Thursday, October 11, 2007

Oh yeah...

...my review of "The Member of the Wedding" is in this week's Style. I'd be interested in any feedback.

3 comments:

Billy Blogopher said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
thespis' little helper said...

I find myself very torn on the subject of honesty/raising the bar/getting people into the theatre...

I should mention right out of the gate that I have not read the novel, but have read the play (and listened to the moderately good performance that LA Theatreworks produced with Ruby Dee as Berenice, which you can check out at the main library and is very much worth the listen).

Also (and I guess this is just different audience members take different things from the production or play) I have always found it strange (always really just being recent months since Barksdale has been working on this production and we've talked about the piece a lot...) I always really feel that it's Frankie's story and not as much Berenice's. Maybe I just identify with her more? I dunno.

Anyway, so I have only seen Acts 2 & 3 of Barksdale's production, but I greatly enjoyed most of the performances I found there.

I guess where I'm really torn is: is there a great advantage to the negative spin in a review if the reviewer is kind of middle of the road in his/her opinion of the production?

I think, and I may be wrong, that the editor chooses the headline, but even then it would seem that the spin of the review and the headline could focus on the more uplifting aspects, which might get more people to the theatre (always a good thing)...but at the same time, I do feel that we should keep the standards high (and higher..."raising the bar") and if something isn't good, then one should say so (which often gets me in a bit of trouble, but alas).

So that's what I've got. I'll give you a topic. Richmond theatre. Discuss! ;)

Go see the show! Rush tickets are only $15 (shameless plug)

Dave T said...

Mr. Helper poses a question I've been asked a few times before in different variations:

Is there a great advantage to the negative spin in a review if the reviewer is kind of middle of the road in his/her opinion of the production?

What I've had to point out in the past (and will do again) is that, while theater reviews are probably read most fervently by theater people, when I write a review my audience is the potential theater goer. So what I am trying to communicate to him/her is whether I think it is worth it for them to plunk down a significant chunk of change to see the show in question. I do this by describing as clearly as possible in the space allotted what I think the strong points and the weak points are of a production. Particularly with weak points, I try to be as specific as possible. There have been plenty of productions that I've walked away from thinking, I didn't really like that. But I try (and granted may not always be successful) to challenge myself and go a little deeper than that, to break down to specifics why I had the feeling I had about a production.

I say all that because I don't specifically see any "advantage" to any kind of "spin." What I do see is the benefit to both the consumer and the producer of a play of an honest assessment of the work in question. That way a reader can trust that when a reviewer says this show is the best thing since the video iPod, it really is something special. Or alternately, if a reviewer says "the music was great but the set stunk," the theatergoer can think, "well, I don't really care that the set stunk, I just want to hear some good music" and go.

What I tried to communicate in my "Member of the Wedding" review was a sense of frustration at the lack of significant amounts of dramatic tension, the curious cutting of a potentially challenging subplot from the book for the stage adaptation, and the limited stage time given to some interesting secondary characters. I also tried to point out that the performances were generally exceptional, that technically the production was top-notch and that the play does a fine job at rendering a southern coming-of-age drama. I don't think the result had a "negative spin." My hope is that readers could weigh the pros and cons as I laid them out (and that they may have heard from others, as word of mouth remains the best advertisement around) and decide whether it sounded like a production worth going to...or maybe not.

Thanks for your comments, Mr. M., and your willingness not to be anonymous when posting them. Feedback is always welcome.