Sunday, June 1, 2008

Bad Press

Theatre J has announced it will be shuttering its current world premiere production of David in Shadow and Light a week early. This occasionally happens with the commercial shows around here, and sometimes with the smaller, itinerant companies who pay rental fees for their spaces. But it is a highly unusual occurrence with a subscription house like Theatre J. I did not see the show, though two friends who did disliked it. And the press, to quote one of the show's stars, "clobbered" it. I am sorry that this show had such a hard time of it, as a world premiere is never easy to produce, and when it's a musical, it's doubly difficult to get the thing right. I've been directed by Nick Olcott, who helmed this show, and can attest that he is a director of skill and insight. He surely knows how to get things to work, theatrically, but I guess sometimes, the material just can't be effectively staged.

Theatre J is not the only local house to be hit with problematic reviews lately. School for Scandal, currently at the Folger Shakespeare Library, received mixed to poor reviews, though none of the local critics are eager to discredit the leading players, as they include local favorites Kate Norris, David Sabin, and Catie Flye. But everyone seems confused by the directorial decision to cast a man, Tom Story, as Lady Sneerwell. Placing the play a century or so later than originally written has also raised concerns. But I have it on good authority that the audiences usually have a ball.

NOBODY is prepared to criticize theatrical icon Chita Rivera, who is currently headlining Kander and Ebb's The Visit at Signature. Reactions to the show have been mixed, but don't appear to be strong enough to sustain the planned transfer to New York. According to the Washington Post, there are eight, count 'em eight, Tony winners connected to this production, and the involvement of so many high-powered talents seems to suggest that a New York engagement was a given. The press may have other ideas.

I recognize that we in the theatre can't do what we do without press coverage, and I've been a victim of crummy reviews myself, beginning with a performance I gave in Los Angeles during the Dark Ages, in which one critic proclaimed I was "acting a lot...or something." See how we remember the bad notices? But it's disappointing when the critical analysis of a show, sometimes written by someone not qualified to judge artistic worth, can bury a show before its time.