ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Luxury Problems | Playbill

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News ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Luxury Problems Have you heard the expression "luxury problem"?
Lea DeLaria
Lea DeLaria

Like the quandary Jerry Herman was in eight times a week during the mid-sixties: "Hmm…should I see the first act of my smash musical Hello, Dolly! and then catch the second act of my smash musical Mame? Or vice versa?" That was me and my boyfriend all last week. We went up to Provincetown to do some shows for "Family Week" because it was run by the rFamilyVacations people (who do the Rosie cruise). Essentially, we're both in the worst moods now because our vacation wasn’t perfect. So I know that's a luxury problem, but please allow me to vent. Firstly, we went to a restaurant that lured us in with a man standing in front of it holding a menu. I looked at it and decided that I wanted the delish lobster salad and thought the prices were A-OK. James and I sat down and (a) they then informed me that they no longer make lobster salad and (b) when we both opened our menu, we noticed that someone had meticulously put liquid paper on every price and raised it a dollar. But I guess the one menu they managed to miss was the one the man was holding outside. I'm sure that was just a coincidence.

Then James got food poisoning from said restaurant and had to start using the bathroom as often as a typical Christmas Carol at Madison Square Garden daily show schedule (believe me, that's a ton of times a day). Also, since I was doing my own show, the theatre gave me a great one-bedroom apartment. "Great," except for the fact that most of P-town has that Massachusetts attitude of, "Why would anyone possibly want air conditioning? This state was founded on hard work and deprivation. Sweating all night long is a badge of courage. Pass the chowder.” The whole first night was brutal. I tossed and turned because I felt like I was starring in Farah Fawcett Major's first dramatic turn ("The Burning Bed." Anybody?)

So, finally, the second night I had a complete breakdown from the heat and feeling bad for James with his upset stomach. And I couldn’t believe how extra hot the apartment was. The weird thing was that every time I went to the window to get some air, I felt even hotter. Could it be that hot outside? Finally, I bent down near the window pane to see why it was so boiling in that area, and my hand touched a scalding hot radiator. That's right, James' six-year-old daughter Juli had tried to put on the overhead light hours before and, by accident, turned the heat on — to 80 degrees! That was it for all of us. I grabbed everybody and booked us a room at "Christopher's by the Bay," which is a great guest house. Hmm…let me be honest, it is a great guest house, but quite frankly it could have been that crazy Saddam Hussein hole! The only thing we cared about was that it had air conditioning. We all traipsed over there at 11 PM and, even though I was getting free housing from the theatre, I paid for the next three nights because I don’t enjoy vacationing in a Dutch oven.

Anyhoo, while in P-town we all went to see that divine drag artist, Edie. Edie is really Christopher Kenny, a fiercely tall, beautiful ex-ballet dancer who I've done tons of benefits with and who was in the Threepenny Opera revival last year. Edie is a very sweet, adorable character and the show went over great with the guys and gals in the audience and the many children in attendance. Hmph. I never got to see shows like that when I was a kid. Although, I have mentioned before that my parents took me to the movie theatre when I was seven to see "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" and Nurse Ratched is one inch away from a drag queen. She flat out looks like she's wearing a lace front (wig). Plus, Louise Fletcher later starred in the movie version of "Flowers in the Attic," a camp classic.

By the way, not only did six-year-old Juli love Edie, but so did ten-year-old Maggie…my dog. Before the show, we were all eating outside and ran into Lea DeLaria. She mentioned that Edie's show was starting, but I said I didn't have time to take Maggie home. She told us that she plays the same theatre, and it's dog friendly. I didn't really believe her, but the next thing I know, Lea walked us in and Maggie planted herself in the aisle…and she loved it. I always knew she had a campy sense of humor. Also, here's a pronunciation lesson that should be taught in "Survey of Theatre" classes across the country. It's LAY-uh Salonga and LEE-uh DeLaria. James and I were sitting outside and heard some pretentious guy say to his circle, "Let me introduce you all to my good friend, Lay-uh DeLaria." That's like saying, "Let me introduce you to my good friend Wise Guys." It's Bounce, people! Bounce!

All right, here’s the part where the vacation plummeted. James, Juli and I went to "George's Pizza" and bought some pizza. As we were sitting at the table eating, I got up to get Juli a cup of water.

MAN BEHIND COUNTER: We sell bottles of water.
ME: Oh…I just want a paper cup of water.
MAN BEHIND COUNTER: We don’t do that.
ME: Plastic bottles are bad for the environment.
MAN BEHIND COUNTER: You can buy a paper cup…for $1.75. That’s the price of a bottle of water. ME: (Defiantly) Fine.
MAN BEHIND COUNTER: (Takes cup of water, puts ice in it, turns on faucet, fills it. Takes $1.75 from me.)

I was totally going to lead a Ragtime/"He wanted to say"/Emma Goldman-style protest of the restaurant…but it was way too hot to picket. So I just told the story to everybody I could, making me sound either like a folk hero or that crazy person on line at Fairway that you avoid by staring straight ahead.

Anyhoo, I did my Deconstructing show at the Provincetown Theater (which, by the way, is a really nice space), and it went great. The terrifying thing about P-town is that people don't buy tickets for shows, essentially until "places." So the whole day I was devastated because Juli decided to have a play date that night instead of coming to my show, and I thought that meant I lost half my audience. But, thankfully, at the last minute I wound up having a great house.

We finally fled P-town after James had a fight with a toy store because they wouldn't let Juli use the employee bathroom (I stared straight ahead, Fairway-style) and decided to drive down the Cape to visit my old college friend, Liz Higgins. Liz and I were piano majors at Oberlin, and she now lives in Boston. I always use her as an example when I talk to Broadway synth players about "checking your patch." The different sounds synths play (organ, electric piano, sound effects) are called "patches," and you change them by hitting a switch…either on the synth or with a foot pedal. But sometimes, the switch doesn't work or it skips two sounds ahead, so you should always check to see what patch you’re on before you play. Liz was playing A Christmas Carol in Boston (look back to the beginning of the article), and during a love scene she was supposed to play two soft chimes. Unfortunately, she had it on the "scary ghost" patch. So, instead of the lovers hearing the sound of a distant church bell (ding….ding) , they literally heard "who-o-o-o… who-o-o-o-o" with signature old man ghost vibrato.

While I was at the Cape, I heard that the Actor’s Playhouse is closing. I'm devastated because that’s where I did my one-man-show, Rhapsody in Seth, and I loved that theatre. I'm thrilled though because there was an article in Backstage about actors that performed there who moved on to greater prominence, and it included my name next to James Earl Jones and Robert DeNiro’s! Do you think that they were so excited that they emailed the article to their parents like I did?

So, we all had a great time with Liz, and as we drove home I thought that the vacation would end on an up note. Then in the car Juli said, "There’s a bug on Maggie." I thought, "Oh! She's so cute! She's concerned because a fly landed on Maggie" I turned to look where she was pointing and saw a blatant tic on the inside of Maggie's ear! We pulled over, bought tweezers and James pulled it off. I thought to myself, "Why should I be panicked that it had Lyme disease…just because the last place we went to a rest stop was in Lyme, Connecticut?!?!" Why don't they at least change the name of that town? Who wants to make a pit stop in Hepatitis, Rhode Island?

We finally got home, and I calmed myself down by realizing that everything I was upset about was a luxury problem. I walked into my apartment, ready to do some new video blogs and discovered that I left my brand new iMac at Liz's house on the Cape…and she had left for Boston. Let me end with this chestnut: I need a vacation from my vacation. And a new iMac.

* (Seth Rudetsky is the host of "Seth's Big Fat Broadway" on SIRIUS Satellite Radio and the author of "The Q Guide to Broadway." He has played piano in the orchestras of 15 Broadway musicals, and he can be contacted by visiting www.sethsbroadwaychatterbox.com.)

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