The voice of Verizon, now on Broadway

JamesearljonesIrony of no irony department: We recently went to a preview of the new Broadway production of On Golden Pond, starring James Earl Jones in the Henry Fonda part, floppy hat and all. It’s a mostly African American cast (Leslie Uggams plays the Kate Hepburn role), and the casting twist is brilliant and greatly refreshes a ’70s-era play. (No matter what the critics say later in the week, the audience loved it, and gave it a standing O.) But here at the ’Freak, we thought the producers might make at least one concession to Mr. Jones’ ubiquitous sideline gig as Mr. Verizon. For example, the pre-curtain announcements about turning off all cell phones would seem to be a great time to make a little joke. Nuttin’. Then, in the opening act, Jones’ character, that old curmudgeon Norman, is on the phone (big old ’60s table model), hyperventilating at the operator about how phones don’t work and how he can never remember his number. (“Don’t you have it?!” he screams at the operator.) But the revolution in telecommunications culture, so ably and aggressively promoted in TV commercials featuring Mr. Jones, did invade at one point. In the heavy final scene, after the buildup of so much emotional and compelling psycho-drama, Norman is able to open up enough to tell his daughter that he loves her. Then he has what appears to be a heart attack and lies on the floor while his wife hovers around him, crying. By now, most of the audience is crying also. You guessed it—somewhere in the back row, a cell phone went off.

—Posted by Barbara Lippert

Photo: Scott Suchman