Via ArtsJournal: John Barry nurses his grudge [corrected the link] about being stuck in Baltimore covering theater at $55 a pop. He focuses on a college production of Tom Stoppard’s Hapgood that he showed up for in the middle of the first act—no wonder he didn’t understand it.
He makes the good point that the people who do community theater (both as watchers and performers) aren’t looking for Frank Rich-level criticism. They do it in
the shoebox theatres trying to squeeze out a little applause from people willing to watch. That population — people who like to watch plays just for the hell of it — is admittedly getting older and smaller.
All that I expect from a review of a community theater production is the name of the show, a paragraph that tells me whether it’s suitable for my mother or my nephews, the run dates, and the phone number for reservations. A word of praise that singles out good work is gravy. Many of my colleagues are more thin-skinned than I am, and take criticism too seriously. So it doesn’t surprise me that many of the local papers (what we used to call “suburban shoppers”) hake taken to running previews rather than reviews in order to avoid offending anyone.
But by conflating amateur, semi-pro, and college theater, Barry does himself and his readers a disservice. The point of a college production (like the one is his piece) is learning how to do theater. One month you’re playing a 75-year-old Russian and the next month you’re designing lights. Of course only your boyfriend comes to the performances.
Maybe it’s time for Barry to find a new beat to cover.