I’m hearing many good things – with some quibbles – about Henley Street’s “Lord of the Flies” which opened this weekend. I was busy taking in “The 39 Steps” down at the Mill, which I enjoyed, but perhaps not as much as Ms. Haubenstock whose review is in the T-D today. I had some quibbles that you hopefully will read about in this week’s Style as the folks at the weekly have admirably taken the initiative to see that theater reviews show up a little earlier these days. That’s a good thing for everyone, I think.
While people may have quibbles about the various productions in town currently, it seems to me that opinion about one thing is unanimous: “what’s with the anonymous gripe about James Ricks posted in comments on the Style site and here?” Many have wondered what got that particular person’s panties tied in such a bunch; others have questioned why I would allow such a comment on my site.
I admit it was a bit of a harsh comment, it may not have been the best decision for me to allow it to go through in the first place, and I have considered removing it since. However, I try to allow opinions to flow fairly freely around here – and the rebuttals to anon have been eloquent and distinct. In general, I let comments go through as long as the criticisms aren’t crude, laced with profanity or if they don’t veer too far afield into personal realms and stick to a person’s professional life. (I have bent this a bit I think when I’ve allowed criticism of a critic’s weird stance -- particularly my own personal stance – that sometimes straddles aspects of his or her personal and professional lives.)
I’ll be clear: I don’t at all believe Mr. Ricks’ comments came from a “superior outsider” perspective. I think they came from a fairly commonly held perspective that audiences in general – Richmond audiences specifically – do not embrace challenging new material as readily and enthusiastically as many in the performing arts community would like. I certainly hold this perspective and was glad to have the chance to see it echoed by someone in the community and broadcast in print.
I don’t read condescension or anything “patronizing” in this perspective but rather frustration. I might not use the word “retrained” but I do believe that potential patrons need to be educated on the interesting new material that is being written and produced in the theater world. I think Henley Street has been able to strike a great balance between putting innovative spins on old material (“Merchant of Venice,” “Richard III,” etc.) and introducing new and challenging productions to the local scene (the Bootlegs, “Last Days of Judas Iscariot,” the upcoming “Yellowman,” etc.)
People can argue about Mr. Ricks’ talents as a director all day if they want (I think his accomplishments kind of speak for themselves) but in terms of his leadership (with all his compatriots) at Henley Street, I don’t think there is any doubt about his value to the community. Personally, I can’t wait to see “Lord of the Flies” and look forward to whatever Henley Street decides to do in this and future seasons.