“The best audience is intelligent, well-educated, and a little drunk.”


“The best audience is intelligent, well-educated, and a little drunk.”
Alvin Barkley

Opening weekend of Noises Off is officially over and now the worry can set in. Review worry, that is. If you are prepared for an entry devoted entirely to typical actor neuroses, read on. If not, may I recommend this page as a fun alternative? All right– on with the show…

The thing about reviews is that they’re written by one person. You’re getting one person’s opinion and even if it’s an educated opinion from a person who genuinely knows what they’re talking about and who you may’ve agreed with in previous theatre considerations, you can’t ignore the fact that it is still, ultimately and always, One Person’s Opinion of One Performance of the production in question. That said, the only time you really want to dismiss this Singluar Opinion is when it’s bad, or merely mediocre. Figures, right? So there’s:

You thought our production was only “all right”? *feh* Your review is only all right. How d’y’like that? Yeah? Yeah? Yeah, that’s right. Your review is only all right… Yeah.

vs.

You thought our performances were a riot and loved our work? Cleeeeearly you are above average in all respects and your review is Gospel!

And it happens that way every time. Without fail. Do you or don’t you trust the review? It all depends. All depends and never matters.

*hee hee hee*

*hee hee hee*

The other thing you’ve got to sit and chew on for a while ’til the review actually comes out is: What performance did the reviewer see? Was it Friday evening when the laughter flowed freely from a crowd eager to leave the work week behind them? Was it Saturday night when the audience applauded individual bits as well as act breaks? Was it Sunday afternoon when entrances were missed, lines were dropped, props were mishandled and– and so forth?

It’s maddening not knowing. It really is. And only slightly less maddening is the fact that the performance that was taped for the theatre’s records of this particular production was this afternoon’s performance in which everything that could go wrong did. I mean– that’s unfortunate, right?

And then there’s the focus of the review. Will it concentrate on those bits you feel are the show’s strongest selling points? Or will the reviewer become so hung up on a costume choice they didn’t agree with that a pair of socks or a necktie will end up getting more mention in the review than the acting or the directing? Will all but one actor get mentioned, leaving them feeling absurd and forgotten? Will the entire review take no more than a paragraph because the writer was so uninterested in your work that they couldn’t come up with anything more to say?!

Or will the review be a book report? You know the type: 90% synopsis, 5% “what, where, when, how much,” and 5% actual review. Because come on: What the heck is even the point in writing something like that?

Luckily the audience feedback has been truly exciting this weekend so the review that actually matters regardless of all the above conditions- the audience’s review- has been a very happy one to receive. It’d still be a drag to get a mention in the local whatever and have it be poor when I really think there’s some wonderfully funny work going on in this production, but the things audience members are saying so far are just– well gosh. Gosh gosh gosh. I mean it really is just such an uplifting and fulfilling feeling to put in so much hard work, so much time, so much creativity and energy and everything, and have it met with this kind of laughter and positivity. It’s fabulous. Makes you want to not do anything else with your life but this.

Hot Toddy

Two, please...

Except for the fact that “this” happens to be so exceptionally draining that all you want to do after the curtain call is whip off your shoes, strip down to baggy shorts and an enormous, ill-fitting tee, and down as much of a hot toddy as you possibly can between the kitchen and BED.

I don’t know how people can run this show for any longer than the four weekends we’re running it; it’s exhausting. All that up and down on one flight of stairs after another in suits and ties, corsets and heels— Egad! Even just our three remaining weekends have got me wondering how we’ll manage. Especially as roughed up as we are. Never in my life have I worked on a show that’s provided opportunities for quite so many injuries as this one has. I wish I had a picture of my latest addition. It’s rather a beauty, really. A 1″ wide by 3″ high scraped bruise on my right bicep. Watch for it this weekend if you stop out. Made it all by myself with a piece of arm and a bit of door frame.

There’s not a one of us that doesn’t have a scratch or a scrape somewhere, and some of the injuries sustained are definitely more major than others, but the average Wound Roster for each of us includes a body full of oddly shaped bruises of indeterminate origin; bright red scrapes from running aground of backstage corners; scuffs and splinters from brutal railings; and flaps of angry skin hanging precariously from knees, shins, fingers, feet, and elbows as reminders that doors and door frames, windows and window frames, buckets, mops, plates, mallets, and staircases are not items to be trusted nor trifled with. Ever.

It’s nearly midnight and I begin fulfilling my meager addition to the department-wide mandatory overtime at work tomorrow. Best head off to bed and save these worries for daylight. Nighty night, all, and may your neuroses not be as ridiculous as these.

************

ETA: The first review- the only review?- is in, and it’s a good one. Very solid, very positive. Keyed in on a few folks whose work I am so happy to see recognized in print. (Extra big hoorays for my buddy Matthew who is super awesomely funny in this show!! :D)

From “Noises Off Delves Behind the Scenes” from the Waukesha Freeman

Director Mark Salentine bravely took on this challenging play but was greatly aided by a very talented, competent cast, which made the difficult look relatively easy. Matt Patten, the consummate comic actor, led the way with his singular antics as Garry Lejuene. Randall Anderson was quite engaging as the insecure hemophiliac Frederick, and David Kaye as the stagehand who filled in for any missing person was quite funny with his deadpan style. I liked the way Cindy Zauner, always reliable in any role, played the dumb housekeeper Dotty Otley, too.

The other competent actors included Nathan Berish, who played Lloyd, the harried director; Ruth Arnell, always good at the dumb blonde roles; Jenny Kosek, who’s convincing as the overwhelmed stage manager; Belinda Blair, who tries to keep everyone happy and focused, an impossible task; and the well-meaning Robert A. Zimmerman as the unreliable burglar.

Kind of hoping there’s another review in the works so there’s an additional outside written opinion that paints the rest of us as perhaps a bit more than “competent.” Yikes! If anything else does come around I’ll post a link here, but until then… um… Yeah I got nothin’.

************

ETA: Review Numero Dos, From “Noises Off! at the Sunset Playhouse is great summer fluff” from Vital Source Magazine

This exuberant and fast paced farce requires the ablest of actor bodies for as it is intense physical comedy, along with synchronized timing to complete in rapid succession while appearing effortless. Each member of the cast successfully provides this, including the lanky Matthew J. Patten (Garry Lejeune), who falls down a flight of stairs and integrates a most appealing hand dialogue with coordinating dialect into his role. Ruth Arnell (Brooke Ashton) pertly gives her character, both the ‘on’ and ‘off’ stage persona, a delightful pout. The returning Sarah Laak Hughes (Belinda Blair) remains a charming addition while Nathan Berish (Lloyd Dallas) directs this entire on stage house of fun with proper British arrogance. The production indeed takes an entire team effort to perform this complicated play, and does so with a confidence that deserves applause.

Yay! Pretty nice, huh? Yeah, I thought so too. :)

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5 comments

  1. Good grief, woman!

    (to the injuries, i mean…)

    And yes, yes, yes, to everything about reviews…gah, they’re so damned difficult to deal with…

    But trust your audience–they’re the ones who really matter. :)

  2. The only thing I can add to your wonderful summary of reviews, reviewers, and waiting to exhale after a show is that I am the proud owner of a letter of apology from a reviewer who actually admitted he was having a bad night!

  3. If you’re like me, you agree with about 10% of Julie McHale’s reviews, so there ya go. She’s big into book reviews. But clearly your audiences knew better, and take that to heart, because as you know, that’s what really matters. I can’t wait to see it!

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