February 21, 2013
On my amateur theatre-going and literary criticism
Even though we would have much preferred to go bed at 7pm, Stuart and I dragged ourselves out the door on Friday night to see Do You Want What I Have Got? A Craigslist Cantata at the Factory Theatre. And we’re so glad we did, because basically the show was 80 continual minutes of us laughing. Stuart and I aren’t the most sophisticated theatre-goers, not least because Stuart and I aren’t the most sophisticated anything. We’re always a little bit disappointed by any play that does not contain song and dance, and the highest compliment we could think to pay to Do You Want What I Have Got? was, “It was a lot like Alligator Pie!” (Which is a high compliment. Really.) Really, our immediate response to most theatre experiences is a gleeful exclamation of, “We are at a play!!” Definitely not an outing to be taken for granted.
Anyway, we loved Do You Want What I Got?, which was funny, smart and really well-executed. And it wasn’t just whimsy–there was meaning behind it too, that eternal story of the human condition, looking for connection in a crazy world. The show runs until March 3, and I’d urge anyone who can to check it out in the meantime.
There is a point beyond this, however, and it is what I take away from all of this in my position as literary critic/book reviewer. Now, Do You Want What Have Got? has received excellent reviews, but I’m always amazed by the criticisms that manage to turn up whenever I read a review of a play I loved. “How could the critic have noticed that?” I wonder. “Of all the things to focus on…” I think that criticism is really important, essential even, but part of me that feels that critics miss out on the unified experience, that they never get the pleasure of fidgeting in a seat and thinking, “We are at a play!!” It takes so much more to wow a critic, and that’s the critic’s loss.
But not entirely, of course. Being ill-informed and therefore wowed by mediocrity is really nothing to be proud of, and it’s probably better to be eternally dissatisfied. But still. I think critics have to strike a balance, to understand how the common reader/theatre-goer will be greeting the experience, what that impact will be. And I think the critic has to hold on to that wonder, that sense of, “Holy cow! This is art! I am lucky to be here.”