Way back in another life when I was the theater critic at-large and filing a theater review every Monday for the Pasadena Weekly newspaper, I once found myself at Westwood’s Geffen Playhouse seated directly behind one Richard Sylvan Selzer — far more recognizable as Mr. Blackwell, the self-styled arbiter of taste most famously known for his dishy annual “worst dressed” list.
Before the intermission I found myself the focus of several disdaining over-the-shoulder glances from him and at the break I was decidedly on the receiving end of Mr. Blackwell’s disgust — not because of the standard if unfashionable theatergoing sportcoat-and-slacks ensemble I happened to be wearing that night, but insteadÂ because I was annoying him with my laughter.
Mind you, we weren’t watching “Hamlet” or “Antigone.” In fact, it was a production of “By Jeeves” by Alan Ayckbourn and Andrew Lloyd Webber — a farcical musical comedy for sure and one done well enough to suit my funnybone, but apparently shame on me for deigning to enjoy the ensuing hilarity far too out loud for Mr. Blackwell’s comfort.
Standing when the house lights came up, he spoke to the gentleman accompanying him and wearily saidÂ loud enough that he’d be having a much better time except for “braying” behind him.
So I turned to my date and said “Mr. Blackwell thinks I sound like a jackass, but at least I don’t act like one — at least not before the third act.”
I turned back to him and met his tinted-lensed glare at me until he and his partner adjourned to the lobby. When the curtain went up they had not returned to their seats, opting either to leave the theater entirely or be re-seated among far more humorless patrons.