†††† After many years of reviewing drama, I have decided that the worst part of any show is the audience.

†††† This is not to say that my job is to review the audience. And it is a good thing it is not, for it would take entirely too long. But once one is paid to criticize art, itís rather hard to stop there. You feel the compunction to correct the behavior of those offstage as well. I find myself compelled to write in print about the mouth-breathers and fidgeters and those who kick the back of my chair.

†††† For all the histrionics of bad acting, the cliches of turgid playwriting and all the unimaginative directors who move their performers about with the grace of Aunt Eusticeís three-legged cow, the most common failure, in the theatre, is on the part of people I unfortunately sit near with frightening consistency.

†††† I realize the inappropriateness of combining commentary on thework of Anton Chekhov with a snide aside on the woman who keeps asking her companion why there is only one lonely, shriveled tree for scenery in a production of Samuel Beckettís Waiting for Godot. Just because reviewing the audience is not apropos does not mean I do not yearn to do it.

†††† One wonders whether theancient Greeks were distracted by latecomers to the amphitheatre or whether those who were tardy were seated a few hectares from the stage on the top tier. It would seem that being forced to watch performers who appear no bigger than the nail on your pinkie would be proper treatment for those who cannot arrive on time.

†††† Did those selfsame Greeks also have gentlemen who, during the onstage action, rattled about with candy wrappers or ladies who dug about in their purses, searching for a breath mint with the same monomaniacal zeal as a flat broke prospector panning for gold in 1849?

†††† Unless my knowledge of history is even worse than I fear it is, it seems a sure bet that the ancient Greek theatre did not have to contend with the omnipresent ringing of cellular phones. I can scarcely imagine any reason for taking a phone into a play, unless you have it on good authority that the theatre will eventually catch fire and you will need to make a quick call from your seat.

†††† I may be totally wrong but I believe that the failure of theatre audiences, when they do fail, although no audience totally fails, is a failure of, for lack of a better term, focus. If a theatre attendee cannot last two hours or, in the case of a Eugene OíNeill play, a week and a half, without needing to do something else, then by all means, do something else. I would recommend not going to the theatre but merely reading theatre reviews, especially the ones that criticize the audience, if you can find them.