Monday, September 21, 2009

Donkey Show Critics, Ass-uming Much?

The critical response to the Donkey Show at the ART has been rolling in over the last month. The general perception seems to be uniform, but the exceptions fall to either side of the line between mainstream and online reviewers.

Carolyn Clay of the Phoenix says the production is "...revelatory..."

The Boston Globe critic Don Acouin mentions:

It doesn’t bypass the brain, though. In less capable hands, it could have been a travesty or a mere stunt. But codirectors Diane Paulus and Randy Weiner, who created “Donkey Show’’ a decade ago in New York, have devised a visual language to express the essence of Shakespeare’s play while not using a word of his text (unless the line “I am your boogie man. You turn me on’’ somehow got left out of my Pelican edition Shakespeare).


The characters are the most stylized caricatures imaginable, but the cast manages to communicate Shakespeare’s themes (the wayward path of true love, the wobbly nature of identity) while conveying a message of their own about the power of a good time.

It should be noted, though, that there is plenty of darkness at the edges.

Meanwhile, online, the critics haven't noticed an at the Theatermirror, Larry Stark concludes his review:

On the way home I got into a heated argument. The guy who had for months coldly insisted he hated everything about "The Donkey Show" and "Shakespeare exploded" pronounced the show "fun" and himself convinced that new Artistic Director Diane Paulus would indeed inveigle a young crowd into the theatre and they'd be impressed enough to come back for other productions. I insisted "Shakespeare Demolished" was nothing but a noisy rock-concert that could entice no one to sit and listen to a real play. If after three Paulus-poweredexperiences these young ticket-buyers do indeed pay for PLAYS, replacing the dwindling old moldy-fig A.R.T. subscribers in any significant numbers, I'll owe him a quarter.

Bill Marx is on the same page as Larry:

Beyond saying that the experience was galvanic but empty, Paulus and Weiner’s dance-a-thon disarms criticism. The A.R.T cast members execute lots of gender bending and wild pantomime during the evening but the event isn’t about calibrated comic performances but the art of hyper-shaking a leg.

The ideal evaluators of “The Donkey Show” would be an “expert” panel inspired by Reality-TV shows such as “So You Think You Can Dance,” with numerical scores for the best hoofers.

1 comment:

Thomas Garvey said...

I'm not going to see The Donkey Show, but I do think it's interesting in much the same way that the Huntington's Pirates! was: it reveals that we should really be thinking about our academic theatres merely as commercial producers dressed up in cap and gown (and Lord knows, Harvard needs a profit center). Indeed, Donkey has already had a commercial run of many years in discos around the world, supposedly. Thus it simply can't be "cutting edge" - indeed, it has actually ran out of steam commercially. So there is no sense at all, despite what Carolyn Clay may say, in which it could be called "revelatory." Unless Carolyn has never been to a disco, which is certainly possible.