Sunday, February 17, 2008

Wrong priorities

The thing I regret missing most while I was away on vacation is Romeo Castellucci's Hey Girl!, which has a short run at Montclair State's Kasser Theatre. I literally had been looking forward to it for months, having been shaken to the core by his Tragedia Endogonidia: L.#09 London Portrait back in October 2005 and wanting more.

Whether you like him or not, Castellucci is one of Europe's most important theater directors right now. The New York Times even did a piece on him in Arts & Leisure. But then who did they send to review the show? Neil Genzlinger, a third or fourth stringer. This to me is a stunning move: One of the two lead reviewers, Ben Brantley or Charles Isherwood, should have reviewed the show. When the Coen brothers or Steven Spielberg or Mike Leigh releases something new, the film is reviewed by one of the Times' two chief critics, not a freelancer. It's as if the daily's theater section was unaware of what's going on in the field it's meant to cover. This is in equal parts befuddling and offensive. An equivalent would be the film section not covering the career of Abbas Kiarostami or the explosion of Korean cinema for the simple reason that they're a little too foreign, not in English or not following the aesthetic codes determined by Hollywood. In theaterspeak, this means the section is not interested in things not done in a naturalistic style and/or on Broadway.

But then, of course, too often the main theater critics display so many hang-ups that their reviewing the show does not mean we would have been spared gasp-inducing statements like "The main shortcoming of 'Hey Girl!,' though, is its unrelenting grimness." What, theater is not always feel-good? You're kidding! This kind of sentence creates knots of frustration in my stomach.

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