Friday, May 01, 2009


Every once in a while, someone will contact me in defense of something – anything from a whole play to a specific choice in a production – and they will argue along the lines that it works just fine exactly the way it is. They will do so in a tone that can vary from “it’s unfortunate you didn’t appreciate this” to “what kind of an idiot are you that you didn’t get this?”

I always like those kinds of communiqués because it reflects someone’s passion about their art. There’s a lot to be said about honest passion in a world that often seems bent on blunting it.

But there’s even more to be said, I think, for looking critically at something and trying to make it better. I was perusing the Entertainment Weekly theater review page, mostly to see what they said about ‘9 to 5’ (loved it) and the latest star-laden Broadway production of ‘Waiting for Godot’ (mostly loved it).

While there, I saw this older review of “Next to Normal.” I found the breakdown of the changes made to the production fascinating. Clearly, the creative team behind this production took a hard look at things and decided to make some fairly significant changes. By this account, at least, the changes made a dramatic difference.

I know most productions do not have the luxury to try things out, gauge audience or critical reaction, and then make significant changes. The days when you had a week of previews are over. But there are successful directors that maintain flexibility within the constraints they are working under, e.g., Andrew Hamm recently posted something on his blog about a joke not working and getting dropped from Richmond Shakespeare’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream” (have you seen this show yet? Why not?)

What’s my point? I’m not sure. Maybe I’m just saying that, next time I get an email from someone saying something is just perfect the way it is, I’ll keep this link to the 'Next to Normal' review handy. I expect there are few things that are impervious to improvement.

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