In a story that’s been going around the internet for about a day and a half now, Kevin Williamson, a theater columnist for The National Review, is currently being hailed as a hero to anyone who’s ever lacked the balls to shush a fellow theater goer. While attending a performance of the musical Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 this week, he was sitting next to a woman who refused to stop playing with her phone during the show. Eventually he took matters in to his own hands, grabbing the woman’s phone and chucking it towards an open door, never to be seen again. (I say “defenestrates,” because it’s possible it went out a window, and hey, it’s a fun word).
I suppose it should be noted that this whole story came from Williamson himself.
“The main offenders were two parties of women of a certain age, the sad sort with too much makeup and too-high heels, and insufficient attention span for following a two-hour musical. But my date spoke with the theater management during the intermission, and they apologetically assured us that the situation would be remedied. It was not.”
I’m assuming the age he means is 4, but I’ve been watching a lot of Toddlers and Tiaras lately. Gothamist picks up the story from there…
Once the performance resumed, the woman sitting to Williamson’s right on his bench would not, he says, stop using her cell phone. “It looked like she was Googling or something,” Williamson tells us. “So I leaned over and told her it was distracting and told her to put it away. She responded, ‘So don’t look.’ ”
Blood boiling, Williamson says he then asked her, sarcastically, “whether there had been a special exemption for her about not using her phone during the play. She told me to mind my own business, and so I took the phone out of her hands. I meant to throw it out the side door, but it hit some curtains instead. I guess my aim’s not as good as it should be.” Asked if the phone was damaged, Williamson says, “It had to be; I threw it a pretty good distance.”
According to Williamson, the woman then slapped him in the face and, after failing to find her phone, stormed out. Soon the show’s security director asked to “have a word” with Williamson, and they stepped out into the lobby. “I told him I would be happy to leave,” Williamson recalls. “They tried to keep me there. He said the lady was talking about filing charges. So I waited around for a bit, but it seemed to be taking a while. He did try to physically keep me in, and was standing in the door blocking me, telling me I couldn’t leave. I inquired as to whether he was a police officer and I was under arrest, and since I wasn’t, I left.”
A publicist for the production did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But if the cell phone user decides to press charges, Williamson says he’s willing to face her in court.
This is one of those things that most people want to do when presented with someone being rude in the theater, but we usually don’t, for two reasons:
1. We don’t want to cause even more of a disturbance than the rude person is already being by confronting them. This seems to have played out exactly as most of us fear in this instance.
2. We don’t want to get beaten up by the person we’re shushing or worse, stabbed with a meat thermometer.
The key factor that allowed Williamson to act was the fact he was watching musical theater. Let’s be honest, there are few places in the world where you can be more assured of not getting your ass kicked than in the audience for musical theater. And the fear of causing an even bigger disturbance was in this case mitigated by the fact that it was only going to disturb more musical theater. In any case, cheers to Kevin Williamson, for his perfectly logical response.