Criticism hurts

Thanks to our correspondent Elizabeth for alerting us to the following kerfuffle.

Ted Diadiun, a columnist for the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that the theater critic from his paper, Tony Brown, was accosted by the artistic director of the Drury Theatre, who was apparently having a bad reaction to Brown’s dismissive review of the company’s Rabbit Hole.

Here’s what Diadiun had to say about the incident:

Artistic Director Michael Bloom, inspired by an unfavorable review Brown had written of the play and his direction, spied Brown in the back row of the theater, hurried down the aisle and ran the critic down in the lobby, where he passionately delivered an intimate and unrestrained critique of the review.

Accounts of the exchange differ. Brown says Bloom gripped his hand and wouldn’t let go, cursed him loudly in a threatening way and then pounded him overly hard on the back as he left.

Now, I’ve been reviewing Bay Area theater for 14 years, and I’ve never had the misfortune of being accosted by anyone, let alone an artistic director. I will say that, through the grapevine, I’ve heard about artistic directors who would happily have pummeled me but settled for putting me on their “never, ever, under any circumstances let him talk to me” list. The biggest threat I’ve received (so far) is from the now-deceased actor/critic (never a good combo) Dean Goodman, who didn’t like my review of his performance in Horowitz and Mrs. Washington. He said that, like Sylvia Miles did when she saw John Simon after he wrote a particularly scathing review of her, he would happily dump a plate of spaghetti over my head.

I’m going to give the final word to columnist Diadiun, who puts it very nicely:

The relationship between a good critic and the people on his beat is always a dicey one, unless the critic is simply a sycophant. His subjects, who usually work ferociously hard at what they do and are seldom shortchanged in the ego department, are rarely happy at being criticized.

The best way to keep the relationship honest is to show up. A good critic will always show up and face his target after a bad review. But while a sports columnist might feel a twinge walking into a locker room after criticizing a 260-pound linebacker, physical intimidation is not normally an occupational hazard for a theater critic.

Read the whole article here

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