In reckoning with the events of the weekend, we’ve all had a chance to consider the meaning of reviews, why we (or at least I) am forced to confer so much importance upon them, how we display them (or don’t) in our lobby, how they impact audience attendance (and reaction), and how crucial it is that we not let them derail our trajectory. Late last night, I took to reading back through the blog postings about the ambitious musical we launched a year ago, “David in Shadow and Light” and found it poignant to read through the last time we were so disappointed, how personally upsetting the month turned out to be for our playwright (who lost his mother the same week of the review), and how we tried to gamely forge forward and, to varying degrees, succeeded in bringing new people in to see the show, even as that 7 week run closed a week early. I loved remembering the little party we had for our DAVID cast and supporters at Irene Wurtzel’s farm out in Virginia and the music that was made that night in a most Chekhovian setting, with a most Chekhovian sense of the bittersweet.
Now that Chekhovian bittersweet is with us quite literally on stage, as events in the life of our theater are reflected on stage, amplified and made all the more poignant by the dialogue between the production and the continuing story of our theater’s striving to take flight with new work, frequently from a Jewish perspective, often getting shot down from a familiar sharp-shooter. The bird-kill does seem to add up. And yet we’re a resilient outfit–hardly a Treplev–though we still feel his pain, and he ours.
And so yesterday I put in a call to our director, John Vreeke, to catch him up on the week, the good, the bad, the poignant. Here’s his response:
From: John Vreeke
To: Ari Roth
Sent: Sat, Jun 27, 2009 10:24 pm
Subject: your call
(*reprinted with permission)
Thanks a whole bunch for your phone call message…sorry I missed it. I’ve taken to leaving my blackberry behind as I walk along the Puget Sound beach with Sammy, our dog. I’m home alone this week since Rick had to rush to Michigan to look after his ailing mom…and I’ve been decompressing and evaluating, of course.
After about an hour of controlled despair this morning around Mark’s dismissive review, I came to celebrate what we did again. His review was entirely too predictable. If you approach the piece from the perspective of “how Seagull is done right,” then you have an easy shot. If Trigorin, or Arkadina or Treplev or Nina just don’t fit into whatever preconceived idea a person has of what those characters should be, then too bad. Or if you come knowing the exact tone and nature that you feel a Chekhov play should take, then again, easy shot. Our Chekhov/Roth characters are unique and interesting and come from very real places…just as we set out to do. You set out to do something quite extraordinary, Ari, and you did it extremely well… you maintained the original and added an entirely new level of meaning and experience. Our approach, to stay clear of period piece mentality and invite the actors to “be themselves” inside the framework of the writing, [is a choice] I believe in strongly. It is a beautiful, full-of-life Chekhov…much more so than most.
I hope the word of mouth is strong enough to keep the audiences coming…and that the company stays positive and enjoy the experience of performance.