Vol. 5, Issue 1, March 6, 2007
"Sold Out" Broadway Show Can't Sell Tickets
Broadway is facing a difficult season as its newest show has been forced to close after just five weeks due to extremely poor sales.
Sold Out is a gripping play about the lives of a prominent East German family facing the challenges that followed the reunification of Germany. The critically acclaimed play has been cited for its honesty and stellar performances, but despite the positive publicity the theater has struggled to fill seats.
"I think the American public just may not be ready for this kind of nuanced theatrical dialogue," fumed playwright Marcel Pathelin. "Despite the optimistic talk about a cultural revival in recent years, audiences still want light, non-threatening theatrical experiences. It isn't the first time I've run into this problem."
Pathelin's most recent drama, the 2002 play Closed for Repairs, also did poorly, suffering nearly nonexistent ticket sales before bowing off the stage for the last time after just six weeks. That play, which dealt with a corrupt politician facing a bribery scandal during the 2000 elections, received strong critical acclaim as well.
"In the case of Closed for Repairs I think it was too soon after the elections, people were not ready to experience a theatrical version of the events just yet," said Pathelin. "However, Sold Out is a much less immediate subject. Why are people just walking past the theater? It's because they are attracted to mindless fluff."
Pathelin's bitterness is fueled by the success of such light-hearted comedies such as Voted Play of the Year, a modern 'drawing-room comedy' set in Newark, New Jersey; despite scathing reviews, the show has been sold out for months.
However, some theater critics have suggested that the situation is not as simple as Pathelin paints it. Frank Villon, the drama critic for the New York Times, notes that there are serious shows, such as All Tickets Half Price, which deals with ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, that have managed to pull in audiences despite their challenging subject matter.
"At some point, you have to stop pointing fingers and start wondering whether the problem isn't Pathelin himself," said Villon. "He maintains a very high public profile, and it isn't all that flattering for the most part; he comes off as kind of an intellectual snob. Given the undeniable quality of his work, it seems the only logical explanation as to why his shows just don't sell tickets."
Pathelin is not letting this most recent failure slow him down. After briefly considering a revival of the classic Depression-era Noel Coward comedy Free Lunch, which drew record crowds during its run in the early 1930s, he has decided instead to produce another of his own plays, insisting that this one will bring in customers despite its heady subject matter (nuclear physics).
"We'll be opening Air Conditioning Broken in the middle of August sometime," said Pathelin enthusiastically. "I've got a good feeling about this one."