Sunday, December 09, 2007

Critical Thought #3: Thoughts on Second Thoughts

Saw No Dice on Saturday. Got fired up by the show and wrote a review about it that evening. Saw two more shows tonight, The Devil's Disciple and Vital Signs (a one-act play festival), but kept thinking about No Dice. Now although I write on a website that is by nature fluid, I don't think it's ethical for me to amend any review that I write, at least not to change an opinion of it (making a technical correction, especially as I have no editor; that I feel is fair game so long as I credit the correction, much like a newspaper does the next day). But then I started reading the comments to my last thought here, and it occurred to me, when talking about subjectivity and the use of blogs, wouldn't it be great to be able to stay fresher?

I'm not talking about changing an opinion, or pulling a 180, but what if you realize you haven't spoken strongly enough in favor of a show or if you were too lenient? Sometimes it takes a while for something to sink in, and it's true that you don't always realize what you've got until it's gone. Also, let's not ignore the fact that in such a subjective field, mood plays a large part, and you'd be hard pressed to find any writer who can block out all moods, stresses, and other thoughts from their ultimate perspective. (That's why I'm against trusting any one voice.) So why not allow the critic a space in which to slightly touch up or touch down their thoughts? We've allowed John Simon to change his mind entirely about Sondheim over the course of 40 years (though the plays themselves haven't changed, only the times), so why not compress that and allow -- nay, expect -- that critics give themselves the room, even if only on the Internet to self-correct? Wouldn't that be an excellent use of blogging? The PR firms would still have their blurbs, and if the internet really is as shabby a tool as they think, any later corrections wouldn't really change those (not like the pull quotes are always honest, either).

I don't really know that there's so much of a point to this post, and it certainly feels like a ramble, but what I'm trying to say is that No Dice really is a striking show. I still prefer the more compressed and stylized work of The Debate Society, but that's because I'm an aesthete at heart, and I can't say that No Dice is as original as other theatergoers might take it to be, because I've seen a lot of experimental works from groups like Rotozaza. But that energy, those accents, that faux-amateurish charm (yeah, they knew exactly what they were doing), they really did succeed in getting the audience to love them, and I'd be remiss if I didn't tell the audiences that "I'm A Sexy Robot" is still stuck in my head (I want Nature Theater of Oklahoma to release a YouTube video . . . even though their whole point is that it's live).

Here's the point (at a point where some bloggers are worried about such a stupid, imaginary thing as "trust"): after editing, processing, careful considering, review, and publishing, the review is still a subjective force, and if we're really interested in the arts that we write about -- the theater itself -- then there's no reason why we shouldn't go back in to the fray and write for what we stand behind. Playwrights endlessly workshop their plays, changing them even in the midst of previews; perhaps it would be more truthful for critics to acknowledge that what's currently going as their final word isn't necessarily their most accurate one. And maybe they should explore ways in which they can continue to explore their reactions; otherwise, a deadline is just as cold as it sounds.

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