Here's a confession: until a week ago, I'd been in a funk. I'd been doing my due diligence at the Belasco -- hanging around in front of the theater, and trying to be unobtrusive near the stage door, like Anne Baxter in "All About Eve" -- and my notebook was nearly dry. People seeing "Golden Boy" were not making the kind of remarks that alert my antennae. But then something happened: the city did its usual holiday switchover from mostly residents to mostly visitors, and bam! My notebook filled up again. Here's what I overheard some of those theatregoers saying in the lobby and on the street.
Teenage Boy: Gramma, is this a musical?
Woman: No, it's a play. No one sings.
Teenage Boy: Oh, good.
Teenage Boy: I'm still recovering from 'Les Miz.'
* * *
Man Staring At His Cellphone: Thank God.
His Wife: What?
Man: The Bears are winning by three touchdowns.
His Wife: Thank God.
His Wife: Because the last time we went to the theater the game was close and you kept an earpiece in during the entire second act. You kept making noises.
Man: Well, at least it was a comedy.
His Wife: It was "Virginia Woolf."
Man: Like I said: a comedy.
* * *
Man Reading Playbill: It says here that "Golden Boy" was also done at this same theater 75 years ago.
Woman: Wow! Even "Phantom of the Opera" wasn't running then.
* * *
Well-Dressed Woman: I saw the movie version of "Golden Boy" on cable a couple of weeks ago.
Her Friend: Oh, yeah? Who played Lorna and Joe?
Well-Dressed Woman: Barbara Stanwyck and an unrecognizably young William Holden.
Her Friend: Stanwyck grew up in Brooklyn, so I think we know who'd have won a boxing match between the two of them.
* * *
Bald Man: There was a musical version of "Golden Boy." Starring Sammy Davis, Jr.
Tall Man: Sammy Davis, Jr.? Did you see it?
Bald Man: Of course. I knew Sammy Davis, Jr.
Tall Man: You knew Sammy Davis, Jr.?
Bald Man: Yes, we went to high school together.
Tall Man: How could you have gone to high school together? Sammy Davis, Jr. was a child performer who barely had a formal education.
Bald Man: Details, details.
* * *
Younger Woman: You know those shoes that that character Lorna wears in the first act?
Older Woman: What about them?
Younger Woman: Do you think I could buy them online?
Older Woman: Of course. But don't expect to find the nylons.
* * *
Woman Wearing Beret: I love seeing plays about New York before the war. The city seems so glamorous. Men wearing double-breasted suits.
Other Woman: And women having to stay in the home.
Woman Wearing Beret: Checker cabs.
Other Woman: With no air-conditioning in the summer.
Woman Wearing Beret: Benny Goodman playing on the radio.
Other Woman: But no iPods to choose your own music.
Woman Wearing Beret: Steaks cost only two dollars.
Other Woman: But there was no sushi.
Woman Wearing Beret: Is there anything you don't prefer about life today?
Other Woman: Car alarms.
Brendan Lemon is the American theater critic for the Financial Times and the editor of lemonwade.com.