During my brief career as a performer in Chicago, I have received many reviews for my work. Fortunately, most of them have been favorable while a few ranged from mediocre to downright laughable (which includes just about everything written by Adam Langer). It is my most recent directorial effort, My Period, written by Jenny Kirkland, that has received not just a bad review, but a review that is completely and utterly off the mark [March 15].
First off, if Carol Burbank had read her press release, she would have known that she wasn't going to see Attack of the Killer Tampons, but instead, an innocent romp through the budding womanhood of three young girls. Her disappointment that these characters were not "drag-inspired" leads me to wonder that if everything we did at the Factory Theater was drag, what happens to the women of the theater? How could she assume that the topic of menstruation would be best portrayed by guys in cheap wigs? That she refers to menstruation as "an embarrassing rite of passage" is sad. Perhaps her memories are clouded.
I read this review several times trying desperately to make sense of it. Her descriptions of the play ranged from "perky, enthusiastic romp" and "straightforward comedy" to "flat parody" and "unsuccessful effort." So what does that mean? It's hilarious, but it sucked?
As an artist, I put my heart on the line every time I open a new play, and I find it mind-boggling when a critic spends a majority of the review either writing about themselves or complaining about the temperature of the theater. Hey, gang, guess what? The review is not about the critic, it's about the performance! If a review contains the word "I" 27 times then somebody needs to reread their job description.
I am offering up a challenge to all theater critics, an "artistic challenge," if you will, that I hope will inspire them to leave their egos in the lobby.
1. Have an open mind.
2. Read your press release.
3. Remember why you enjoy theater.
4. Avoid going on about how clever you are.
5. Challenge performers to improve, grow, or knock it off.
While it's true that critics have the "last word," it's not always the best one.
PS: And another thing. Why the obsession with the friend-to-stranger ratio in an audience? So what if a show is filled with friends with comps? It's an audience! It doesn't matter who has or hasn't paid for their ticket. They all came to see a show! Let go of this one already!