How to Attack a Theater Critic | Letters | Chicago Reader

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How to Attack a Theater Critic


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To the editors:

I really must respond to the fuel-injected, supersonic ranting that Billy Bermingham projected in his letter to the editors, printed on August 27, refuting Adam Langer's review of Fat Men in Skirts. I am not connected to that show, or the Torso Theatre, but feel I must note to the general public that most of Chicago theater has more class than was displayed in that letter, which came off as the literary equivalent of having a drunk throw up on you in a bar.

Please, Mr. Bermingham, show some control. The correct way to respond to a critic who has sprayed bladder juice on your recent opus is to attack him with more wit, knowledge, and style than he himself showed in lambasting your show. The wrong way to do it is to use a string of incoherent, capitalized four-letter words and macho threats--and you can let a noun go by now and then without tacking adjectives ("aspiring snob," "third-grade tirade," "snotty little nose," etc) on it. The single, well-placed, cut-to-the-heart zinger can do considerably more damage than a whole page of flailing about with low-octane posturing and name-calling.

Furthermore, I must take exception to your claim that ""homo/Negro jokes"' are in some way a basis for satire; it is you, sir, who should look up the word. A character espousing racist and sexist epithets as jokes isn't involved in satire; they may be revealing a character flaw, a la Archie Bunker, but usually use of such material is simply a cheap laugh by the author, and from the rest of your venomous attack, I'm willing to bet that's the case. Without a basis in character or plot, it will only alienate your audience, and you did enough of that in your letter.

In the end, Billy (try using William, that alliterative name is just too cute for anyone to take seriously), instead of reaffirming your position, your bombastic response to Langer's review only strengthened his case, by revealing you, as a representative of the theater group, as everything he accused your show of being--imbecilic, pompous, exploitive, and sophomoric.

Instead, be thankful. You're a relatively new theater group, and you'll get better reviews in the future, mixing the good with the bad. There are plenty of theater groups--such as mine, the oldest continuously running community-theater group in the Chicago area--which can't even get reviewed, despite our age, position, or abilities, or membership in the League of Chicago Theatres, simply because we are located in the suburbs (horrors!) and are a community theater. But we realize that space is limited, and not every show can get reviewed (at least they list us, which is more than the Sun-Times or the Tribune ever does). But when I see so much space wasted on such masturbatory stuff as Fat Men in Skirts I wish that Adam had found his way to our theater--and he probably does, too.

Don Collignon

Des Plaines Theatre Guild

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