Saturday, May 12, 2012

Down to This, by Sleepwalkers, and Good Theater Critic/Bad Theater Critic

(Jomar Tagatac, Kendra Lee Oberhauser and Tonya Narvaez in the Sleepwalkers Theatre production. Photo by Sarah Roland.)

Benjamin Wachs and I just published our third theater review podcast for SF Weekly, of Sleepwalkers Theatre's world premiere of Down to This, by Adam Chanzit. After we finished recording, Benjamin said something that felt only too true: That we're settling into roles. He's the "mean" theater critic and I'm the "nice" one.

In this case, "nice" has two meanings: being forgiving of shows and also being deferential in debate. I was never very good at arguing or debating. Most of the time, other people's ideas just look so comfy that I want to try them on for a while. And speech never comes to me in flowing, inevitable-sounding reams. As this podcast conveys, when I talk, each individual word must force its way out. I seem much more convincing on the page, I think, where I can shrink spaces between words from              this to this.

Of course, even though it's my job to have strong opinions about shows, it's okay if not every single one inspires in me a burning passion that I am chomping at the bit to defend. But at the same time, it's a little bit silly to post various Kenneth Tynan quotes—"Rouse tempers, goad and lacerate, raise whirlwinds"—above my computer if what I really do is placate tempers, hem and haw, tidy dust-ups. I hereby make it a goal, and this is so commonsense that it really shouldn't need to be goal, but what can you do, that the next time we do a podcast about a show I feel strongly about, I will be prepared to argue strongly for that feeling even if I change my mind. This will be a valuable exercise for me, but it will also make for a more interesting discussion.

Down to This continues through May 26 at the Exit Theatre; info here.

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