Melinda Schupmann (Showmag.com, Back Stage West), one of the gentlest souls to ever assay a theatrical production, admits, "I loathe the audience plant who chortles, hee-haws, guffaws, titters, or brays in my ear, often slightly ahead of the joke, which gives one pause."
House-paperers, you've been put on notice. I was also amused by the tiny things that bother critics—Trader Joe's shopping bags turning up in a play ostensibly set in Kansas, for instance, or this one:
Critic Sharon Perlmutter (Talkinbroadway.com) recently went to one of the area's more reputable, and larger, theatres only to become fixated on the timepiece that remained obdurately fixed. "The distraction value of the non-functioning clock ruined what was otherwise an excellent set," she said. God, or your personal understanding of a higher power, is in the details.
Jones gives a helpful explanation of how to make phone-ringing effects more, well, effective (and he even offers a link to a site that explains how to hook up stage phones to ring). But I must hold my head in shame—the shame of recognition—at these unminced words:
Chances are that, if a critic is able to dig up a date at all, they will most likely not have three dollars between them. Critics attend the theatre as a simulacrum of a social life, as the real thing involves purchased tickets and, sometimes, purchased food. The program practically counts as the shared reading in a very small book club.
What a cutting bitch that Wenzel can be—but he's our cutting bitch.