Small World

Sometimes we just don't get to do what we want. Sure, it's rough, because we'd all like to trust in that supposed God-given American birthright that tells us anything we desire is ours. Get over it. With people headed out to catch the 2001 theater season's last gasps, it's important that we remain diligently fascist in our belief that rules of audience etiquette are not to be broken. We've been over the turn-off-your-cell-phones thing. We've almost conquered the don't-unwrap-your-little-candies fiasco. So let's walk through the addendum: You may not attend any kind of theatrical offering if . . .

Curtain is at 7:30 and you're thinkin', you know, 7:30 is probably an OK time to get movin' cause you'll only miss the previews. Hey, brainiac, this isn't Shallow Hal. The play is scheduled to start at 7:30, so you should probably pull yourself away from that illuminating Entertainment Tonight piece on what Joanna Kerns has been up to since the cancellation of Growing Pains and haul it to the theater.

You know someone in the cast of a play—or, worse, everyone in the cast—and can't think of a better way to show your support than to laugh hysterically at everything they say. You know what? If your friend is really all that talented, he should be able to elicit yuks on his own. Don't encourage the little bugger if he stinks, all right? It's hard, yes, to sit in quiet torment watching a piece that is stubbornly ignoring its own death throes—welcome to the world of theater. Worried that your friend will call you on your silence afterward? Look befuddled and respond, "What? You couldn't hear me?" or sigh with serene beatitude, "I was too busy smiling." Do not bring the rest of us into your internal dilemmas.

You have an uncontrollable cough that could summon a moose in Alberta. Don't do us any favors and display your abiding love of theater by attending a show despite your ailment. Really. Too many shows are beginning to sound like an evening of volatile phlegm interrupted by occasional snatches of dialogue.

A personal favorite recent etiquette criminal: the still-at-large woman at the Empty Space opening of the Matthew Shepard remembrance, The Laramie Project, who just wouldn't stop hacking during Dennis Shepard's statement concerning whether the young man who tortured his young gay son to death should be given the death penalty. God bless, ma'am.

And God bless us, every one.

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