Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes, Meadow, and In the Upper Room

The American Ballet Theatre at the New York City Center on Tuesday, October 24.

I will never forget the sold-out performance of Oroonoko I saw in a small black-box theater. It was a new play, based on Aphra Behn’s seventeenth-century novel and produced by a revered theater company, and I had been excited to see it. My excitement quickly died. The writing was hackneyed and shallow and simplistic—offensively so. Not one character was more than a stereotype, not one plot turn was organic, not one would-be tragic moment earned the emotion it tried to wrench from my tear ducts. I hated the play … and when it was over, everyone around me burst into wild applause and gave it a standing ovation. I have rarely felt so alone at a theatrical performance.

I experienced a similar feeling of alienation of the conclusion of Twyla Tharp’s In the Upper Room Tuesday night. Set to Philip Glass’ relentless minimalism, the cluttered, graceless choreography bored and annoyed me. I was relieved when the work finally ended and mystified that seemingly everyone around me loved it.