Two weeks ago, a three-person play called “Faith Healer” was performed as a Theater Studies senior project. There are only three people in the entire play, and each of them spend at least half an hour alone on stage. There is practically no set, minimal production values, no group dynamics — there is nothing in the play to comment on besides the acting performances of its three cast members. It is astonishing, then, that the News’ review of this play (“O come all ye ‘Faith’-ful,” Oct. 31) failed to mention one of the actors altogether.
The acting of Bobby Allen, performing the title role with the most onstage time of the three, was ignored, while comment on the other two actors was limited to one-sentence assessments of their accents and monologue lengths. The author, Luis Santoyo-Meija, managed to find something to say about everything that didn’t matter — a back-of-the-book plot summary, a list of regional accents used, the number of seats in the audience — and absolutely nothing about what did matter.
The review was useless. Senior projects are meant to display a culmination of four years of performance work; to ignore the performances and spend a paragraph analyzing the use of a paper banner on the wall is misguided, to say the least.
Similar mistakes were made in this past Friday’s review of the The Fully Monty (“ ‘Monty,’ flaccid, still somehow performs,” Nov. 14). It seems snarkiness has become the mantra of the theater review staff — a bad orchestra-amplification system is mentioned, but the star performances are not. Performances by Brennan Caldwell ‘11 (almost begrudgingly acknowledged in one half-sentence of the review), Hannah Corrigan ‘09, Chaka Jaliwa ‘10, Gabriel Sloyer ‘09 and Marshall Pailet ‘09 (all entirely absent from the review) were stellar — the kind of performances that are important to notice because they are of unusual caliber. In an 800-word review that is full of miscellaneous griping, the total lack of attention they receive is absurd.
I don’t understand what the News’ theater reviewers are trying to do. Why do we read theater reviews? To decide whether or not to go to the show? That can’t be all of it, because “The Fully Monty” house was packed Saturday night despite the negative review. The reader must be looking for discourse. Reviews should acknowledge the great performances of plays so that other actors can look for good examples, and so that the theatergoing student body can gain some insight into what makes certain stage-work successful.
Discuss the problems of plays so that they don’t happen again. Blame shows for creative laziness, or for unfulfilled potential, but don’t take cheap swings. Reviews should be critical — we want them to be critical — but also productive.
Reviewers may think that they’re gaining some sort of street cred for being tough cookies, but it’s backfiring: News theater reviews are being dismissed as stupid, mean and wrong. I look forward to a review that merits a good review itself.
The writer is a senior in Berkeley College.