Friday, January 16, 2009

What seems like ages ago, but might have only been one or two years ago, one of the more popular arguments against the rise of online criticism was that it would produce a chorus of saccharine, but dull gushings of praise.

The argument went that online critics would be unofficial, (or official,) boosters of everything they saw. I never believed that; From Amazon reviews, up to bloggers you can find thoughtful criticism and even some sharp barbss out there.

Here are three quotes from current Boston theatre reviews that you can only find online:

For The Duchess of Malfi:

I'm almost certain the original reaction to all this bombast was not "Oh the horror of it all!" but "Good show, but more blood! Give us more blood!"

I don't mean to insult the company --- still a favorite of mine in a crowded and bubbling Boston theater scene. They lurk and curse and scheme and avenge and double-cross one another as though the over-inflated emotions in the lines didn't cry out for comic timing and takes worthy of the Marx Brothers. It takes more than half a dozen bodies to make a tragedy, so I hope these serious actors get a chance, say at the final cast-party, to play it all for laughs and let it all hang out. And I'd love to be there if they do.

For The Corn is Green:

That said, the Huntington production soon vanishes from memory as they often do, the fault always being that blasted big barn of a stage: the set designers are obliged to fill it clear up to the flies, resulting in a puffed-up mise-en-scene with no mood or flavor to it; here, Mr. Williams’ humble living-room becomes James Noone’s ski lodge, complete with skylight and a sense of air-conditioning about the place.
When Kate Burton, still youngish, enters on wheels, the effect goes for nothing (though she gets her applause, all the same). Miss Moffat calls for a larger-than-life personality that can sweep all before her; Ms. Burton’s strength is an hostess-glow which in the evening’s quiet moments is compelling, even moving; otherwise, she is obliged to bustle about and her Moffat becomes a pest rather than a force of nature. (If only Mr. LeBow could tuck her into his pocket when he heads back to the A.R.T. --- think of the topsy-turvy, then!)

And for The Year of Magical Thinking:

But as that year of tragedy, and subsequent magical thinking, goes on, less-magical thoughts begin to cross our minds which simply don't seem to cross Didion's. Such as: what, in the end, was actually the matter with poor Quintana? And why is the dying young woman's own grief given such short shrift (she's actually having an even worse year than her mother)? And what, precisely, is the point of the many long evocations of all this superstitious behavior? Like a stand-up who only knows one joke, Didion keeps delivering the same bad news over and over, to diminishing returns, while one can sense the real life of her drama is elsewhere.

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