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If You Can't Say Something Nice

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Dear editor,

I was very surprised when I read Brian Nemtusak's review of the Elephant Man Theater Company's production of Dostoevsky Trip [Section Two, February 6]. I would hardly be one to resent Mr. Nemtusak for his opinions regarding the performance, but his review felt unfair to the production and was so mean-spirited that it seemed almost malicious.

Mr. Nemtusak clearly misrepresents our production in three statements from his review. First, he refers to the "painfully cartoonish accent" of one of the actors, which I can only imagine is a reference to my wife, Luda Jameson, a member of the cast who was born and raised in Russia, but has spent the past eight years in Chicago and has, as a result, a rather unique voice. However, she is hardly cartoonish, and I was certainly stumped upon reading the review to figure out what could have caused Mr. Nemtusak to hear one rogue actor with a terrible accent in a cast that was not attempting to use any accents at all.

Also Mr. Nemtusak mentions a "ritual repetition of the word 'pooping.'" There is none. The word "pooping" is heard multiple times in the show (though only during the final act, which is composed entirely of childhoodlike memories). The presence of the word stems from the English language's lack of a less silly word for feces that is appropriate for children to say. Nonetheless, it is not done so in any kind of ritual fashion and is only uttered twice. This appears not to be to Mr. Nemtusak's taste, but that hardly seems justification for such misleading description, implying we are putting on some kind of farce.

Mr. Nemtusak also describes the script as having "some superficial ties to The Idiot...at least as translated by Luda Jameson." This statement is extremely dubious. If Mr. Nemtusak wants to refer to two texts and how closely they are tied to each other, he should at least read them. If he has, I don't see how he could believe that Dostoevsky Trip, which, with a few minor dramatic edits, offers an entire act composed of almost verbatim dialogue lifted straight from The Idiot, does not have very close ties to the work of Fyodor Dostoevsky. He also makes the thinly veiled assertion that our translation, the work of Luda Jameson, one of the founding members of the company, should be considered suspect. Though Mr. Nemtusak all but states outright that he, as a rule, dismisses the work of Vladimir Sorokin, modern Russian literature, and indeed the Russian contribution to theater in general, if my guess is wrong and he can speak the language he is welcome to a copy of both the original and our translation to satisfy his curiosity.

I hope that in the future we can get the kind of fair treatment that we had hoped to receive from your paper. Any critic should say a show is bad if he or she believes it to be so, but the sophomoric tone of Mr. Nemtusak's review demonstrates that he feels our show was a waste of his time. Perhaps it was. But my question is this: is such a level of animosity really necessary or helpful to anyone? It doesn't sound like a review. It sounds like an insult.

Alexander Tecumseh Jameson

Artistic Director

Elephant Man Theater Company

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