Hold the Phone! Critic Kevin Williamson Sounds Off on Theatre Etiquette Following Natasha Cell Phone Incident
17 May 2013
National Review roving correspondent and theatre critic Kevin Williamson, who attended the final preview of Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 on May 15, was ejected from the audience for impulsively throwing a fellow audience member's cell phone during performance. Williamson spoke with Playbill.com about the incident.
Williamson first reported the incident — where an audience member sitting next to him at the theatre refused to put away her cell phone during the Off-Broadway immersive theatrical experience Natasha, Pierre, causing him to respond impulsively and be thrown out of the theatre — in his piece "Theater Night: Vigilantes 1, Vulgarians 0" published on National Review Online.
"[I was] surrounded by awful, disruptive people who didn't seem to know that they were at a show as opposed to at a nightclub or rock concert," Williamson told Playbill.com. "[The theatregoers had] been talking throughout — and talking quite loudly amongst themselves — about something that was apparently unrelated. I was thinking that if you have that short of an attention span, maybe a two-and-a-half opera based on 'War and Peace' is not really the place for you. Anyway, we spoke to the house manager during the intermission about the situation, and they said that they would speak to them [and] do something about it. From what I understand, they did, but it didn't seem to [help the situation]. The lady was continuing to use her cell phone there next to me."
Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 is housed at Kazino, a new intimate venue created specifically for the show that places the audience closely together.
"It's bench seating there in the back, so she was basically in my lap," said Williamson. "I asked her politely if she'd put [her cell phone] away because it was distracting, and her response was, 'So don't look.'" After a back-and-forth argument, Williamson grabbed the patron's cell phone and tossed it across the room — aiming for the exit. The angered theatregoer slapped Williamson and "stormed out," crossing directly in front of the action in Natasha, Pierre.
"Maybe ten minutes later," Williamson continued, "the security guy came and got me, and that was that."