This past week's invited dress rehearsal for In The Next Room or the vibrator play had a raucous audience, many of them friends of the production who had come to cheer on their acquaintances. Thursday's first-preview audience was not as boisterous but equally alert to the play's humor. I know this not just because of the plentiful laughter during the performance but because of what I overheard before and after. Usually I do not pass along audience comments on the blog until well into the run, but by the end of the first preview evening, I had already filled several pages of my notebook. Here are a few of the exchanges:
Bald Man: They missed an opportunity tonight by not having one of those pre-performance, shut-down-your-devices announcements.
Female Companion: How so?
Bald Man: They should have said, "Please set your phones to 'Vibrate.'
Gum-chewing Woman, before the show: I'm not sure they can produce this play just anywhere.
Man Next To Her: Why not?
Woman: Because of the subject matter.
Man: What do you mean?
Woman: Women's sexuality in the 19th century.
Man: Oh, please: they teach that now in Colorado grade schools.
Heavily Perfumed Female: I'm not sure I like the ladies' fashions from this period. They lack a certain style.
Much Younger Man: This from a woman who owns a dozen Snuggies.
Man (To Wife) Before Curtain: I can't believe you made me miss the Yankees game to come to the theater. This better be good.
Same Man (To Wife), Returning From Intermission: Well, you're right, the play is good, and the Yankees are losing 4-0. Thank God I didn't stay home to watch the massacre.
Still Same Man (To Wife), Checking His Phone After the Final Curtain: The Yankees are winning 6-4. See what you made me miss?
[When he got home and saw the final score, Yankees down 7-6, I hope he thanked his wife again.]
Tall Man: My wife doesn't need a vibrator. My wife doesn't even HAVE a vibrator.
Short Man: Check her bedside table. You might be surprised.
Woman #1 with Dyed Blonde Hair: Do you think this play will become a stop on the "Sex and the City" tour? I mean, they do go to the Pleasure Chest to check out those rabbit gizmos.
Woman #2 with Dyed Blonde Hair: Maybe the same company can organize a Manhattan Vibrator Tour. That would get the out-of-towners humming.
First Woman: Bum-dum-bum.
Young Woman: My acting program makes us learn all this stuff about theater history. I wish they'd teach something useful.
Her Boyfriend: Like what?
Young Woman: Like how to get out of a period costume and corset in less than 30 seconds.
BRENDAN LEMON is the American theater critic for the Financial Timesand the editor of lemonwade.com.