Weekly Volcano Blogs: Walkie Talkie Blog

January 3, 2011 at 3:09pm

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WHAT I LOOK FOR, PART IV >>>

A professional theater critic should be the second critic to see the show, not the first, and he or she is much less important to the show's success or failure than the actual first critic: the director. Part of a director's job is to dissect his or her own show and find every last flaw, then correct it before anyone else ever sees it.

It's often said wise audience members wait till the last week of a show to see it, and that it's a shame theatre critics can't do the same. Horseshit. I can only review the show you show me, and every show should be 100 percent ready on opening night. That audience pays the same ticket price as any that follows. The problem with the old saw about "theatre magic" salvaging a show from chaos at the last possible second is it works, but only so well. Yes, actors' desperation to avoid public humiliation can slap leaky patches on a broken show, but imagine how much better that show would've been if it were sufficiently rehearsed. Determined acting can't fix incompetent directing, nor is it an actor's job to even try.

Other elements I enjoy in a show:

Guts, by which I mean courage; but a few steaming piles of viscera never hurt a good Jacobean slaughterfest either. Onstage nudity is incredibly brave, of course, but so is looking old or unattractive.

Poetry, delivered clearly and beautifully.

Lockstep platoons of chorus dancers.

Water effects--the refraction off a "swimming pool" surface, the skillful deployment of spinning gobos to simulate rainfall, the Tempest.

Credible child actors.

Choreographed swordfights and derring-do generally.

Actors who "cover" technical mishaps without missing a beat.

Sexy classics. It's incredibly difficult to make Shakespeare sexy, but Kenneth Branagh managed with Much Ado About Nothing. So can you.

Range. I cannot emphasize this enough. Olympia loves to stereotype its actors, and I understand why. It's easier and safer. But nothing makes me love an actor more than a brand-new, believable character. If, on the other hand, I get "sassy!" from certain actors one more time I will weep openly.

Stage kissing that looks like actual kissing. In a Meisner show, it should be actual kissing.

Urgency. Something in the story has to matter to its characters-both deeply and now.

Vulnerability. No human being is bulletproof, physically or emotionally.

What Brecht called "character gestus," a physical choice that reveals personality, motivation, and background.

Variations in tempo, adroitly orchestrated to heighten tension and impact.

Originality.

Wit.

The perfection of artful moments.

Creative spectacle.

And above all: Passion. Passion. PASSION! Without that, there's always something better on TV.


PREVIOUS "WHAT I LOOK FOR" POSTS

LINK: Script is king

LINK: Before the show

LINK: On with the show

Filed under: Arts, Community, Theater, Olympia,
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