what if you thought the show was terrible? the worst thing you've seen since "lestat"? (sorry tommar, you were great.) what if your friends performance was, shall we say, lacking? how do you greet those friends immediately after you've sat through their horrible show?
honesty is the best policy. to a point. i've spent plenty of uncomfortable moments standing outside that stage door watching friends squirm and struggle as they try to find the right words to say. i've also spent plenty of uncomfortable moments coming out that stage door only to realize those friends have just gone home. (word to the wise: if you have a distinctive laugh or a bald head or you're the artistic director of another theater in town you can't just sneak out of the theater once the curtain falls. your friends in the show know you were there and they're waiting patiently backstage for your unabashed praise.)
it's my sincere belief that if you see a friend in a show and you think they stink to high heaven, you can still say "good job" and mean it. someone who walks out in front of eight, 80 or 800 people and manages to say all the words in basically the right order and not bump into the furniture or too many of the other actors (unless, of course, they were supposed to) is deserving of at least "good job." a simple pat on the back.
from there, it's often possible to find at least one other thing that you didn't abhor. your friends costumes in the funeral scene, the intricate set design, the beautiful lights during the carnival song, the third spear-carrier from the left, that adorable usher in the mezzanine, the helicopter in act two, the downstairs ladies restrooms. something.
if you can't do any of this after seeing a stinky performance, then i suggest you don't go see your friends in shows. period. you're probably not a very happy person to begin with and in fact might struggle to find something good to say about mother theresa.
now. if you are the actor in the show, and afterwords you turn to the friend who's come to see you and say "tell me what you really thought," well then, you're asking for trouble. you've opened the door to blatant honesty, and the last thing you want after sweating through a performance of "i do, i do" at the dutch apple dinner theater in lancaster, pa is blatant honesty. trust me. don't ask the question if you don't want to hear the answer. if you've just opened a show, it might not be the most prudent time to find out your friend just doesn't like "dracula, the musical." wait until your show has closed, and then ask. the truth will be easier to hear then, and you'll save yourself (and your poor friend) piles of unwanted embarrassment.
here are a few post-show lines i've heard over the years. these, by the way, are dead give-aways, and the friends who said them might as well have set themselves on fire and run around the parking lot screaming "it was terrible! it was terrible! and you were the worst thing in it!"
and the worst possible thing to say to a friend after a show:
"i don't think i've ever heard shakespeare's words
spoken quite like that!"
"did you hear that crowd?
i wish you could have been in the audience."
"you did such a good job...in those heels."
"i thought everyone was good in their own parts."
"now that was interesting."