A woman described as a veteran theatregoer was struck by a broken prop at the March 5 Broadway performance of Edward Albee's The Goat at the Golden Theatre, prompting her to seek treatment at a hospital.
A spokesman for the new work — which already has the theatre community buzzing over the subject matter of a married man's revelation of a four-legged extramarital affair — confirmed to Playbill On-Line what has been posted on internet message boards: In Scene Two of the intermissionless play, Mercedes Ruehl (in a scripted moment in-character) smashed a piece of pottery in anger, and a shard of the prop struck the face of a woman in the front row. After a few moments, the woman left the house and was assisted by staff. She received six stitches at a hospital and the producers are inviting her back as a guest. The producers paid the woman's medical bill, as well.
"She's looking forward to coming back to see the rest of the play," spokesman Sam Rudy said, adding that she was good natured about the incident and the company is exploring ways "to minimize the chance that this would happen again."
Like a lot of people who are talking about the play, which has the subtitle, Or, Who Is Sylvia?, the woman with the stitches was described as being curious about how the unusual domestic drama ends. In previews, the creative team has reportedly been tinkering with the climax of the piece.
In The Goat, Bill Pullman and Mercedes Ruehl play a stylish couple whose home is well-appointed with art pieces such as pottery. The world-premiere play, helmed by David Esbjornson, opens March 10. John Arnone designed the sets. Flying objects and slippery props are not unknown in the theatre, and mishaps are a fact of life in a live performance setting. Netting has been placed over orchestra pits to prevent props such as dishes from falling off the stage in expansive and prop-heavy shows such as Les Misérables, and the Roundabout Theatre Company's 2001 staging of the darkly comic A Skull in Connemara memorably had bits of plaster skulls flying into the audience when a character smashed the craniums with a mallet. Actors have been known to fall off the stage in such shows as the in-your-face Urinetown and Starlight Express, bring new meaning to breaking the fourth wall. At Broadway's Metamorphoses, audiences are warned before the show that water may be splashed on them from the on-stage pool.
Internet message board users who attended the March 5 show and later wrote about the scene kiddingly dubbed the incident "Ruehl Rage" — the character is indeed angry — and suggested the hub bub in the house threw off some of the energy of actors in the Tuesday performance. The show was not halted.
Ruehl and her fellow company members were concerned, spokesman Rudy said, and have sent flowers to the injured theatregoer.