Andrew Hamm: the Bipolar Express

Ruminations on theatre, music, and just about anything else that crosses my bipolar brain.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Style Weekly Reviews "Twelfth Night" ...sort of

It's a full-page picture with a blurb.

Here's the picture they chose:

And here's the whole review:

Girls Gonne Wilde
by Amy Biegelsen

Get this: Countess Olivia loves Cesario, who is actually Viola, who has been dressing in drag since getting washed ashore in the shipwreck that separated her from her brother Sebastian. Both siblings are played by the same actress, which leads to some girl-on-girl kissing, which, on opening night, led Delegate Bill Janis (R-Goochland) to avert his gaze and blush back at the actors from the front row. Sounds like a daytime soap setup, but Richmond Shakespeare Theatre’s production of “Twelfth Night” is better for your brain. Because there’s so much ornament and detail laced into Shakespeare’s comedy, the company moves everything out of the way of his words. With minimal props, crafty musical interludes and a bowling-lane-style stage — the audience sits on either side of the action — the cast gets plenty of room to play. The company performs “Twelfth Night” at Second Presbyterian Church at 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays (with an additional 2 p.m. show Saturdays) through March 31. Tickets are $13-$24. Call (866) 227-3849 or visit

That's it. One paragraph, a fairly awful picture, almost no analysis whatsoever, and the only name mentioned is that of an embarrassed Republican.

Once again, I'm in the strange position of complaining about an ostensibly good review. At least I think it's a good review; there really aren't any qualitative judgments in it except that we "move everything out of the way of [the] words," we "[get] plenty of room to play," and that we're "better for your brain" than a daytime soap opera. (Of course, the latter may just be because we're doing Shake-speah.)

I know that Style is going through an editorial upheaval right now, but can't that full page be used to print, I don't know, an actual review of the play? Style used to be the paper of record for the arts in this town, and I just expect better than this.

When all of the complexity and delight of freaking Twelfth Night is reduced to a single moment of girl-on-girl action that scandalized a politician in the front row, I'm pretty much ready to stop reading.

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  • At 3/22/2007 5:26 PM , Blogger Joey Fanelli said...

    Haha, that is, by far, the best title for any review ever.

  • At 3/23/2007 11:14 AM , Anonymous Jacquie O. said...

    Great job last night to the entire cast of TN. Now that I have seen the show the comment about the girl on girl kissing really pisses me off. It was 2 seconds long and funny. Why a critic would even mention it is beyond me! Very sad. I pray someone writes in to the paper.

  • At 3/23/2007 5:55 PM , Blogger Joey Fanelli said...

    People see a girl kissing a girl and, just like that, they forget that this is a theatrical performance, in which ACTORS ACT things out.

  • At 3/24/2007 9:33 AM , Blogger Frank Creasy said...

    Thank you Jacquie for your kind comments and for coming to the show! We were also disappointed in the inane "review", but we had to take it in stride and accept the fact that it was good publicity, and the bold color picture will catch the eyes of many STYLE readers. Hopefully that will translate to a few more audience members.

    Again, bless you for coming out to the show - it's always greatly appreciated when a respected peer and friend comes to a production. We'll see you around soon!

  • At 3/24/2007 2:22 PM , Blogger Brad said...

    You're correct. This isn't a review, but it at least paints a picture of the production leading audiences to decide if they want to see it. That might actually be BETTER than a review, since reviewers, like documentarians often neglect to define the perspective (aesthetic leanings) from which they are writing.

  • At 3/26/2007 8:55 PM , Blogger Frank Creasy said...

    You might have something there Brad...we had pretty good turnout this past weekend, which immediately followed the Style blurb. Coincidence? Maybe...could be previous reviews or word of mouth contributed. But, either way, Style didn't hurt and most likely helped.

    I've been on the receiving end of unkind reviews, and I'll take the Style non-review publicity any day!

  • At 3/27/2007 10:01 AM , Anonymous Jacquie O. said...

    My old friend Duke Lafoon said it best...I am always happy if I can remain under the detection wire in a review! He just cared about what the director and his closest peers thought of his work. The rest he took with a grain of salt. Personally I wish actors would not be allowed to read reviews until after the show closes. It just messes up the work and the experience. But I know it is a necessary evil. Randy Strawderman (artistic director of Barksdale in the mid 90’s) used to come in after a show opened and change things based on a review. Very sad.

  • At 3/27/2007 3:36 PM , Blogger Andrew Hamm said...

    Our Othello received some very pointed criticism from Style Weekly. (It was very astute and well-justified, by the way.) I told the cast, "we don't take direction from critics," and we went on doing the show we had rehearsed.

    I certainly can't complain about the turnout last weekend, which was one of our best ever. Maybe we should find a way to get some well-publicized girl-on-girl action into every show...

    Kidding. Just kidding.

  • At 3/27/2007 3:45 PM , Blogger Andrew Hamm said...


    Lovely thought from Duke LaFoon, by the way. For me, I don't care so much if the reviewer liked me or not, but I do use reviews as a gauge of whether or not my choices and intentions were clear. I can't control if the audience likes my choices, but I can control their understanding of them.

  • At 3/28/2007 2:56 PM , Anonymous Jacquie O. said...

    Well, you are assuming here that your reviewer understands the play (and the process of theatre) enough to have an informed opinion regarding your choices and intentions. In my opinion many of our critics in Richmond are not be qualified to review theatre. Just look at what the Richmond Times Dispatch did when Roy Proctor retired after 30 years. Instead of doing a national search for a new full-time EXPERIENCED theatre and art critic, they decided to save money by free lancing it out. This is how we ended up with Susan (who is a lovely person but has told me that theatre is very new to her). Style is now doing the same thing. Dave Timberline can not review every show. So they are asking whoever is interested to review a show for them. Isn’t that just wonderful?
    This is not only a disservice to the hard working people doing theatre in this community, but to the citizens of Richmond who read these reviews.

  • At 3/28/2007 4:46 PM , Anonymous Jacquie O. said...

    Apparently I not “be” qualified to write! Jeez!

  • At 3/29/2007 9:09 AM , Blogger Andrew Hamm said...

    It could be worse. We could have Daniel Neman reviewing theatre.

  • At 3/29/2007 12:48 PM , Anonymous Jacquie O. said...

    Oh now you’ve done it Andrew…I am going to have to turn around three times, spit over my right shoulder and curse just to make sure that NEVER happens!

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