No doubt you saw it too: Groucho Marx couldn’t have staged it all any better. Ten seconds into the professor’s analysis, the office door swings open and a little girl marches in like a toy soldier; clearly she is joining a party which has somehow mistakenly begun without her. The audience realizes that this is a home office and the expert professor is instantly recast as the hapless father who tries and fails to execute a back-handed re-direct. Already too little too late: his authority has vaporized, the victim to his daughter’s certainty of her own welcome. Our hearts go out to him but the battle has already been lost.
What else could possibly go wrong?
Well, I didn’t expect a baby in a wheeled contraption to come careening through the door. Now there are three participants in the segment and the kids outnumber the professor. Viewers are holding their breath.
But wait — the mother has just realized that the kids are missing! She’s no slouch and, like every good wife in the world, she springs into action. Sliding through the door like Kramer, she executes a right turn, grabs the kids and over their loud vocal protests drags them backwards in a tangle out of the room. All three disappear from view. Husband carries on as if nothing has happened although of course everyone is focused on that open door. The last few seconds catch the heroic wife bellying back like a commando to pull it shut.
It was pure theatre of the absurd. Have you ever heard of a “French scene? ” Simply, every arrival or departure of an actor is recognized as triggering a new chemistry and therefore a new scene. This comic genius of a YouTube capture actually contains five French scenes in less than thirty seconds. Moreover, it is hilariously funny mainly because this farce was playing out on live television. If you don’t laugh, you’ll cry. And the mini-play had a hero, of course. Because there was nobody else to solve the problem , the mom pulled herself together and got her ducklings back in a row. I think she was wonderful. Personally, I would have made immediate plans to enter a convent.
Its universal appeal is obvious. All of us can remember a time we found ourselves totally exposed in front of an audience. Clearly it’s not the guy in the suit but that poor heroic woman we bleed for, while traitorously laughing to reduce our horror. It took me back to the time Sally MacArthur, who had a gorgeous soprano voice but no loyalty, decided as the curtain opened to freeze and simply close her mouth, leaving me to sing the entire alto part of our concert duet by myself. I still have nightmares about that one but at least they are largely private memories. There’s a lot to be said for having pre-dated the Internet.