Mixed to Negative Reviews Despite Record Box Office
Even before it began previews on February 2, 2015, Fish in the Dark has been performing extraordinarily at the box office. This new play written by and starring Larry David (Curb Your Enthusiasm, co-creator of Seinfeld) broke the advance box office record for a straight play by bringing in $13 million prior to the first performance. Ticket buyers were therefore buying blind, as the show was not reviewed until this morning, following last night’s opening on March 5, 2015. Unfortunately for those who have already invested an average of $300 per ticket, the show was received somewhat poorly by professional critics. The most notorious and respected theatre critic, Ben Brantley of The New York Times, gave it a complete flop, and even those that responded positively to the play did so with the caveat that it was Curb Your Enthusiasm extended and for the stage, primarily interesting for pre-existing fans of David’s television accomplishments. Directed by Anna D. Shapiro (This is Our Youth, Motherf**ker with the Hat), the play stars David along with Jayne Houdyshell, Rosie Perez, Rita Wilson, Ben Shenkman, Jerry Adler, and many others in the large ensemble cast.
Ben Brantley of The New York Times claims to have laughed fully only one time in the entire play, faulting the show for being a glorified live witnessing of a celebrity in the flesh. Robert Kahn of NBC New York was slightly more forgiving, but still admitted the stage play felt like an overextended sitcom, mostly appropriate for diehard Larry David aficionados. Nevertheless, the charm that has earned David so many adoring fans seems to affect even high profile critics, as others gave the show positive remarks even while discussing similar opinions to Brantley. David Cote of Time Out New York grandiosely compared Fish in the Dark to an ancient Greek tragedy, praising the offensive honesty of the Seinfeld creator. David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter observed a slightly more recent ancestor to David’s stage creation, comparing him to Neil Simon and the fluffy comedy surrounding the Jewish American family. Rooney also discerned the “pure sitcom” nature of the play, but did not criticize it for this cross-genre flavor, instead proclaiming that this show is a bona fide hit no matter how the reviewers respond. As a reviewer, therefore, Rooney is basically foregoing his responsibility to remark on the quality of the show, instead kowtowing to the established record-breaking box office as indicator of “hit” status.
Well Above 100% of Gross Potential
In the four weeks that box office has been reported thus far, Fish in the Dark has performed remarkably. Furthermore, the rest of the run is reportedly almost sold out, so the reviews were truly moot, whether future committed audience members like it or not. In the most recent reported week, the week ending March 1, 2015, the show brought in $1,159,537 over the course of eight performances, which represents 115.27% of its gross potential. Over the course of previews, the show never made less than 113.39% of its gross potential. With a top ticket price of $423.00, the average paid admission thus far has been around $133.00. This shows that no discounting has taken place, and instead diehard fans are paying premium and inflated prices for the chance to witness David’s Broadway debut.