he is, there you are, you’re about to see my play, yes I am, isn’t this freakin’ awkward?” moment. Second, if nobody likes it they don’t know where to aim the rotten fruit. You have to think these things through.

The play starts and I am right there with my cast of two, living the lines the three of us rehearsed in my livingroom for the past five weeks. They’re starting off strong, right from the first scene. I am completely invested, until…

There’s the rustling of a plastic bag. Then there’s more rustling, as if somebody is stuck inside the bag, trying to get out. I look for the source. It’s coming from about three rows in front of me, to the left. There is a woman to the left, trying to watch intently. There’s a man to the right, trying to hear the dialogue.

And there’s a fat slob in the middle, EATING HIS DINNER! He reaches into a tin plate, grabs some dripping, meat-like substance WITH HIS FINGERS and shoves it down his obese, repugnant gullet. I looked up synonyms for “disgusting” to help write this blog: odious, repellent, vile, distasteful, foul, repulsive, revolting, nauseating. None of those words do justice to what I was watching in (thank God!) the dim light thrown from the stage. He looked like this guy from “Miller’s Crossing”, except with hair:


For those keeping score at home, this is the second blog in a row with a “Miller’s Crossing” reference. If I was making up a syllabus, “Miller’s Crossing” would most certainly be on it, along with every single Bugs Bunny cartoon. Its 7.9 IMDB score is about 2 full points too low. And my comparison with the disgusting fat guy in the theater is nothing against fine character actor Jon Polito, whose work as Johnny Caspar in the aforementioned film is the stuff of film legend. And Jon would most certainly NOT inhale mysterious meats during the first scene of my play in New York.

I forgot to mention the smell. How to describe it? Pervasive is a word that comes to mind. All-encompassing. The type of redolence usually associated with a county fair falafel stand. Which is not a bad aroma…if you happen to be AT THE FREAKIN’ COUNTY FAIR!

I didn’t know what to do. I heard that Laurence Fishburne once stopped dead in the middle of “Othello” when a cell phone rang, then stood at the edge of the stage with his arms crossed and stared at the offender until the phone was safely turned off and tucked away. Should I run to the front of the theater, stop the actors mid-dialogue and demand that Fatty McFatneck stop stuffing his cheeks? Was this a Morpheus moment?

Of course not. First of all, I’m approximately 1/1000th as cool as Laurence Fishburne. Second of all, I wanted to be invited back to this particular festival, and a good way to make that not happen would be to publicly excoriate a paying customer for his slovenly ways. But boy did I want to excoriate! I wanted to excoriate all over the guy! I’m not by nature a violent person, but I gladly would have throttled him within an inch of his life, if I could get my hands around his enormous neck.

Instead I sat there and stewed—no pun intended.

In the end, my actors won the gastronomical battle, or the guy finished eating—whichever. Despite the myriad of distractions, both audience and cast managed to hear enough of each other to create a good show. The fact that the fat guy was fat had nothing to do with his mistaking my show for dinner theater, I’m sure. His despicable habit of eating from tin plates in inappropriate places was his true character flaw, not his poundage.

But if I see him at one of my shows again, I may need to go all Matrix on his fat ass.

  1. Brian, if that’s the way you feel I am NEVER coming to one of your plays again.

    • You and your $18 are always welcome. This guy made you look svelte, AND he was stuffing his face on top of it.

  2. Love it, Love the way you look at life and always see a story so all can appreciate. I would have stared at him and if he didn’t get the hint, maybe not so polite, but ask him to be resectful of all attending and players, and to stop or leave.

    • Asking him to be respectful, that’s what I should have done! Instead I write a blog. Not very effective.

    • Anonymous
    • July 20th, 2013

    Fishbourne never played Othello on stage. The Lion in Winter perhaps? I remember taking leftover Chinese to A Streetcar with Lange and Baldwin. It stank to high heaven and so many dirty looks.

    • At least you had the good sense not to start eating it. With your fingers,

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