Friday, April 16, 2010

metaDRAMA: One Moment in Time

The other day, someone suggested that I might review a particularly rowdy show by live-blogging the experience. The cast and crew were on board with it, but I declined. I'm already irritated by people who take our their glowing cellphones during a show in order to check the time or text; I wouldn't want to be the smug guy stretching his legs out into the aisle while clicking away at a laptop. (Well, unless that is the show, as it was with this.) But more than that, I thought the idea demonstrated a misunderstanding of what reviews and criticism should do, and since "blog journalism" may have contributed in part to the blurring of that line, I thought it was worth at least post about it here.

Let's leave aside, for a moment, the question of "critic" vs. "reviewer," and with that the associated debate over whether the writer is there for the audience, for the show, or for theater in general. Instead, let's focus on the bigger question: does a show exist in a series of strung-together moments, or is it the sum of its parts? To me, it's obvious that it should be the latter, but as I look around me, at the appalling difference between the number of clips as opposed to the number of episodes on Hulu; as I browse the average running times of YouTube clips, FailBlogs, and memes; or just watch the signs of the apocalypse in every film trailer for a shitty film, I realize that for many people, especially of the attention-addled next generation, shows exist as anthologies of moments. And let's not forget that it's a lot easier to craft a series of disparate one-liners than it is to sustain a lengthy rant that's impressive throughout.

What's missing, however, is cool-headed reflection--the point at which we take in and process what we've just experienced, and learn something from it. If we live only in the moment, then a horrible two-hour-long show is much more forgivable: because we allow it to be instantly forgettable. If we're only looking for a few bright spots, then it's no wonder that The Addams Family is critic-proof: fans of Nathan Lane will be fans of Nathan Lane, for better and worse. Whether this makes me a theater snob, a purist, or whatever, I demand more than moments, even of variety shows and circus acts. (That's why Cirque du Soleil's sustained magic does more for me than the straightforward Big Apple Circus.) I want to see growth, I want to see things that build, hell, I want that running joke to be earned.

And that's, I guess, just one more reason why I see such a need for the critic/reviewer/blogger. Whether it's an audience member chiming in on the comments section, a theater-going fan doing their best to relate their experience to another person, a reviewer summing up the show, or a critic providing context, each of these people are making theater more than just a transitory event. They're processing and holding on to the beauty of an experience, making a memory richer by soaking it in its surroundings, not in a shallow, cast-off 140-word remembrance. Besides, how are you going to live in the moment if you're there writing about it as a thing of the past?

1 comment:

RLewis said...

I can't wait for the Metadrama book to come out. One day you're gonna put all of these thoughtful posts together and have one heck of a publication. (Even though you don't like scenery. lol.) Your reviews are terrific, but thanks for chiming in with more to think about from time to time.