Sense Of Boundaries - August 2, 2007 - The New York Sun:
Friday night at the "Hairspray" movie: about a half hour in, I realized that the two people behind me were fully intending to chat throughout the movie. I asked them to stop talking. They were mildly surprised.
Saturday night at the musical "Xanadu:" about a half hour in, I realized that the two people behind me were fully intending to chat Â-- this time out loud Â-- throughout the show. I asked them to stop talking. They were mildly surprised.
At that same performance, a couple of men down the aisle were not just laughing but braying like donkeys and bouncing in their seats after about every third line. A movie critic once designated a campy movie of 1980, "Can't Stop the Music," as aimed at "eight-year-old boys whose favorite movies, when they grow up, will be Auntie Mame and All About Eve." Well, here were some of them all grown up in 2007 at Xanadu, based, as it happens, on another bad, campy movie from 1980. Their heehawing was a performance. They thought the rest of us were interested in them showing that they got the in-jokes.
I, for one, was not. However, there are always people in an audience who lack any sense that they are to keep to themselves during a performance. I will never forget a performance of the play "Topdog/Underdog" some years ago, when some Williamsburg-type hipsters behind me were noshing on sandwiches during the performance, including rattling the paper bags they were packed in. I found the crackling, the chomping sounds, and the wafting odor of onions and cold cuts incommensurate with taking in a serious piece of theatre. Yet when the usher asked them to put the food away during intermission, they were mildly surprised.