Let us only speak truth. With the vantage of perspective. Sunday’s opening was a thrilling culmination, a rapturous reception from audience who spoke of our “reaching a new high-point;” “nothing short of amazing;” “enormous talent and a phenomenal achievement!” Typical opening night self-congratulations? No. This was something extraordinary. It is a beautifully delivered performance of a score imbued with real gift and real genius. We left the theater late Sunday night with a feeling of deep accomplishment. With a united company that had been challenged mightily by the high degree of difficulty and had emerged in fine fettle, with a show that had been fired by rigorous refinements over some high pressured days and weeks. We were a production fulfilled on that night.
Monday for me was jury duty. A Grand Jury summons, I contemplated jury service of 8 weeks duration. I don’t think so! when I produced a travel itinerary for Israel and Spain later in June, they let me go to petite jury. And there I sat, a possible juror on an armed robbery and assault case, until i was let go of that at the very last possible moment. A relief. And an interesting day with the great range of humanity that make up our city, sitting in a courtroom with a benevolent and wise judge. I was happy to be part of this particular system. Justice at work. Still exhausted from the night before, I reflected that all artistic directors should be sent for a full day of jury duty the morning after a rousing opening night. Breeds perspective. And all day, Daniel Hoffman’s brilliant score was running through my brain. I love that music. And our performance of it.
And now this morning. The rainy paper arrives. We open The Post. And Peter Marks has done it again. A critic who fails new work. Quite simply. The wonderful playwright Yehuda Hyman writes me from the lobby of the hotel where he’s checking out in an hour. “Wow. This is the worst. I am really sorry, Ari. It’s so bad it’s almost good, except it’s not good.”
Here’s what I write to Yehuda:
“He’s failed a great score and great book in the most fundamental of ways. He quite simply was the wrong man for the job from very the beginning of this assignment. The impact, alas, will be real. In the end, Peter is so not the person we make theater for; he’s the wrong arbiter determining what should be seen and what will last. Fortunately, our cast believes in this score and this story and they will deliver a dedicated performance throughout. So all our dreams won’t come true on this production? The show was realized. The show came true. Its spirit and its intent are being shared for all to partake. So it wasn’t crowned Homecoming King this go around. So what? We survived high school. We’ll survive this too.
We live in a rough world. And this play is aware of that world, even as it has so much beauty in it. And reverence. And irreverence too. Peter’s not the most ungenerous scrouge we’ve got going in this city. There’s plenty of company. So we’re making art in hostile surroundings. We have no choice, but to be strong.”