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MAD AS HELL : The Audiences Got Smaller (Minded)

December 19, 1993| Mad as Hell is an occasional feature in which readers may express their views on issues related to the arts and entertainment. Let the phrase uttered by Howard Beale (as portrayed by Peter Finch, left, in the movie "Network") be your guide: "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!"

It is high time to address the issue of the appalling (and increasing) bad manners of theater audiences. Someone must inform people that when the overture begins, conversation should cease. Anything other than the most urgent communication--i.e., "I think I'm having a heart attack, call 911"--can wait for intermission.

At a recent performance of "Sunset Boulevard," both the opening and second-act overtures were accompanied by constant chatter from the audience. Even the dimming of the house lights was not enough to hush the compulsive talkers; some even continued to chat after the curtain went up.

It is also offensive to dash madly for the exits during the curtain calls--actors who have given a fine performance deserve every bit of applause. A standing ovation should not be the occasion for premature races to the parking lot.

A special bit of bad manners I observed: While devouring an apple in the seat in front of me, a young woman criticized in a loud and penetrating voice the peculiarities of those in the audience who had chosen to wear elegant apparel. "After all, it's just a Tuesday," she informed everyone in earshot.

For many of us, the price of live theater tickets being what it is, an evening of theater is an occasion calling for our best in every way--clothing, attention and, above all, consideration for others. It's not TV in the living room, where the only ones you annoy are the members of your own family.

ELINOR J. LENCH

Sepulveda

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