I have just returned from an evening at the theatre. LA theatre, that is. The play was “The Shape of All Things” by Neil Labutte, the production of which was staged by a small theatre group in Burbank/Toluca Lake.
Whilst I could give a critique of the performances, the direction, and overall production, what turned out to be far more interesting (and more distressing) was the audience’s outrageously horrifically unforgivably undeniably egregious beyond all reason behavior.
Now I understand that the Los Angeles theatre-going community doesn’t hold a candle to that of New York or London (or Islamabad, I’ve heard) but the following account is inexcusable. Subsequently, I am setting it down on paper (or web ether) as a smug “pat on the back” to all those people who actually know how to behave once the lights dim and the curtain rises. Please note that I have also attempted to recount the audience’s shenanigans in as truthful and straightforward a manner, and without exaggeration.
1. Throughout the play the audience took no shame in talking unabashedly and without cease. For instance, providing running commentary to the person seated next to them, hushed repetitions of favorite lines, or reminders of how similarly they behaved when they were in that very situation.
2. Then there was the woman happily munching away at her Doritos, which I might add were provided by the theatre itself. Granted, at intermission a theatre employee kindly asked people reentering the theatre not to bring in any food. The damage, however, was most heavily already done.
3. There’s also the case of the woman urgently rummaging in her bag for who the hell knows what. Sadly she never found it. I know, because I was certainly more interested in her bag at that moment than anything else that might have been going on onstage.
4. How about the people catcalling and whistling every time one of the actresses stepped on to stage between scenes to rearrange the furniture and props. I understand that they were enthusiastic about supporting a pal, chum, or otherwise member of their clan. However, what the …?
You might say, “Why didn’t you tell people to be quiet?” The answer is, “I did.” But given that the audience seemed to believe it was sitting on its collective fat arse in the luxury of a remote living room, my occasional “Shhh” did little more than add its own aural flavor to the already cacophonous space and elicit some hateful glares.
5. And finally, the coup de grâce, the jewel in the crown, the pièce de résistance. At the height of the final scene the characters are unleashing their pent up emotion in a torrent of bile, a follow up to an otherwise vicious tale of manipulation and deceit. In a rare moment of pause a woman’s clear voice rings out from the audience, crisper and more cutting than her thespian counterparts. She cries out:
“Do you have a place in Japan?”
I’m flabbergasted. Words fail me. I don’t know what to say. When the play was over I asked the accursed woman, lumping as much venom into a simple question. “Did you fall asleep?” “No,” she replied. “I got really dizzy”.