My problem with theatre criticism
By Geoffrey Kidwell
I’ve never really understood the point of theatre criticism.
Well wait. Actually, what I mean to say is that I’ve never really understood the point of nasty theatre criticism.
I can get behind well thought out, clearly articulated writing that puts a particular show in historical context, explains what the creative team was attempting to accomplish and then analyzes how it does (or does not) achieve it’s goal.
What I can’t stand is glorified high school style nasty bullshit in which a writer essentially takes cheap shots at a production or, worse yet, a specific actor.
(See: Ben Brantley’s review of Leap of Faith in The New York Times. Really? The show’s leading lady “looks and acts as though she has just been dry-cleaned.” Thanks for that clever little tidbit, Mr. Brantley.)
I’m not sure why some of these critics feel the need to be so unapologetically cruel. It’s like they wake up on the wrong side of the bed, someone poops in their Cheerios and then they go about writing their review.
Maybe I’m being naïve or idealistic, but I don’t understand why we as a community of artists feel the need to even read this stuff.
And yet we (and I) do!
There’s something grossly satisfying in reading these hostile little things.
Sure, there’s an element of schaudenfreude involved – let’s face it, people get off on witnessing the misfortune of others.
But also, reading a nasty review provides us a brief moment of superiority. One fleeting instant during which we can say to ourselves, “Thank God I’m not in that piece of crap Broadway production. I’m sooooo much better and more talented than that,” just before we head out the door to wait tables at a bowling alley.
(Sense the sarcasm there?)
What is the point?! Really. Someone tell me.
We are all in this together.
That doesn’t mean we have to live off a diet of rainbows and lollipops. We’re not going to love every show that comes pirouetting across the boards, but we don’t need to write criticism that reads like the drivel you’d see written on the bathroom stall about the senior class slut.
It’s poisonous. It brings out the worst in us and in the end, provides no useful information as to whether or not a show is worth seeing.
And in closing…
Sara Bareilles – a genuinely kick-ass singer-songwriter – decided to write a little song about her critics, specifically the ones who seemed to get a sick pleasure in being nasty to her in print.
The song, Machine Gun, attempts to explain the psychology at the root of the nastiest of critics.
AND NOW...THE WEEK IN WHITNEY HOUSTON!!!
Whitney Houston and gospel singer, Cece Winans were the best of friends. Any time they sang together, you could feel just how connected they were. They really were sisters to one another. Here they are in 1995 singing an incredible version of Bridge Over Troubled Water. This is Miss Houston in her absolute prime singing her heart out with her best friend. Enjoy.