Cell phone abuse at the theater is a chronic problem, one that the city of New York seems incapable of solving. It's telling that the story of Kevin Williamson, a theater critic who grabbed a woman's cell phone during a performance and threw it, has provoked such a huge response. Most of us are pretty fed up with cell phones ruining their theatrical experiences, and yet nothing ever seems to change. The reason why, it seems, is that there simply aren't any consequences beyond public shaming—and your average boorish jerk is typically incapable of shame.

Today we spoke with Howard Kagan, one of the producers of the excellent new musical Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812, for which tickets cost $175 (which includes dinner and a drink). Kagan tells us that despite very clear warnings prohibiting cell phone use, it keeps happening. Yet he's not comfortable throwing people out for it.

"This happens," Kagan said, referring to cell phone use. "But it's nobody's practice to eject anyone for that particular infraction. There's no enthusiasm on the part of the theater community, generally, to alienate any particular customer. You know, we live in a world where people use cell phones, and that's a big issue... But it's not like driving a car and using a cellphone, when you're endangering someone's life. That's why there's no law against it."

We informed Kagan that there is, in fact, a law against using cell phones in theaters. Unfortunately, it's not enforced, and Kagan told us, "A far better approach for any situation like this is to encourage people to stay and see the show and not use their cell phone... I don't think it ever makes sense for an usher to go over to someone and eject them because they're using a cell phone."

Kevin Williamson

"The way it's typically handled in every theater in New York is that there's a reminder about cell phone use given at the beginning, which we do as well. And if someone does, there's an enforcement action, if you will, in the form of a stern warning. Which is what we did. And where I think this went a little sideways is I wish Mr. Williamson, when he noticed her second infraction, had gone to an usher and not been the vigilante."

Of course, the usher had already been informed about the cell phone abuse, and it didn't make a difference. How many stern warnings do obnoxious assholes get before there are actual consequences? Unlimited, apparently. "I don't think we're going to start a new policy of ejecting customers," Kagan said.

This bothers Williamson, the cell phone smasher, who told us today, "The Alamo Drafthouse has a very strict policy about this sort of thing. If you talk, if you use your phone, you'll be thrown out. And it's a very successful business model. People are willing to pay more for it! Theater managers have to do something about this... I wish twice a month some Broadway theater would jack somebody, do a high profile ejection. I think you would establish a new set of social norms."

We asked Williamson if he would have handled the situation differently given the opportunity, and he told us, "I'd do the same thing. I'm okay with it. It was the right thing to have done." As for the world deeming him a hero, he said, "If I'm a hero, my superpower was grumpiness."