Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Good Reviews!

The Whipping Man is getting very good reviews.  Always nice.

As a set designer though, you shouldn't necessarily expect to set your set in any review, good or bad.  (I've mostly been pretty lucky.)  Here's my take on how reviews work:

1)  A review will always identify the theater venue and company, the show, and its creators (playwright, composer, etc.).  If the show has credentials - Broadway, megahit, recent film staring Justin Beiber, Tonys, whatever - that gets mentioned toward the top.  And there's at least a brief explaination of what the show is about and its type: musical. drama, comedy etc.
2)  A review will always discuss the acting.  Almost always the direction.  The amount of detail depends more on the space allotted to the text, than to any other factor.

And then... I figure the  reviewer has room for one more thing...

3)  If the show is a new work, then the reviewer needs to spend much longer explaining the story than for, say, Hamlet.  This usually exhausts all available ink.

But then - all in a rush...

4)  The reviewer will try to throw in a fast mention of set/lights/costumes/props (ha! as if).

If the new show happens to be easy to explain or if there is extra room because the actors' names are short, the reviewer may elaborate on production values or on some other aspect of the production that catches his or her fancy - maybe the remodeled theater lobby.  Online critics get more room (blog-inches and pixels for words not being in short supply), but mostly they forget that fact or follow the traditional formula or get tired and want to go to bed.  Once in a great while, a reviewer will get excited about a set or costume or lighting effect and will steal words from the other stuff.  If a "technical" aspect of the production pops to the top of the review, then the critic really loved or hated it!

So far The Whipping Man is getting good mentions for the playwright and play, the actors and direction, and "production values" have been discussed mainly online.  (Nicely.)  In print though, there was apparently only room to discuss the fire drill.

Public domain image.

In fairness to the critic, maybe the fire drill was added as in-fairness-to-the-actors?  They were very cool about it, actually.  

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