Antaeus’ Founding Artistic Director, Dakin Matthews, wrote a satirical response to Sunday, August 8th’s LA TIMES article, “Dialogue: Critics Charles McNulty and Steven Leigh Morris discuss the state of L.A.’s small theaters.”
Over a tube of Pringles recently, actor-martyr Genisio Santo and director Meiningen Sachs began a dialogue on the state of theatre reviewing in L.A.; and this give-and-take, subsequently pursued over a second tube of Pringles, seemed worthy of a larger forum.
MS: I think it’s a shame the way not just the major critics like Nutty McCharles tend to be marginalized, but even the—shall I call them minor?—critics like Maury Lee Stevens.
GS: For the record, we don’t tend to think of the latter as “minor”—we prefer “waiver journalists.” But be that as it may, how do you mean “marginalized,” Meiny?
MS: Well, literally. I mean, they have to write in columns, they have to stay inside the margins. It’s sad, really; they’re treated like three-year-olds forced to stay inside the lines in coloring books. I’d love to see their stuff spilling all over the page. Wacky fonts! Occasional gibberish! I mean, what about their creativity?
GS: I hadn’t looked at it that way.
MS: I blame the marketplace. They’re required by their public to write syntactically and coherently—
GS: Well, I’m not sure that’s true. . . .
MS: And to pander to that 99.5% of their readers who actually read, by having to conform to the stifling, old, traditional spelling and punctuation rules.
GS: Yes, what about that other half a percent who can’t read? They’re the real cutting edge. They’re the future.
MS: Yes, print reviewers these days can’t really write what they want; they’re so font- and format-whipped by their editors. I look forward to the day when they can really cut loose, you know, dump those style sheets in the wastebaskets and write something I could honestly call a McCharles review or a Stephens review instead of that conformist boilerplate stuff that passes for reviews these days.
GS: I agree. I mean, come on, who needs paragraphs? What’s in a paragraph? A screed by any other name, , , , But now, Meiny, let’s think even further outside the box. I’m thinking interdisciplinary reviewing.
MS: Hmmm. How would that work, Genisio old chap?
GS: Well, all the big papers have websites—why shouldn’t Nutty or Maury sing their reviews in streaming video? Or better yet, write them and then have somebody else deconstruct them, you know, pick out a line here, a line there, reassemble them into a collage, and then stage them as puppet shows?
MS: Yes, Travesty Presson might be just the person to do that!
GS: Whoa, wait—here, let me open that second tube of Pringles, Meiny old boy, I’m a trained actor. What if we throw away the box entirely, and let the reviewer go to one play and review another one entirely?
MS: But don’t they do that already? I mean, I often get the impression that they tend to review the play they wanted to see or thought they should have seen—or the one they would have produced (if they actually were in the producing business)–instead of the one they actually saw.
GS: Okay, then how about this—they don’t even see plays. They just write reviews.
MS: Now you’re talking. I’ve always thought the ideal situation would be for a reviewer to call me when a production was announced and I could explain to him my concept and what I wanted to do, and he could just review that, without have to deal with all those pesky playwrights and actors. (Beat.) No offense, Gen.
GS: None taken. I mean, who do we think we are?
MS: Or, back to the interdisciplinary idea, how’s this for a picture? All the reviewers in spandex tights with lots of artificial fog, posturing their reviews to pretentious music—Critique de Soleil!
GS: Or–wait a minute—how about a mime review–live and in streaming video; and you could print it in the paper as well.
MS: Yes, fabulous! And then—no, wait a minute—a mime review in the paper? Then it’d just be a blank column.