Critical Confabulations

a theatre, film & pop culture review

2012 Tony Awards: My Beef with Philip Seymour Hoffman

How the Oscar-winning Actor Ruined My Tony Awards Blogging Spree

As most of you know, every year I see and blog about all of the Tony nominees. 2012 has been a bit rougher than usual, as I missed six shows that closed before the nominations, and I also cut some corners by refusing to see two of the shows that are still running (If funds were infinite, I certainly would have seen A Streetcar Named Desire and The Columnist, but as it is, I have zero interest in spending money on either, each of which only has one nomination: Costume Design and Best Actor in a Play (sorry, John, I do love you), respectively).

But what I certainly didn’t expect to cut — nor did I want to — was Mike Nichols’s revival of Arthur Miller’s classic Death of a Salesman. Even the most hardened of  us theatre folk who are anti-classic kitchen sink drama can’t help but appreciate Miller’s exceeding craft, and who doesn’t love Mike, right? (Angels in America, The Graduate, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, etc.)

For sure, I grumbled about the movie-star quotient: Andrew Garfield, Social Network star and hot young thing, has never before been on Broadway, and has barely worked in theatre at all (just a handful of appearances on the English stage). But it was mostly the casting of Philip Seymour Hoffman that got me up in arms. I didn’t care that he was “too young” for the role, as so many critics were quick to point out, and while I’ve never been a huge fan (I can’t help but think of him as the guy who stole Heath Ledger’s Oscar in 2006), I never thought he would be anything short of great as sad-sack dad Willy Loman.

No, what got me going was how hard it would be to get a ticket with PSH attached to the production. I realize he’s a stage actor too, but tourists and star fuckers do not flock to Broadway to see a star of the stage, so I knew student rush would be as epic as any decent Shakespeare in the Park production. And quite frankly, I’m too old, and I love my sleep too much, to wait in line that long and that early for an actor I don’t really care about.

Thus, I put it off. (Because as you also know, I don’t pay full price for theatre, ever.)

Maybe I was delusional enough to hope that a comp ticket would magically fall into my lap (Hey, it’s happened). Or maybe I was just in complete denial of what would transpire once it was nominated for a slew of Tony Awards. Whatever the case, I dropped the ball.

Death of a Salesman was the last show I had left to see, over a week before the awards, and I did my research. I knew the rush line would be madness (I looked on those Broadway World message boards that are overflowing with the cray crays who star stalk and see the same show dozens of times), and I was prepared: I would need to get to the theatre by no later than 4 AM if I wanted a guaranteed ticket. Which means I had to get up at 2 AM. Which means I had one hour of sleep. Which means that’s what I get for waiting so long, right?

But what I also discovered whilst doing my research the night before my planned rush date — June 1 —  was that Death of a Salesman closes on June 2.

Fuck me. 

A) What show, nominated for seven awards, closes one week before the Tony Awards? and B) From past experience (thanks, Company!), I know that theatres typically don’t sell rush tickets for a show’s closing performance. But June 1 was the third to last performance, so I crossed my fingers that I’d get lucky and hopped on the train at 3 AM. Because, really, this was my only hope of seeing this completely sold-out show.

Please be advised there will be no student rush for performances on June 1 or June 2 a sign, taped to the Ethel Barrymore Theatre box office door, proclaimed. My 5 AM walk of shame through a desolate Times Square was a miserable one.

What’s transpired in the 24 hours since was a complete sense of defeat in which I slumped around, head in hand, and melodramatically declared to my theatre-buddy-in-crime, Rachel, that all was lost: I could not possibly continue blogging when I failed to see one of the biggest shows of the year. Then, after a few too many cups of coffee and a second wind, I frantically scoured the internet, looking for a ticket, any ticket, to be had for either of the Saturday performances. What I found was too outrageously priced to even consider. (Which leads to a another post entirely about the nonsensical reality of how theatre professionals can’t afford to see theatre.) I even called the New York Library for the Performing Arts, hoping to convince them I had a good scholarly reason (the place is like Fort Knox to get into) to view the archival video of the production. The gentleman was kind — and thought he was being helpful — when he told me to call back in a couple weeks, because the video can’t be shown until after the production has closed and only then after the artistic team has signed off on it. Sigh.

So while I thought about discontinuing my blog-o-thon, I came to the conclusion that I’ve already spent too much time and money not to go through with it all — and honestly, I enjoy it too much (and I hope you do, too). I’ll finish up writing about each category — including the seven that DOAS is nominated for — because I’m not a quitter. (I’m just bitter.)

So, yeah, (perhaps a bit unfairly) I blame Philip Seymour Hoffman for tarnishing the thoroughness of my Tony Awards blogging spree.


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