Thursday, January 21, 2010

Random comments and oversensitive critics

We all form impressions of plays from a variety of sources: previous reviews, audience reactions, word of mouth, press releases and previews, eavesdropped comments, little quirks and accidents in performance, whims and prejudices about matters both trivial and important. And something like that happened to me with Curtains at the Civic. 

Lyn Gardner's comments in The Guardian about critics not working in a vacuum may be relevant here. Her point is that critics are not unbiased and objective; they're unavoidably forming preconceptions about an upcoming show (just like everybody else) from the moment that a production is announced.

Bobo happened to attend Curtains with Dannie, Long-Suffering Wife of Bobo; I reminded her beforehand not to start issuing opinions at intermission or even after the show, because I know from experience that even comments made in passing have disproportionate effects on how I form my own opinions.

But of course there was the drive home, and after two hours in the dark, the topic's kind of unavoidable, and so she let drop that the mystery, as such, was up to the standards of an average mystery. (Red herrings scattered about, lots of suspects; and the writers cheated a bit by revealing a couple of details so late that you could never have realized, but ... all in all, a typical mystery that would satisfy fans of the genre.) This was in response to my saying that it felt like more of an homage to show business than like a classic, well-constructed mystery.
My point: Almost without realizing it, I felt reassured that mystery fans would not scoff at the mystery in Curtains as too simplistic. A couple of days later, when I sat down to write my review (later than usual; life intervened), I overrode my sense that the mystery was on the slim or cheesy side, and had sort of internalized what Dannie, L-SW of B, had said.
And so I didn't criticize the murder-mystery side of the show in the way I would have if I had gone to the show alone. 

And then I read Jim Kershner's review, which opens with three letter grades (and turned to be more critical of the show than my initially critical-sounding review) and thought that in some ways (not for the first time), he had reviewed the show more accurately and concisely than I had.

[image: food critic Anton Ego from Ratatouille, from ]

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At January 21, 2010 7:15 PM , Anonymous Kasey RT Graham said...

This was an interesting contrast in the show in NYC as well. It was advertised as a murder mystery (and it is to a point). All the adds featured shots of the characters in mysterious poses with their "title" - director, ingenue, producer, etc.

But truely the show is a love-letter to show business and musical theatre in general. I absolutely loved it, but I have many friends who could not stand it. It's cheesy, old-fashioned and one-liner-ridden, but then that could also be used to describe me I suppose:)

Hope they have a great run!

At January 22, 2010 3:13 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for your self-directed insight sir...
Cheers to you!


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