B is for Bullshit

B is for Bullshit. Capital Buh-

I wrote a not so good stream of consciousness post not very long ago about this very issue when it comes to the theatre and, in particular, reviews:

Critical Response (Why Everyone Hates Reviews…Fuck ’em)

I thought I said everything in that blog post. But, it just keeps coming up. So let me address something that has been on my mind for a while now: Bullshit.

Bullshit:

usually vulgar

  1. :nonsense; especially:  foolish insolent talk

I’m tired of bullshit in the theatre. Endstop.

What do I mean by bullshit? Let’s do a run down of some of the theatre reviews. Let’s do Detroit (c. 2017)

Detroit:

  1. Slipstream brings zany French farce to Detroit-centric ‘Nain Rouge’
  2. MOT’s ‘Girl of the Golden West’ is gold indeed
  3. Purple Rose tackles marital truths in ‘Vino Veritas’
  4. ‘1984’ feels very 2017 at The Williamston Theatre
  5. Outvisible shines with Mamet’s ‘Oleanna’
  6. World Premiere: ‘Clutter’ at Theatre Nova exposes the pain of no do-overs in marriage
  7. ‘Disgraced’ at The Jet is rough, real and revelatory
  8. UDM’s ‘Avenue Q’ a sharp-edged hoot at The Boll Theatre
  9. Premiere: ‘Capital’ good time at Detroit Rep
  10. Riverbank’s ‘Shrek’ a fairy good time

These are the top 10 newest reviews for Encore Michigan, the region’s only review website.

Full disclosure, I know a lot of these people. I even like a lot of these people, but if the last 10 shows were all unequivocal successes, I’ll eat my shoe.

Nain:

For optimum enjoyment of Nain Rouge, it may be best to surrender one’s sense of disbelief and any strict reliance on plotlines. Farces are meant to be enjoyed, not understood.

Golden West: “gold indeed” it’s in the title, mate.

Vino:

Unfortunately, the staging of this significant reveal feels clunky. Lauren re-enters but stops short, as if to eavesdrop, despite being in Ridley’s and Claire’s line of vision. In this way, logistic questions – like, if the wine makes you tell the truth, wouldn’t Lauren’s presence not affect Phil’s words? – threatened to distract attention from one of the play’s defining moments.

Would you look at that! I’m just about ready to eat my shoes.

But the play sticks the landing, with as satisfying an ending as you could hope for.

…Never mind

1984:

Director Tony Caselli deserves credit for these key shifts in his actors that give this production an intensity and intelligent interpretation. He paints a chilling picture from the very beginning and uses the staging and pacing to communicate the fear that is ever-present in this world. He knows when to build things up to a point of suspense and when to provide the audience with some relief, though don’t expect many laughs during this presentation.

Mamet:

The play flies by in one act at just over an hour. Get to the theatre a few minutes early and you can hit the Dairy Queen just the other side of the parking lot.

Clutter:

The writing here is razor sharp and the acting is more than up to doing it justice.

Disgraced:

The script and this production are is brilliant, taut and razor sharp. The 90 minutes flies by.

Avenue Q:

The cast is truly strong across the board, there is no weak link in either acting or singing.

Good Time:

The Rep’s compact stage doesn’t lend itself to run-around comedy but the cast manages pretty well and some moments are especially choice:

Shrek: Come on! This is Shrek!

There were a few musical moments when the mic balance was not ideal, and there were a couple scene changes that could have been a bit smoother, but that is not what audiences will remember. They may not even leave the theatre raving about the music, which felt incidental to the story in many places. They will, however, be talking about how thoroughly funny this show was, how many times they laughed aloud, how the little details brought the characters to life. There is no better way than humor to teach a wise lesson: don’t ever judge a person on outward appearance.

Fucking SHREK?! Really??

What about New York?

New York:

Aladdin

If a genie had sprung from my teakettle last week and offered to grant me three wishes, I might impulsively have asked to be spared any more children’s musicals. Since a certain blockbuster feline arrived well over a decade ago, Broadway has been lapped by wave after wave of big, often gloppy songfests adapted from animated movies, mostly from the mother ship, Disney.

So the prospect of “Aladdin,” promising another weary night in the presence of a spunky youngster and wisecracking animals, didn’t exactly set my heart racing. But this latest musical adapted from one of Disney’s popular movies, which opened on Thursday night at the New Amsterdam Theater, defied my dour expectations.

The Broadway version of “Aladdin” sticks to the movie’s formula, but also infuses the conventions of the genre with a breezy insouciance that scrubs away some of the material’s bland gloss.

We can’t even speak ill of the Disney babies?!

Amelie

This mild-mannered musical adaptation of the famously divisive 2001 French film is unlikely to inspire similarly passionate responses.

I was like! Yes! Finally! Some serious critical reviews here.

Instead I get:

it is pleasant to look at, easy to listen to and oddly recessive. It neither offends nor enthralls.

WHAT IS THAT?

Now, this is not a call to “bash”. I don’t want people to be torn apart in reviews, far from it. But, vigorous, spirited conversation is what I hope the people want to read and what we want to engage in. If I read “pleasant to look at, easy to listen, and oddly recessive,” I wouldn’t know where to begin.

Let me recommend the reviews for Clutter, Vino, and 1984 in particular. They are quite good reviews. And, to be honest, the New York Times does do good reviews, they can afford to go into much more detail and I know much less about the theatre scene in their area than I do in mine.

Let me recommend Nain Rouge @ Slipstream, Oleanna @ Outvisible, 1984 @ Williamston, & Clutter, oh and Good Times. Those are strong companies with solid work.

My point is this: not everyone is going to produce gold every time. Not if what they are aiming at is art. If we can’t speak truthfully about a theatrical event without letting bullshit get in the way.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Shrek really was a great musical as it is billed to be and as the reviewer seems to think. Who knows? But, if in the damn review it says: 

They may not even leave the theatre raving about the music, which felt incidental to the story in many places.

Then, it wasn’t a very good musical was it?!

Simply say that! I enjoyed it, it was fun because it was funny, not a good musical. Here are some specifics.

People’s trust in main stream media, news sources, and enthusiast press are steadily declining. I don’t think that journalism is any worse than it was. However, I do feel like we dance around the issues at hand when it comes to our enthusiast press simply because we are afraid of something.

Normally I’ve got hope for the end of my blog posts, but today I’m just tuckered. So I’ll leave you with this:

Let’s do better.

 

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