Theater Review - The Tyranny of Phones (Op Ed)

Recently, I attended a production of “Macbeth” at the Hartford Stage. As soon as the lights went down, in the row in front of me and a little to the left, a couple--a man and a woman in their thirties-- began filming this dark and dramatic play on their cell phones. The bright lights of their devices shone like beacons of distraction.  

There are, of course, all kinds of notices written and verbal which tell people that this is illegal. There was no way I could stop them; I would have had to get out of my seat, move over and speak, causing a disturbance. So I sat and fumed until intermission. Then I sprang from my seat, moved over to them and yelled, “What do you think you are doing??”

They smiled widely and the guy said, “We are filming the show.”

 “Well, you can’t,” I said. “Cease and desist! Immediately.”

At that moment all the people behind me started to shout, “You have been ruining the show for us.”

My companion and I headed for the lobby, where we informed one of the ushers of what was happening. “We know,” he said, “we are taking care of it.”

When we returned to our seats, the couple was still there, but their cameras were stashed and they remained quiet for the rest of the show. I was surprised that they were allowed to stay. At Yankee Stadium, after committing a crime, you are escorted out. 

Time passed and on Thursday, October 31, my husband and I were seated sixth row center at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre to see “Betrayal.”  The ushers ran up and down the aisles firmly reminding the audience members to turn off their cell phones.  The play is a series of nine scenes that enfold during one and half hours without intermission and the demand for silence was an imperative. 

Everyone seemed to comply, but there was a young woman to the left and in front of me who did so regretfully.  The first compelling scene ended and sure enough, she flipped on her cell phone!

I lifted myself up, reached over and tapped her strongly on the shoulder.

“Turn that off,” I whispered aggressively. 

I certainly got her attention.  She closed the phone and never touched it again. I do not want to start hitting people in the theater. But I hope the shock of my action will make a lasting impression.  The attachment to cell phones has become an obsession that knows no bounds.

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