Lamprey in Watertown

December 3rd, 2008 by Harrumpher Leave a reply »

Slicker clad seamen bounding over my ankles in the dark on the way to the stage in just in front of us all is how I recall Moby Dick, an American Opera at the New Rep in 2000. To noobs who go to the far tonier Watertown incarnation, that used to be the Newton Repertory Theatre in, of all places, Newton. The small, sort of rundown church on Lincoln Street in Newton Highlands demanded much of the actors. You were on the damned stage with them, or very nearly by a couple of feet.santaland.jpg

Now the uxorial unit was booking five seats for the David Sedaris holiday thingummy, The Santaland Diaries.  The new all-business, all the-time theater was on her. In the stigma of true professionalism, they were plucking a buck here, twenty there — lampreys on the sides of the theater goers.

It’s the little bleeding that makes you ask, “Why do they do that? Don’t they want to sell me tickets?”

We subscribed for years when they were still in Newton and we didn’t see sneaky fees. You paid a set subscription, usually for five plays on given nights. They sent your tickets. If you couldn’t make that date, they’d gladly swap you with another. They were sweet and your price was your price.

In this new Watertown world, non-subscribers have three ways of bleeding:

  • Internet — $4 per ticket
  • Telephone — $3.50 per ticket
  • Box Office — $1 per ticket

To grind it in, you don’t see the hidden fees until you are well through the purchase cycle and screens. At the final total, they reveal the vigorish. Then, they put in a “tip” field, asking for donations. They don’t have the social skills of wolverines.

Grok that, stranger. Drive past the Arsenal Mall. Take your time and gas and effort to go to their box office. Still, you pay a per-ticket premium on top of the price…at their convenience, with no handling, no postage, no anything.

My wife asked about that dollar and got a weary sigh. The guy on the phone had been through that before. He told her that the attorney general says it’s legal.

It may be, but it’s wrong.

You might be able to say for tickets mailed that it does cost New Rep something, so like any retailer, they should be able to recoup the cost of shipping the goods. But unlike the book or MP3 player, there’s negligible postage or packing. Moreover, it costs no more to send four tickets than one, so the fee should be per order, not per ticket. In fact, a savvy strategy would be like Amazon’s with free delivery for a threshold amount, say $100 in this case.

If their web host or online store charges them per ticket, they need to switch vendors. If they are gouging simply because they can get away with it, bah humbug!

New Rep comes across like gonifs. They annoy with skimming a little here, a little there.

As well as the inconvenient spot, New Rep had already tried to drive us away. After subscribing for years, we quit two years after the move from Newton. Yeah, they have a free garage there — the post-bombing look — but it’s a royal pain to wade through traffic to get to the burbs. Far worse though is that they have been doing fewer and fewer challenging plays and more over-performed crowd pleasers. That may be why long-time Artistic Director Rick Lombardo is headed to where they don’t ski, San Jose, after this season. When we want predictable and clichéd, we can head to the Huntington.

We’ll still do the Sedaris play because the family will be together from several locations. Also, it’s Sedaris, not the umpteenth version of A Christmas Carol.

We liked the old New Rep. The new New Rep has a bad rep around here.


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