Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Nine…days from Christmas

This week’s Style has a review of Theatre IV’s “A Christmas Carol” from Mary Burruss – a review that appears to have attracted negative commentary within minutes of appearing online. One side comment: critics are often lambasted because of a lack of specifics in their criticism, something I’m sure I’ve been guilty of. However, when someone criticizes a critic and utilizes such adjectives as “hateful” and “misinformed” (and when that someone does not have the space limitations that a reviewer has), I need some specifics to take that criticism seriously. I can understand disagreeing with Mary’s review but what exactly is she “misinformed” about? My much less ire-inducing review of “Black Nativity” also appears this week.

Speaking of critcizing critics, I’m intrigued with the reactions so far to the new onscreen musical “Nine.” If you peruse Rotten Tomatoes, you’ll see a very sharply divided response, some critics using words like “simply sensational” or “sophisticated, sexy and stylish.” More common are words like “disaster” or “cluttered and stagebound” and this nice bon mot: “Nine thrashes about in search of "cinema" the way a child thrown into the deep end of a pool flails for a flotation device.”

As a big fan of Marshall’s screen adaptation of “Chicago,” I’ve been looking forward to “Nine” and the previews featuring very lavishly shot footage of some gorgeous women has only reinforced my anticipation (I’ve never been a particular fan of Kate Hudson but she seems to have a show-stopper in “Nine,” though it looks like Penelope Cruz may cause the most jaws to drop.) The sharply mixed critical response has me wondering what exactly is going on. In my quick read through some of the reviews, I didn’t get a sense of what specifically might be wrong with the movie. The review that gave me the most distinct insight was the “Movie Dearest” blog. The review also provided additional insight by noting that the leading ladies are “GLBT faves,” a statement I scoffed at when I first read it but then when I thought about it a bit, I could see where he was coming from.

Anyway, I’ll be hoping to sneak away some night to check out “Nine” once it opens here. But in the meantime, there are still too many shows to catch! It’s not fair that, in the midst of all the holiday shows, JCC’s “Fiddler on the Roof” closes this weekend also. Oy!


Frank Creasy said...

I'm sorry to say that my busy holiday schedule has kept me from seeing some shows I'd love to see, such as Theater IV's Christmas Carol. Because I know it's chock full of artists I respect and admire, some of whom are cherished friends as well.

Yet I also struggle with balancing the stresses of the holidays with the joys of visiting with family and friends we're too busy to devote time to seeing at other times of the year. I can appreciate the ambivalence of the holiday season, and Mary's review seems to reflect some of that.

So in my own attempt to be non-Grinchy, and not having seen this production, I'll balance my view of the matter this way: As artists (actors, designers, directors, production staff), we work together to present something that most audience members will appreciate and be glad that they devoted their time and money to come and enjoy. From what I've heard overall from those who've attended, Theatre IV's Christmas Carol has succeeded quite well in that regard. On the other hand, a critic must give their own honest impression of a production. I might not always agree with Mary (sometimes I do, sometimes not), but I greatly respect the fact that she says exactly what she thinks. We're living in a society where too many people are quick to shoot down those who don't see things the same way. So kudos to Mary for her candor - because if she says she loves a show, you can believe she really loves it!

And that's my two cents. Given the economy, it's about all I can spare!

To all my friends in the theatre community - artists, patrons, what-have-you: Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year.

Now go see a show if you can!

Sandra D. said...

Comparing a show to "watching a small, cute animal struggle for its life" is not good journalism. It's hateful for the sake of being hateful.

And as for the "bunch of big words that tumble out of actors' mouths, causing little brains to shut down", case Ms. Burruss wasn't aware - it IS Charles Dickens. It's not exactly "One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish." Give children some credit - they like to be challenged, and big words actually force you to sit up and pay attention.

Of course, Sondheim writes complex music and his shows don't do well because it forces the audiences to THINK, and in today's world, that's asking too much - we simply want to be mindlessly entertained.

Ms. Burruss is entitled to her opinion. I, however, do not agree with how she put it out there.