Monday, May 14, 2012

The middle class gets dumped on again (or "Dearth of a Salesman")

My wife and I were thinking of going to New York and seeing the Tony-nominated production of "Death of a Salesman," starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Andrew Garfield. Luckily for us, premium tickets were still available for a Saturday matinee at $519.35 apiece, including the $119.85 processing fee. the June mortgage, or see "Death of a Salesman"....

Wait, let me say that again: There was a $119.85 processing fee per ticket. Was a courier going to buy a round-trip on a plane and bring the tickets to my house in person?

All the other seats were sold out. But here's the brutal part: Had we been able to buy seats at the back of the theater upstairs, they'd have been $99.45 each. I can get center orchestra seats at Belk Theater for a Saturday evening performance of a big musical, "La Cage Aux Folles," for less.

The really grating thing is that Arthur Miller's masterpiece reveals the shabbiness of lives devoted to making money. It's about a guy in the lower-middle class who chases the futile American dream of financial security, instead of finding out who he's meant to be. And all the Willy Lomans of the world, the people this play is about, haven't a hope in Hades of buying tickets to it.

I'm seldom grateful to live in Charlotte instead of New York, culturally speaking, but I am right now. I look at the upcoming "Edge of Our Bodies" at CAST and "Marvelous Wonderettes" at Actor's Theatre and the current "Putnam County" at Theatre Charlotte, and ALL the tickets are under $30. In fact, you can get balcony seats to the Broadway Lights tour of "La Cage" for $20, if you're on a tight budget. On a value-for-money scale, Charlotte comes out ahead.

I realize the cost of paying Broadway unions and film stars such as Hoffman and Garfield drives ticket prices higher. But when you price your cheapest tickets at $100 a pop, you're telling ordinary folks that you have no interest in sharing one of the great works of the American stage with them. That's a pretty sad thing to do.