Predisposed Oracle of Critical Contempt | Letters | Chicago Reader

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Predisposed Oracle of Critical Contempt


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Dear Editor,

I must address the recent review of Frank Booth in the Blue Velvet Lounge [October 27] at the ImprovOlympic. I again seem to be hearing in the review the oracular voice of the Reader theater critic(s) in a contentious attitude toward improvisation, even more specifically "long form" improvisation. Reviews of shows in the last year (one exception noted--The Armando Diaz Experience) from Virgil's House of Dig to Carl's Closed, have disparaged both the sum of the parts and the whole. The reviews have spoken openly of the tiredness and dryness of "long form" shows. I argue that this approach to reviewing these shows an inherent contempt for "long form" shows and not critical objectivity. This contempt disparages the whole--the development of a work in progress: intelligent and challenging "long form" improvisation attempting innovation at exploring characters and ideas through ensemble work and ignores the parts--the many scenes and scenic connections of smart players and ideas and creating raw laughter. I have experienced at least two of the shows reviewed, as well as a significant share of "long form" improvisation shows. At the two shows, I witnessed enough laughter (and laughed) generated by sincere characters connecting and tongue in cheek character work to rival quality Second City revues and nonimprovised productions.

Should others pay for experiencing this "work in progress," let alone the improvisation and its ups and downs of egos and talent? Should audiences pay to see the hundredth, thousandth adaptation of True West? What do the critics say? For my money, as long as the work, and the work alone, performed is good and as smart as can be at the least, I say yes. Are the aesthetics the same? Are they smirking at me? What have I seen before? Where am I laughing? Yes the aesthetics are the same if it's True West number 57 or "long form" number 101. For my money, your predisposed oracle of critical contempt for "long form" improvisation shows fulfills an undeserved destiny as it tramples over ideas and possibilities. I expect objectivity and not prejudice from my oracles.


Robert Burke


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