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Jewish World Review June 2, 2000 / 28 Iyar, 5760

Greg Crosby

Greg Crosby
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Consumer Reports

Another Opening, Another Show -- AS I WRITE THIS, it is about 4:15 PM on a Tuesday afternoon. In an hour or so we will eat dinner then get dressed to go to a local playhouse, the El Portel Theater (or the El Portel Center for the Arts, as they call it now) for play three of the four play series we subscribed to last year. Tonight's offering is called, "The Play's The Thing" starring Hal Linden. I know what I'm having for dinner, I don't know what I'm wearing to the theater.

For the previous two shows of this series I dressed as I have for most of my adult theater-going life -- in a suit and tie. Both times I fit in with the El Portel crowd about as well as if I had gone to Western Costume and rented a Scarlet Pimpernel outfit. I found people were actually staring at me -- so much so that I kept checking my fly. Once, while standing at the top of the aisle, a woman walked over to me, handed me her ticket and expected me to show her to her seat.

The apparel of choice for most of the men in the audience appeared to be "California casual," which means "if it feels good, wear it." Mostly knit shirts, sport shirts, and a few sweaters worn over Dockers or some other equally casual pants. And yes, there were a few sport coats and maybe one other guy in a suit -- he might have been the theater manager, I don't know.

The date I chose for the series happened to be the first night of previews, which is also one of the cheap seat nights. That means lots of senior group sales. One would think that the audience would be dressed nicer since they were an older crowd, but age has nothing to do with it anymore. Dressing up for a night out has become an archaic custom, especially in Southern California where a T-shirt without anything printed on it is considered formal attire.

So I don't know what I'm going to wear tonight. I know I always feel better about myself when I'm dressed, but bucking the trend does get wearisome, and getting mistaken for ushers can really get you down. I'll just see how I feel after I eat. Well, I'll stop now and report back to you later tonight, after the play.


Tuesday night, 10:30 PM. Okay, here I am back again. I decided to wear chinos, penny loafers and a silk sport shirt. No tie. No jacket. Deep down I wasn't happy about it, either -- I left the house feeling like I was going to the supermarket. But let me tell you all that changed once I got to the theater and saw what other people looked like. If I looked like I was going to the supermarket, everyone else looked like they were going to the beach.

I'm not joking. People were actually dressed in shorts, short sleeve polo shirts, and canvas sneakers. Some men were wearing those soft cotton hats, the kind that usually have fishing lures attached to them -- I don't know what that's all about. In fairness, there was a small smattering of sport jackets, and a couple of ties, but no suits that I could see. Most people were super casual.

No one looked at me. I simply melted into the sea of casualness that was this audience. I conformed. I hated it. I made up my mind that next time I'm dressing in a suit no matter what. I don't care if people stare at me. I don't even care if people ask me to show them to their seats.

During intermission we renewed our subscription but we changed from previews to regular performance dates. We're hoping that a younger crowd will be better dressed.

Oh, by the way -- the play was pretty good.

JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a letter to his congressman. You may contact him by clicking here.


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© 2000, Greg Crosby