When I picked up a flyer for the play The Critics, I knew the name of the writer-director, Adam Langer, sounded familiar. As I later recalled, he had written a negative review in the Chicago Reader of a very enjoyable play, Wild Dogs! [Section Two, August 28]. The review sticks out in my mind, not only because I disagree with its conclusion. Langer seems most concerned with impressing the reader with his vocabulary, leaving one to wonder what he actually means by his confusing barbs. Some are ambiguous, others are redundant, but all have more syllables than sense. I was reminded of Count Orsini-Rosenberg's comment on Mozart's music in Amadeus: "A young man trying to impress beyond his abilities . . . too many notes." Langer's writing appears as though it were crafted by some bizarre hybrid of Yogi Berra and Peter Roget: what his word choice lacks in accuracy, it certainly makes up for in length.
What I find to be even more objectionable than Langer's second-rate writing, though, is the fact that his own play runs a schedule mirroring that of Wild Dogs! I must assume he reviewed the Sunday matinee, for he would have been directing his own show during any other performance. The Chicago Reader blurb on his play comments that Langer's "attempt to raise serious professional, artistic, and ethical issues" is undercut by his flip caricatures. Any attempt on his part to raise ethical issues is undercut many times moreover by his decision to pan, under the guise of legitimate criticism, a play which competes directly for audience with his own. No more can I take this review seriously than could I trust Ford's assessment of the new line of Chevy trucks. Did the editors cut "So go see my play instead" out of the review, or did Langer at least have the sense not to be that blunt in his bias? What credibility your paper has stems from its coverage of the arts. As such, it would serve you well to be more careful about letting such an obvious conflict of interest slip by.