Tuesday, December 13, 2011

God's Plot, at Shotgun

(Most of the ensemble.  Photo by Pak Han.)

In my latest review, of God’s Plot, at Shotgun, I allocate space in a way I’ve been criticized for in the past: discussing themes and context at the expense of design and performance.

Every critic brings a unique background and set of predilections to his or her writing.  Previous incarnations of Lily include a director and a playwright, but I’m not an actress, and I’ve never even tried to design.  It’s no wonder I so often find myself drawn to write about the categories in which I have some experience, where I’m not just better informed but also more imaginative: There, I can more easily envision alternatives to artists’ choices.

What that means is that I sometimes don’t talk as much about costume, lighting, set and sound designers or actors as I do directors and playwrights.  And in a play like God’s Plot, in which I thought all aspects of the production were very fine, I’m neglecting to praise artists of merit.

A critic has two conflicting imperatives: to review a play holistically, and to relate a predominant impression, i.e., to talk about what moved him or her.  It’s tough to do both, especially the holistic part.  There’s always another detail you could include, another shout-out you could throw in. 

And maybe even with a universally well-done show, I’m still entitled to write about the parts I found most intriguing.  Attempting to name everything, after all, can start to look like a laundry list.

Still, I wish I could have named more names in the article.  Info about the show, which continues through Jan. 14, is available here.


  1. I actually quite appreciated the emphasis you chose to place on content in your review of GOD'S PLOT, Lily. In that regard I especially appreciated the space you dedicated to the character Tryal Pore. No other critic thus far has granted her the space to offer any insight into her significance, though she's the pivotal character.

    Your blog entry here also reminds me of a talkback I attended in 2005 following a Peter Brook production. Brook made it clear to us he didn't care to talk about the aesthetics, but wanted to discuss the content of the piece. Despite this request, the audience insisted on offering up only what they "liked" and "didn't like" as well as what they "expected" versus what they got. Brook shut that talkback down within 6 or 7 minutes. The man was in his eighties. He clearly didn't want to waste what time he had left talking about things like lights or how long they rehearsed.

    If form exists in theater to express content, then I'd say focusing a review on the content expressed is perfectly legit -- and a refreshing change from the norm. Our American culture could use a greater emphasis on content in general these days.

    Mark J

  2. Thanks for taking the time to write, Mark -- I appreciate your thoughts!

    Also: I love the idea of PB terminating his own Q&A for not being deep or exciting enough -- there may be the beginnings of a play in there!