Last Call

Note to the next person to answer a cell phone call during a theater performance at which I am present: Enjoy your telephone conversation, because it will be your last.

I will personally murder you with my bare hands at intermission. If you somehow evade me before Act Two commences, I will hunt you down and kill you after the show. I won't rest until I have found you, which shouldn't be too difficult. You're everywhere. In line at the grocery store, yakking with some other asshole about something inconsequential ("I told her just to get a trim -- she looks awful with bangs!"); seated next to me at the movies, hollering into the receiver at your kids ("When I get home, you're totally grounded! And no, you may not set fire to the babysitter!"); or driving alongside me, mouthing what I am sure are vicious plans to disrupt my next evening of theater.

If I'm bitter, it's because I've had so many of those evenings destroyed by your atrocious behavior. You turn up at theaters large and small, sit perilously close to me, and begin acting up. Apparently you've waited all day to return phone calls, eat candy bars, and argue with your spouse, and good thing, too! Otherwise, I'd have missed out on all the fun, and listening to you bray and fart and munch is what I come to the theater for.

It's gotten so bad that many theaters have taken to broadcasting those annoying, prerecorded "how to behave" announcements before the show because, apparently, we are all children who need to be reminded to turn off our telephones and not to unwrap hard candies during the performance. (What is it about hard candy and the theater, anyway? Are that many people truly frightened that they'll be overcome by coughing fits?)

These announcements are almost as annoying as your bad manners. They're as dry as toast and, because they carry no threat of punishment, are entirely ignored by people who have mistaken the theater for a daycare center. No one has asked me to author one of these pre-show warnings, but if they do, I'm ready for them. Mine would go something like this:

"Please switch all cell phones to 'vibrate.' If you answer a call during the performance, an usher will drag you from the theater and beat you senseless, then dump you into Tempe Town Lake. Whispering during the performance will result in death and dismemberment, and anyone discovered eating candy will be stripped, tied to a post in the lobby, and ridiculed by the rest of the audience. Ticket holders who applaud at the end of a scene will be made to sit through an entire season of shows at Mesa Encore Theatre. Anyone accompanied by a child will be flogged. And persons heard talking to the actors during the performance, singing along with musical numbers, or humming will be force-fed kitty litter and made to appear opposite Sally Struthers in a bus-and-truck musical adaptation of Titus Andronicus."

On the other hand, I probably shouldn't waste my time pitching this diatribe to any local theaters. You'd probably never hear me ranting over the sound of candy wrappers and cell phone chatter, anyway. E-mail [email protected]

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Robrt L. Pela has been a weekly contributor to Phoenix New Times since 1991, primarily as a cultural critic. His radio essays air on National Public Radio affiliate KJZZ's Morning Edition.
Contact: Robrt L. Pela