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Letters to the Editor

On poorly written reviews

For the love of all that is good, will someone please instruct the Arts Editors and/or their "reviewers" how to write a legitimate theater review? The "Cafe des Artistes" in the Feb. 17 'Prince' was yet another testament to abominable art reviews on this campus.


Both Lauren Teichner '03 and Doug Callahan '01 provide cogent and insightful plot summaries of Richard Greenberg's "Three Days of Rain" and David Mamet's "Oleanna," respectively. Their detailed precis and analysis of the "language" would be worthy of any Modern American Drama preceptor's halfhearted accolades. However, I searched and searched and found no review. I was under the impression, according to the photo collage and article titles that these would be comprehensive reviews of the three specific dramatic productions currently under way on the Princeton campus.

Callahan, however, addresses the two performers in Anita Konka '01's production in two cursory sentences after 13 long-winded paragraphs of summary and textual analysis. He talks about "Carol" and "John" rather than the undergraduate actors playing them, Erin Gilley '02 and Brandon Miller '01. At one point, he even contends that "Carol . . . appears somewhat inconsistent . . . in her portrayal." In her portrayal of what? She is the one being portrayed, and actress Gilley barely receives mention. Teichner offers stunning insights like the following: "Bryan plays the roles of both Walker and Ned, and Adger plays the roles of both Nan and Lina," thereby saying nothing about the technical or interpretive prowess of either performance. Both reviewers mention the respective directors only cursorily.

This is a seminal problem in 85 percent of theater reviewing on this campus. Mamet's and Greenberg's texts stand as is. Tell us about the production at hand: the lights, the use of space, the director's "vision" (as trite as that has become). We know that these plays have been written. Give the dozens of students who have spent months preparing for these productions, especially the hardworking and unrewarded directors, the credit of a correct review. All reviewers should be required to read the play beforehand, and then forget that it exists on paper, addressing only what they see before them. Plot summary and textual analysis should be limited to two paragraphs, at the very most. All reviewers should also be required to read at least one theater review in the New York Times in order to see what they might be missing in their grand attempts at answering the questions these texts present. Perhaps no one but those involved in these productions will be reading your review, all the more reason to do them the justice of reviewing their art — not that of Mamet or Greenberg.

Even Ben Sirota '00, former 'Prince' Arts Editor, spends the first half of his review of Kurt Uy '01's "Jeffrey" discussing the nuances of the AIDS theme in Rudnick's text. His attention to the actors is at least substantial, even if disorganized and muddled, crisscrossing the intentions of the writer and "character" with that of the poor actor who only wants a clear statement of his performance quality in print.

And none of these three reviews even mentioned a single technical aspect of the production. They discuss the directors incidentally and the theatrical space only to direct future audience members to its geographic location on campus. Please, I beg of you, on behalf of everyone for whom this artistic endeavor seems worth it: make it so! — Katie Pickett '00