Tonight we have a chance to talk with our audience after the show in the informal environs of our JCC Cafe, the Distrikt Bistro, where, joined with some of the cast, we’ll discuss Deb Margolin’s arresting, thought-provoking play. Students from the University of Michigan, from Notre Dame, and from University of California at Berkeley and Merced will also be attending. They’re all newly enrolled in my “Theater of Politics/Politics of Theater” course, and they’ll be responding to the play in the comments section below. And so can anyone else!
The play’s received a hugely warm reception from the Washington critical community and it’s playing and selling like a hit! Here are links from three of the latest reviews:
In our class session last week, after students had read (but had yet to see) the play, we had a spirited discussion about it and whether it mattered whether audiences sympathized, or identified with, or could see themselves within any of the characters; especially Madoff. We discussed the many different tactics artists employ in theatricalizing public figures and recent events. What’s the relationship between facts as they’ve happened and theatrical truth? Poetic and dramatic license? At what point — is there any point — when credulity is strained? We had a review before us to wrestle with — as we still waited for The Post review to appear, one week ago tonight. We discussed the journalistic protocol of reviewing a performance clearly not meant for reviewing purposes (the critic, Bob Mondello came on 9/3, ostensibly, we thought to do a feature for NPR, not review for the Washington City Paper — but, in the end, the paper ran Mondello’s review from the 9/3 show; a review based on a preview performance where 12 minutes of the show were mistakenly shorn because we skipped 3 pages of text!!! Now an accident like that happens only once every five (or twenty-five) years in a given theater company — but it happened to us, that one preview night and that one preview only!). Anyway, we were ashen about that preview, and our marketing director told Mondello, the only critic in the house that night, about the mistake. The City Paper was correct in pointing out that what was reviewed was in fact a preview performance, but didn’t/couldn’t note that something was missing (like three-and-a-half pages of text!). To both our playwright’s and to our production’s points of view, it was a preview performance that shouldn’t have been reviewed. But it was. And that’s posterity for ya!
What ensued on the City Paper site was a very interesting discussion involving the playwright, a local director, and ultimately a third WCP theater critic, talking about another issue entirely — Should the critic read a play either before or after seeing a show, but before writing the review? Is such a thing even possible? Or practical? Read the City Paper discussion here.
And for a number of fresh takes on the production, read the comments below!
As I write this now after the discussion downstairs, I can attest: It was a brilliant interchange in our cafe. Let’s see how the students report back on the entire evening!