Friday, June 3, 2011

God of Carnage - Super Funny - Super Expensive

The recent Center Theater Group mounting of the critically acclaimed God of Carnage was, in my opinion, a fantastically funny, incredibly enjoyable evening in the theater. But I can only wonder - who can pay $200 bucks for the orchestra seats? Only the type of white collar wannabe sophisticates the brilliant Yasmina Reza serves up on stage. I admit, I sat up in the Lodge for $75 bucks a pop.

I have always considered the Center Theater Group to be reasonably priced - but God of Carnage has established a new price structure for them - with many orchestra seats now demanding $200 bucks from your wallet before you can have the right to sit on it there. I know I am not the first to cry wolf here, but if we continue to escalate prices to see live theater, we will continue to diminish the audiences that come to see this vital form of entertainment. I'll say it plainly here, the night I saw the show, the audience was 95% white and over 50 years old - probably most over 60. Did anyone read the census numbers from 2010? 51% of all babies born in California are now Hispanic - and I would be hard pressed to say there was anywhere near 5% of anyone of Hispanic decent sitting in the audience.

It is no wonder that every subscription based theater out there (from Center Theater Group, to The Old Globe, to La Jolla) has put into place ways for their supporters to contribute to their favorite theaters in their wills. That's right, be sure to designate some of your estate to the shrinking endowments of these theaters. I hope everyone does, but the theaters better get big chunks 'cause that audience ain't gonna be around a whole lot longer... And once they're gone - so is the chance to get $200 bucks a seat.

I guess I wouldn't mind so much if every time I went to the theater I was guaranteed to laugh as much as I did at God of Carnage - or think as much as I did when I saw Parade at the Taper last year - but for every wonderful production, there are far more not so successful versions of The Color Purple, 9 to 5, Minsky's and the like. But that is the way of theater. For if it were easy to create, write, and produce a hit - how would we know how special the rare occurrences are when actors, writers, directors, designers, musicians, and all the others that contribute to live performances - are all working in tandem and striving to hit the same creative goal and message - and NAIL IT.

Maybe there is nothing to be concerned about at all. Perhaps theater will struggle as it always has - only to be saved by investing angels and the creative spirit to hold a mirror up to our world and demand everyone take a look. Perhaps theater is an acquired taste... Perhaps we just haven't yet figured out how to do live theater written in computer code... Or incorporate live tweeting with live theater in an enlivening, and engaging way. Perhaps we will. Until then, I guess my seats will just get further and further back from the orchestra.


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