Theater Talkback: Odd-Man-Out SyndromeBy CHARLES ISHERWOOD
“Am I missing something?”
If you attend the theater with any regularity, chances are good you’ve had the occasion to inwardly ponder that question at least once in the course of your culture-consuming adult life. You may also have found yourself asking it aloud, of a companion, as you hurtle toward the bar at intermission, or even hissed it, sotto voce, during the show itself. The query, usually arising with a prickly feeling of insecurity or mystification or angst, is a byproduct of a common but little-discussed cultural phenomenon: the odd-man-out syndrome.
This can roughly be described as the experience of attending an event at which much of the audience appears to be having a rollicking good time, while you sit in stony silence, either bored to stupefaction or itchy with irritation, miserably replaying the confluence of life circumstances that have brought you here. (“Curse that Isherwood!”)
The syndrome was perhaps most memorably dramatized on that classic episode of “Seinfeld” – and by the way, there are those who remained immune to that sitcom’s allure – in which Elaine is brought to the edge of nervous collapse by her distaste for the movie “The English Patient,” over which the Oscar voters and most of the rest of the world swooned. (For the record, I was right there with you, Elaine.)
The experience of seeing live performances – or movies — is both personal and collective. Everyone interprets entertainment through a distinct, idiosyncratic prism shaped by taste and experience, but we’re also exposed to the responses of the people around us, who are also interpreting the show through their own individual prisms.Read more at the New York Times on-line. . . .