Ever since “Annie Hall,” I’ve been a Tony Roberts fan. But he was also good in an earlier film, “Serpico,” opposite Al Pacino in the supporting role of New York City Sgt. David Durk. (Every now and then I hear from the real David Durk, an occasional reader of my column who is long retired from the NYPD and lives somewhere in the 845 area code.)
Anyway, on Saturday night I scored some comp tickets to the Broadway revival of “The Royal Family,” a comedy by Edna Ferber and George S. Kaufman that was originally produced in 1927 as a spoof on the famous Barrymore acting family. You get tell it was an old play because there wasn’t a single swear word to be heard and no one dropped their pants.
In fact, the only thing that could remotely be described as obscene was the price of the drinks in the lounge at the packed Samuel J. Friedman Theatre. It was 16 bucks for a Chardonnay and a vodka-tonic served in tiny plastic cups that could have been better used for taking urine samples. But look, you don’t go to the theater to drink.
The play is still in previews, which is when a play is at its most interesting because usually the bugs are still being worked out. During Saturday’s performance, I thought that Roberts, 69, who plays the part of a world-weary theatrical agent, Oscar Wolfe, muffed a couple of his lines early on.
Now, I realize that he may have been showing early symptoms of an illness that cropped up the next day at the Sunday matinee. When he walked out on stage, he was greeted with instant applause (as he was the night before) but then couldn’t deliver his lines. They came out slurred and unintelligible.
The performance was canceled and Roberts was taken to the hospital.
That’s live theater for you. Sometimes you get more drama than you bargained for.