'Plaint of the Playwright

'Plaint of the Playwright

[ Wednesday, January 16, 2002 ]

I saw the review that The Capital Times' Debra Neff Nathans wrote for Mercury Players' Computers In Love.

Some excerpts:

Hey.  Cool.

Which is pretty neat. A lot of people have been complimenting me on the show I wrote...which makes me feel bad as well as good, because I feel like if I accept the compliment, then I'm turning my back on the show I directed.

More on this later.

Anyway, then she said:

Well, allllll right!.

I should probably note at this point that I've been reviewed by Neff Nathans before.

Now, to be fair, she has liked everything I've done but one show--Meeting Jerry Springer--which she disliked so much that she felt the need to slam it again in her review for my next show.

I wish I could find the copy of that review, actually, so you could see what I'm talking about.

But she saw a really bad performance--arguably the worst performance of the run. It was a night where we were missing the actor who ran camera (Scott Feiner), and as a result, I ended up doing it--my own dumb idea--which ended up seriously hindering the show.

See, I was in the show as the "producer," and it was my job to keep things moving, and basically "direct" the improv as it happened.

When I was only half-involved, the show went spiralling out of control--what normally would have been a half hour improv turning into almost an hour and a half--and it wasn't funny or interesting. The audience (which included not only Neff, but the mother of a one of Jerry Springer's real-life crew, and my dad) was bored.

Anyway, back to the Computers In Love review:

Aw, crap.

Okay, let me be the first to point out that it is by no means the longest play in the show. I'd also like to point out that she does get the point of the piece--but doesn't get that we meant it.

She also compares it to another play in the show, called "Chat Room." Doug Reed, writer of "Sonata For Internet," (who Neff Nathans' never credited in the review) says this to that:

As a side note, I have come up with several ways that "Chat Room" and "Sonata For Internet" are "simliar in style and content"...

1) Both take place in the same theatre.

2) Both make frequent use of English words such as the, of, to, in, and and.

3) Both feature carbon-based mammals in leading roles.

4) Both take place in an oxygen-rich atmosphere capable of sustaining life. (At least, this is true of Chat Room's first ten minutes.)

5) The law of gravity is in effect for both shows.

Okay, so back to Neff Nathan's review of Springer. Since that show was about 60% improv, she said in the review that she suspected that I did it that way so that I didn't have to write as much of a script.

Um, no.

In fact, I had to write nearly three times as much script as I normally would have had to for a regular show.

What's really dumb is that hers was the only negative review for that show--all the other critics raved about it.

So, I did the only mature thing...I named a character in Irish Lesbian Vampire 2 after her and killed her. For those of you who've seen the show, it was "Sister Neff," the nun who gets her tongue sliced in half and is then forced to go down on a female vampire.

Yes, yes, I know.

That show I expected to get panned--I pretty much named every character who gets killed after a critic in town. But I did play fair--I included critics who've never reviewed me and even some who have reviewed me favorably.

But, yeah, I was pretty much daring them to slam me.

After that, I was pretty okay with it. While I disagree with Neff Nathans often, and gleefully acknowledge her time-to-time blunders (she once complained about what she thought was a local reference to the Capital Building in a production of Sweeney Todd--without taking into account that the play is sort of set in London, and that there might be more than one dome-shaped building in the world) I will say that I do respect that she does pay to see every show she goes to, doesn't annouce herself like some critics do, and never engages the artists one-on-one. Plus, you can actually tell whether or not she likes a show (Nadine Goff, take note).

Oh, yeah, and if any theater critics are reading this now, be aware of one thing when you come and review my next show:

Yes, I am watching you. I am checking to see if you actually enjoy the show. Because some reviewers--and I'm talking to you, Jessica Berson--will see a show, laughing and enjoying it...and then slam it in the review.

My friend Bill Hagen (who also didn't really like or understand Meeting Jerry Springer) once said that reviews are kind of pointless in the scheme of things--that if you don't find worth in the bad reviews then you shouldn't pay attention to the good ones either. To this I say:

1) Good point.


2) Jesus, cheer up, dude.

Although, really, Doug Reed put it best, when he said:

Neff is a slack-jawed, six-toed, drooling moron.

I'll get off my high horse about critics when I meet one who can write better than I can.

Of course, that's just my opinion, and I'm never wrong.

Hey, you! Don't click that--click this.

posted by Rob on 11:04 AM | link



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