The show must go on, unless the lead actor breaks character and jumps into the audience to fight a drunk heckler. Then the show gets canceled.
Producers sounded the death knell on a Los Angeles revival of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof this week after the fourth wall was beaten down by a confrontation between actor John Lacy and a noticeably drunk man who wouldn't stop heckling.
According to witnesses, the man catcalled whenever the Maggie character was onstage and yelled insults at other actors, who played on faithfully until things turned homophobic when Brick, an oppressed gay character portrayed by Anton Troy, rejected Maggie in a scene.
"Because he's a fag," the heckler reportedly yelled.
That's when Lacy—playing Big Daddy—lost it.
Lacy explained, "Brick tried to respond, and he said it again. I just said, 'What did you say, motherf*cker?' … I went through our fake stage door, took off my vest, went into the audience — as he stood proudly to stare at me with a stupid grin on his face — [and] I pushed him, and he was drunk, so he easily just collapsed… I knew better than to start throwing punches. I had made my point. I silenced the heckler, and thankfully, one of the audience members — this enormous 6'5'', 280-lb. filmmaker named Tim Sullivan, who happened to be gay and was not at all happy with what was happening — reached over and picked this guy up by his shirt collar and literally carried him out of the theatre."
Though the actors resumed their places and finished the show, Lacy was summarily fired and Troy apparently immediately quit in solidarity. With both lead actors gone, the production was forced to shut down early.
And apparently not all the drama took place in front of the audience. After the incident, Emily Low, who played Maggie, complained to the LA Weekly that she's been made the victim of a scurrilous whisper campaign:
- The main heckler was not, as has been alleged, her boyfriend. That's a rumor to "vilify and slander me," Low said. She said the two men in the audience were acquaintances at best, a duo among hundreds she says she invited through social media or other means.
- She never supported the hecklers' side of things, as has also been alleged. Low says her perspective was that violence should never have been threatened or used by either side. Actors have to deal with good and negative reactions, she said, and have to be professional about it.
[image via CBS]