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Mea culpa Olympia Family Theater

Our critic recuses himself

OLYMPIA FAMILY THEATER: It stages "The Wind In The Willows" through Dec. 23. Courtesy photo

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I'm an actor and director myself, so my job spawns its share of awkward moments. Over the last three years, I've reviewed the work of friends, respected colleagues, and folks who've been unkind to me. I've done my best to turn an equal critical eye on everyone. I believe in the value of what I do, for both the Volcano and the South Sound theater community. Shameless objectivity is not a responsibility I take lightly, nor is it one I've allowed myself to shirk. If you thought I approached any production more generously than another, then I'm confident you were mistaken...until now.

Olympia Family Theater's The Wind in the Willows is my first true exception. I should've seen it coming and recused myself, an error in judgment for which I meekly apologize. This cannot be a proper review. I'm the wrong guy to write it. Why now? It's not that my brother's partner (God, that insipid PC appellation), Jenny Greenlee, is the director. It's not that dear friends are in the cast. It's not even that Andy Gordon, one of my favorite local actors and thinkers, wrote the script. It's that I helped.

Oh, not much, you understand. I read several early drafts, performed in public readings and offered authorial feedback. But at some point in the process, I formed my own interpretations of Kenneth Grahame's settings and characters. I couldn't help it. I saw them my way; no one else's would do. So where my impression of Badger conflicts with Ingrid Pharris Goebel's, I'm unable to look around that mental obstacle. I believe the role requires a more gruffly authoritarian actor. But that's because I saw David Wright play the character in a reading, so to my mind, David Wright is now Badger. That's in no way fair to Ingrid Pharris Goebel. She does fine work as always, even managing a credible Yorkshire accent. I'm aware I'm too close to this material. At some point I crossed an event horizon.

So what do I know for sure? Kate Arvin's Mole is adorable. Jason Haws brings reliable charisma to Toad. Bruce Whitney's songs are delightful, if written for registers unsuited to Greenlee's gender-blind casting approach. I can see and hear what works (for example, Kyle Henrick's taciturn butler) and what doesn't (the sound mix, which buries Whitney's underscore). What I can't do is un-remember previous incarnations of Andy Gordon's two-year-long labor of love, so I'm obliged to recuse myself from further critiquing it. Perhaps Alec Clayton will review it elsewhere. Otherwise, I hope it's produced out of town in the next year or two so an uninvolved critic can give it the review it deserves. This was my fault, not yours.

Mea culpa, OFT. Kids are loving your show, but for now, that's the only review you can trust.


Comments for "Mea culpa Olympia Family Theater" (1)

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alec clayton said on Dec. 06, 2012 at 4:17pm

Carv said he hopes I will review it. I will. I'll review it on my blog, and I'll even add an afterword about how Carv and I have radically different approaches to writing theater reviews and yet come up with very similar judgments almost every time. And I'll even give Papi Swarner permission to repost it in part or in whole. The gauntlet has been tossed and accepted.

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