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The Marriage of Bette & Boo at the Masquers

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By Theresa de Valence - Posted on 28 March 2011

This is the stuff of which nightmares are made: bad memories and worse imaginings from childhood, pretending to be funny. The Marriage of Bette and Boo is directed by DC Scarpelli and Peter Budinger. Written by Christopher Durang, the show draws close parallels to his own troubled youth. For many, parts of the story are all too true—an upbringing immersed in Catholicism, eccentric relatives, and friends with crazy families.

Lots of Masquers’ royalty is involved with this production which is evident everywhere.

Set Designer DC Scarpelli and crew did a beautiful job. Before the play opens, we sense the bridal theme. Set changes and mood are simply, cleverly created. The show is presented as a series of snapshots from the photo album of the characters’ lives. Usually I never notice lighting, here Designer Rob Bradshaw accomplishes wonderful effects.

Costuming (Designer Maria Graham, Construction Bella Scarpelli, Makeup Robert Love) is a perfect mix of simplicity and sophistication. Surprisingly, nearly everyone is a redhead.

The happy moment: left, Michelle Pond, centre rear, Robert Love, right, Craig Eychner. Photo by Jerry Telfer


Jerry Telfer, father of the groom, has found a superlative rôle as Karl, curmudgeon. Karl looks bored by others’ entrenched following of religious dogma. He takes out his frustration by violating social customs of polite behaviour. He so much enjoys breaking these rules! Jerry wins my award for Actor Most Enjoying Himself and has a smashing tie.

Soot (Nancy Sale) has found a way to tolerate her husband Karl’s verbal abuse by emotionally withdrawing. Soot retains what’s important: she is very gracious. How anyone could respond to Karl’s viciousness with giggling playfulness is beyond belief. Perhaps it helps her survive, but it does nothing for those needing to rely on her.

The wedding party: left, David Weiner, centre, Michelle Pond, rear, Anne Collins, right, Ellen Brooks. Photo by Adam Telfer



Paul (David Weiner), father of the bride, has recently had a stroke. It is irrelevant that he’s unable to speak clearly, because no one is listening to him anyway. Funnily enough, in David’s second speech-impaired rôle, I understood him quite well. Paul is an ineffectual member of the family dynamic. Could he have chosen a more positive rôle in this family?

Margaret (Ellen Brooks), mother of the bride, is a gorgeous matriarch in exciting dress. I wonder if everyone likes dressing Ellen? Margaret openly states her priorities: given the choice between healthy successful children living at a distance and emotionally crippled children living near home, she would and has chosen the latter. Did she form them or did they choose to be who they are? She hustles her misfit chicks around, lecturing them to “play nice” through thick and thin and holiday dinners.

Emily (Vicki Zabarte), sister of the bride, takes Catholic devotion to a new low. In spite of perpetual confession, she never expiates her guilt. She’s prone to histrionic outbursts. Having to go to confession because of her cello is laugh-out-loud funny. She does a beautiful sympathetic birth delivery. She is the only family member who makes any attempt to relate to her nephew Matt, but even this is inadequate.

Joan (Anne Collins), sister of the bride, illustrates that teen siblings generally hate each other and some people never grow up. Although a minor character, Joan conveys meaning with every twitch of the eyebrow. And she clearly knows a great deal about what it’s like to be pregnant. She has good reason to be angry, but has chosen to let anger dominate her life.

Robert Love (photo, centre) plays Father Donnally and the Doctor with amusingly rapid costume changes. The Doctor offends us once or twice, then is gone. From Father Donnally, one might expect some comfort, but it never arrives—just another added lunacy. Father is passionate but wholly ineffective, though not unaware of his deficiencies. On some level I can’t believe that anyone who had a religious upbringing could get so little value from it, so I find Durang’s Father Donnally vicious.

Bette (Michelle Pond, photo, left) is a self-centred bitch. In the beginning—for a few seconds—Bette is lovely and sweet, as all brides are, but then her self-absorption takes over. She’s preoccupied with her husband’s drinking even though she may be driving him to it. She is obsessed with babies even when she shouldn’t be. There’s not much room in her life for anything else, including her son when he is no longer a baby. Considering her mother, Bette’s attitudes are not so surprising, but at what point does a person become responsible for her own life?

Boo (Craig Eychner) is a boor. I wanted to like him in spite of his early appearance as a vacuous young man—I thought perhaps, like all men in love, he just looked silly.

For some reason, we all want to choose sides in an argument—early on, I wanted to defend Boo’s first drink. Soon enough, though, he’s had too much. Boo’s devotion to his wife takes no more notice of who she is than she does of him. Eventually, he becomes a maudlin old soak with reddened eyes. And never along that path does he connect with his son.

Parent and child: left, Nancy Sale, right, Craig Eychner.
Photo by Adam Telfer




Matt (Peter Budinger), son of Bette and Boo, is trying to understand his life, often in relation to literature, usually unsuccessfully. Like everyone else, he wants relationships which may not be possible. Matt looks for guidance (in all the wrong places); we watch him play up to his mother, ignore the priest, and his father. He is the only character for whom we feel any warmth, but he, too, is wrapped in his own world. It’s not clear that he could accept nurturing should he succeed in finding it. He’s continually making half-hearted attempts to relate to his family, failing, and abandoning them.

These characters are sharp and brilliantly drawn. Not one of them is admirable, some of them quite savage. But they are all too believable. The story didn’t make sense to me because I couldn’t understand why anyone would voluntarily spend time here. I found very little of the play funny.

But—I was clearly in the minority—the audience screeched with laughter. Directors DC and Peter wrote “No one exposes the cruelties and indignities of life with the same level of hilarity as Durang. The desperate and completely thwarted needs of his characters—as well as their total inability to communicate with one another—translates into laughter of the highest stakes kind: the kind born of desperate pain.”

The audience clearly agreed with them. Maybe you will too.





How did you feel about the play? Comments are welcome.

The Marriage of Bette & Boo was performed March 25 - April 30, 2011, at the Masquers Theatre in Point Richmond, California. This review was also published in This Point In Time (TPIT), Vol. XXIX-5, April/May 2011, a publication of the Point Richmond History Association.

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Here's an alternative (and informed and well-written) review from someone who actually understands theater.

Theresa de Valence's picture

I suppose the first part of your remark to which I must reply is your saying "from someone who actually understands theatre" which implies, to me at least, that I do not (understand theatre), so your remark starts out as a disrespectful one. You're entitled to behave as uncivilly as you wish in the world, but ought not to expect reasoned or respectful answers with such an approach. Particularly as you're only willing to be anonymous and identify yourself at a Point Richmond resident. Hardly a position for which one can have respect. Nevertheless, I will respond to your remarks.

Whatever you believe about my ability to understand theatre, you deserve to hear how/why I approach theatre differently. I am particularly careful to learn nothing about a play beforehand partly because I want to give a writer and crew "their best shot" at attracting my attention and admiration, and partly because most theatre reviews I have read reek of an "in club" of inside knowledge to which the rest of the world are naturally excluded. Why would I want to follow someone with such disdain for others? It's okay for someone to set themselves up as a paragon of theatrical knowledge, but I don't find reading this type of thing interesting in the least.

Another thing your review did (which I despise) was to give away the plot. I've never been interested in "informed" reviews and I very carefully don't write them. Why would anyone want to read a book or go to a play where they knew mostly everything which was going to happen? I'm aware that much of the literate world feels as you do, most reviewers of books and plays provide some kind of plot synopsis. It would certainly be a much easier review to write than the kind I do write. Personally, I refuse to read those kind of reviews until after I have read the book or seen the play. Therefore, to me, a review of such a type doesn't provide several of the important functions of review writing, i.e. to attract persons to see the play, and to attract persons who would enjoy that kind of play.

If one removes the insiders' remarks and plot synopsis, your review is certainly an alternative view to mine. And there are several insightful remarks which don't violate my rules for review writing.

And it's apparent you enjoyed the play while mostly, I did not, in spite of the stellar cast and production crew. That's a difference in our respective tastes, not a difference in whether one of us "actually understands theatre".

I didn't write the review in question. Nor do I even know the reviewer. (You're correct that I agree with him, though.)

I just think that someone broadcasting their opinion far and wide owes it to the person/group/piece what-have-you on whom they're casting judgement to be informed about the piece and its context. That's not an "in-club." That's just the ability (which EVERYONE has) to do homework before you spew opinion, which, in my own opinion, is basic to the job of reviewer or critic. Again, just a differing opinion.

As for approaching your review without respect, why should one respect a lazy, knee-jerk reviewer? This isn't disdainful of others in general. Just you.

And that's something you open yourself up to the moment you start broadcasting your views far and wide and inviting general comment upon them -- especially on the web.

Again, just another differing opinion from the anonymous masses. As you requested.

Theresa de Valence's picture

In the middle of the night last night, I decided to write to you. I was going to to apologise for my hasty presumption in reading your remarks (thinking you were the ordinary anonymous sort of commenter), tell you that for every review that I write I start out explaining why I approach the review the way I do (though I invariably edit it out), and state that I would be removing my hasty remarks on this blog and yours.

Now, I'm willing to let my remarks stand. You are correct, we are all invited to have differing opinions and if one is sufficiently presumptuous as to post those opinions on the web, one invites whatever derisive remarks the poster chooses to make. It is very true that some kinds of commenters are short, anonymous and disparaging. One ought to resist responding to such trolling; perhaps you're not a troller, but you are only identifiable by the kind of remarks you make.

I have very strong opinions about giving an artist/writer/theatrical production an open and unprejudiced space in which they control the creative space whereby they may entertain and inform me. I hate spoilers - of any and all description, though I agree that it takes a lot less time/effort to write a review which includes an outline of the plot. And I firmly believe that theatre-goers do not have to be steeped in the history and variations of a production in order to be able to attend a play. Or review a play. I don't like reading those kind of reviews; they're too exclusionary. These are some of my very firm opinions (I have more), but I also realize that they are not average. But, my reviews are not intended to be "similar" to how other people write reviews. However, my views are consistent in my writing of reviews in the past 6 or 7 years that I've been doing this.

If, however, you believe my review was written by a "lazy, knee-jerk reviewer" then you clearly have no idea how many hours it takes to write an independent review.

Thank you for offering your opinions. I hope you will do so again.

I find that to imply that opinions that differ fundamentally from your own are "trolling" is just as lazy and reactionary as I've come to expect your reviews to be.

You're being redundant in restating your devotion to an uninformed and spoiler-free review. I agree with you that reviews need not and should not contain spoilers. I never said that they should, only that they owe their subject more than willful ignorance.

I'll add to my opinion that it is your responsibility not only to the creators of the pieces you review but to such readers as you may have to give them the context of any given piece. Not merely its own history but its place in History. That, in my opinion, is fundamental to understanding any artistic work. Without knowing something of Elizabethan English, Shakespeare might be accidentally be seen to be written in gibberish. Without the context of the renaissance Church, the works of Michelangelo might be mistakenly seen as zealotry.

In my opinion, that's one of the fundamental duties of a reviewer: to have or to gain an understanding of that context and to pass it on to the reader. To illuminate, not just to flippantly belch "strong opinions," which may or may not be warranted by your own experience and knowledge. I find that responsibility entirely lacking in your work. The moment one broadcasts one's opinions (in print, on the web, in a restaurant, or on the street), one sets oneself up as a guide: someone to look up to, someone who intends to illuminate a path. Unless you recognize this, in my opinion, you're just an insufferable loudmouth. And you should by rights consign yourself to being just another anonymous voice out in the ether -- like mine.

And no matter how long it may take you to write reviews with your wilted "panache," I believe you fail absolutely miserably.

Hey possible buddy but likely not as you hardly have the balls to attach your own name to your reply (No offense to all women including T de V who all have more balls than you),

Your words are completely disrespectful.

You don't have to read the review if you don't want to - just push yourself away from the computer or tab to a different site. You're right, this may not be for everyone, but I read each of T de V's reviews because I enjoy finding certain things in her reviews consistently. As far as the linked review, I appreciate it but am going to have to warm up to the review style before I will endorse it, but I certainly will never blast it or denounce it.

You are entitled to your own opinion of what makes a good review - just don't read those ones that don't match your desired style. If you're upset you read a few reviews of Teresa you didn't like, who cares - we've all had to read things we didn't like to. Ever read a End User License Agreement or a mortgage contract? Believe me I was not happy after having read through one of those, but I didn't just whine about it online after reading it. Rather I kept my four letter words to the immediate room I was in and then moved on with my life.

And respect? How about respect for humans? Why do you feel you have to tear T de V down? I mean, unless you can prove to me that T de V goes around and punches babies in the middle of the night or that she takes tap water, bottles it, and sells it as mountain spring water then you should still have human respect for her. Just because T de V put something out, did not mean that you had to put her down because of it.

So what? She comes to see shows and she reviews them - are you going to be down on somebody who goes out and sees community theatre and then wants to write about it? That's like going to a Relay for Life Rally and telling everybody there that what they're doing is pointless and they should just cut their losses and give up on all their cancer friends and family. It's the web, there's a lot more Bandoliers of Carrots that are far worse than that. And if you don't get the euphemism, look it up - I'm just not going to soil T de V's blog with that word.

As far as context goes, if you want context and some background why don't you get up off your hiney and look it up yourself. Better yet, here's a link for you

Was that so hard?

Look, this all just started from an irrespective tone of voice - Teresa, this person's not worth your time to go after. Don't know why they're trying to tear you down - they must have some personal issues. Which ironically is a big part of the Marriage of Bette and Boo - people having issues. 8D

Teresa, I appreciate the work that you and you shouldn't let this person or anybody else tear you down. Looking forward to the next review!

~A Phantom

Theresa de Valence's picture

I loved your link!

Thanks for your kind words.

-Theresa

Theresa de Valence's picture

As a long-time connaisseuse of the art world, I firmly believe that one is not required to have any kind of background to appreciate a work of art. I know you said I've told you that, but you fail to get that there are a million artists (includes writers and playwrights) who prove my point (Show me one who cared what anybody else thought?).

There are also a million art (et al.) critics who argue, as you do, that it's necessary to be steeped in history (et al.) in order to be able to appreciate art. I'm not one of them. I believe the common folk are entitled to enjoy themselves.

And, just to get back to the review of Bette & Boo now playing at the Masquers, you may recall that my review did mention it is a stellar production filled with Masquers royalty which is evident throughout the play. Lots of the audience thought the play was screamingly funny and I said so.

About 3-4 years ago, I decided that one of my duties as a reviewer (beyond advertising the play) was to inform people whether they would like it. And that includes informing those people who would not like that play. As was the case here.

In case you've never tried it, it's very difficult to write a completely honest reaction to a work of art. Especially when there are parts you don't like. And even more especially, when many of the cast and production crew are people whom you consider your friends.

tamhas's picture

Thus far, we know that you liked the other review and you did not like Theresa's. We know that you attribute not liking her review to personal faults of hers, even though she has patiently given you reasons why her reviews ... not just this one, but every review on this site ... are written from a particular perspective. You may not agree with or like this perspective, but it is clear, honest, and consistent so if that is not your cup of tea, I don't know why you would bother to read or comment.

How about giving us something specific to chew on? You can't really complain about there not being a miniature course of the history of theater and the place of this play in the review because she has told you this is not there by design. You similarly can't really complain about there not being a history of prior reviews and productions for the same reason. You can want these things, but you can't expect them from Theresa because she has said that she won't be giving them to you.

Moreover, both elements could be written without actually seeing the play! How about telling us something that shows that you actually saw the play and where your opinion differs ... something we could discuss.

As it happens, I enjoyed the play quite a bit more than Theresa despite it being full of people I wouldn't particularly want to know. I also found lots of it funny, in a painful sort of way. But, I don't think I'm right and she's wrong, especially since her reviews are mostly about the performance. She and I agree that this play was superbly done ... she just didn't like the play itself. It's happened to me as well in the past.

Give us some substance.

Actually, I find the comments that are being submitted here by tamhas and phantom to be far more substantive than anything I've read in T de V's reviews.

Phantom, I admire your coming to the defense of someone you see as being attacked. I like your writing style, and I agree with the majority of what you say! For example, that readers (including me) should do their own homework and seek out review styles that suit them. I do actually do my own homework and I do actually seek out review styles that suit me. But in my point of view T de V has set herself up as a representative of the community by publishing her opinions, and she revels in the ignorance of those reviews. She has said that herself. And that — not her opinion of this play or that book — is what I object to. I happened to read her review, and I happened to read another. And while I'd be proud to have one represent my community, I think the other is drivel. And I'm just responding to that. Surely a reviewer should be able to receive reviews in an open forum, harsh or not, without needing someone to rush to her aid as though she's been wounded? As for whether or not I have balls, that's neither here nor there. We're two people in an open forum making anonymous comments...

Tamhas, you're right, as well. I'm not adding substance to the discussion of the review. I'm discussing the reviewer and her role, and how, as one of her community, I think she's an absolute embarrassment. And I think that's just as valid a discussion to be having. We're all here, aren't we?

I never asked for a history lesson or a production history. Just simple context. I said that I thought reviewers should be informed, and I began this by simply offering a link to a review that I called informed and well-written, by someone who actually understands theater. T de V knows nothing of theater — nor does she claim to. She glories in being "uninformed," and I find her reviews extremely poorly-written, pathetically defended and circuitous in what little logic they have.

And then she defends her position by blathering on about how she doesn't like spoilers, thinks that artists don't care how their work is perceived and doesn't care for history or context to intrude on her experience of a piece. This from someone who ostensibly works for a Historical Society! What a shoddy defense of bad journalism.

Yes, I could — and do — go elsewhere. But this is a discussion forum, isn't it? Are responders only to nod and agree?

But once again, that's only my opinion. And who am I? No one, really. Just some ball-less, anonymous guy. Certainly not a published reviewer or conaisseuse — c'est à rire — of the arts.

Theresa de Valence's picture

Finally, some remarks with tooth!

A lot of your remarks are plain offensive, so I won't bother answering any of those, but I think I've figured out your problem (or the source of your problem). You think I'm saying that it's unnecessary to have any artistic education, or to do any research or to make any effort to learn about anything artistic. If so, you could not be more wrong. I take anything artistic very seriously indeed. Off list, I'll go head-to-head with you on artistic education and I'm confident, I'll come out just fine. I just don't happen to believe that any of it belongs in a review—or, at least, in the kind of review I'm interested in.

Before publishing a review, I've often read the play, several on-line reviews, and done various other bits of research. But I don't include any of that information in my review. In fact, if any sneaks in, I edit it out.

My review is about a performance and how that one performance affected one member of the audience. No backstory, no spoilers.

Consider it a kind of performance art. Not to your taste, I realize that. But I am in no way denigrating the value of an artistic education.

Regards,
Theresa

tamhas's picture

But this is a discussion forum, isn't it?

Well, no, actually. This is Theresa's site where she publishes reviews and enables people to comment on the reviews or the thing being reviewed. You haven't said a word about the play, the playwright, the acting, the actors or actresses, the production crew, etc. And, all you have really said about the review is that it does not contain historical context, which you think should be there. Other than that, you haven't pointed to any facet of the review with which you agree or disagree, but merely pointed to another review of a totally different style. You haven't really even compared the two reviews in any particular. Rather, the vast bulk of your comments are personal ones about the reviewer. So, no, people are not just supposed to "nod and agree". They are supposed to discuss the play, the performance, the specific opinions about the play expressed in the review, what it reminded them of, what they thought themselves that is different, etc., etc. ... but not personal attacks on individuals.

she revels in the ignorance of those reviews.

You are aware that there is a difference between innocence and ignorance? As it happens, I know that there are times when Theresa goes to a lot of work ... after the performance ... to inform herself about the play, up to and including reading some or all of the script in order to clarify impressions from the night of the performance. She merely wishes to approach the performance without preconceived opinions based on what others have said about prior performances. She wants to see and hear and have the play form its own impression on her perception without other people's ideas getting in the way. In fact, I find these very personal reviews in which the impressions of the reviewer are very directly conveyed ... "this is what I think, what my impressions were" without the academic claptrap that goes on in some reviewer's work.

ostensibly works for a Historical Society

Were you under the illusion that anyone was getting paid for any of this?

This is Theresa's site where she publishes reviews and enables people to comment on the reviews or the thing being reviewed.

You're right, of course. But that in essence creates a forum... for discussion... no? Okay, I concede that point. :)

And I thought that I was indeed talking about the nature of her reviews. I don't know T de V at all, though our paths have crossed. And I would not intentionally attack her ad hominem. She may be a saint and a lovely, lovely person. Of that, I myself am totally ignorant. Nor does it matter here.

We're talking about her writing (which SHE puts out in public for review) and what she professes in it and in the comments she makes here... my opinions of which I've just given truthfully. That it's knee-jerk, lazy, ignorant, reactionary, etc. I wasn't aware that specificity was required -- only general comment. I honestly don't care to slog back through these reviews to find points to bring up. It's not really worth it to me.

She may find my comments offensive or disrespectful, but they're not about her as a human. They're about her "writing." It's a reader's honest reaction. What compelled me to write (and forgive me for being redundant) is that I find the fact that she spews her "strong opinions" to the world offensive, and I find her pompous, lazy (IMO) reviews disrespectful to the community (artistic and general) -- so we're even.

She has responded to my dissent with nothing but disdain and implications about my intentions. Why does she deserve better?

You are aware that there is a difference between innocence and ignorance?

Yes, I am. And what I see in her reviews is ignorance. I really doubt that this self-proclaimed connaisseuse knows anything more about the theater than I do about, say, astronomy. And any fruit borne by her research doesn't seem to me to be in evidence in any review I've ever read by her.

I'm not about to publish my impressions of how prettily the stars twinkle and pass them off as legitimate reviews. They may be honest, but all I'm saying is that I find them to be pathetic and presumptuous. Is it so hard to just accept that opinion? I accept hers, though I find them [fill in the blank with adjectives from above].

Were you under the illusion that anyone was getting paid for any of this?

Oh, no. Not at all. I didn't mean "paid work." This is clearly an avocation. Which, I'm afraid, to me, makes it even worse.

I once heard T de V refer to herself in person as the "Official Reviewer of the Masquers Playhouse." I've seen a lot of shows there, but I've never heard anyone at the Playhouse refer to her in that capacity. She seems to me, in terms of her writings, simply to be a mountebank and a spouter of unsolicited opinion. (Just like I am here.)

Thank you for your reply, tamhas. Your writing has clarity and purpose, and is a pleasure to read, and I appreciate your thoughts. On the subject of T de V's writing — or the fact that she writes at all — we just don't agree.

Theresa de Valence's picture

I once heard T de V refer to herself in person as the "Official Reviewer of the Masquers Playhouse".

That is extremely unlikely.

It's just not the kind of remark I would make.

I have watched this exchange with some interest, as I have had issues with these reviews for years. Mostly I followed the advice of an earlier poster and simply ignored them – well, not entirely, I read them because I thought they were funny, but I certainly didn’t take them seriously or let them guide my theatergoing habits.

However, on reading the posts here, and considering this matter more deeply, I re-read the review of The Marriage of Bette and Boo and identified some statements that are rather troubling – not because of the opinions expressed, but because of their bad word choice and the fact that they could be easily mis-read.

Let me make it clear to all that I know Therese only through her writings and my remarks have simply to do with the content of the reviews themselves.

I will use as an example something that comes up in the very first sentence: “This is the stuff of which nightmares are made, bad memories and worse imaginings from childhood, pretending to be funny.” Okay…in what way is any one “pretending?” I saw this play and I was not aware of any pretense on the part of the actors or crew or playwright. I believe that the author, and by extension the theater by producing this work, are, in fact, DIRECTLY ASSERTING in a very real way that the content of this play is funny.

A critic or an audience member may disagree with that assertion, of course, but I don’t believe anyone is pretending to do anything. Such a remark actually calls into question the integrity of the artistic intentions of everyone involved. How could you possibly gauge such a thing simply by watching a performance? Did someone admit that to you? It suggests that this production is not a sincere effort and makes the remark actually rather insulting and nasty.

And more to the point…how does something “pretend” to be funny? A joke or a play or a novel or TV show, etc. can try to be funny, certainly, or claim to be funny, but pretend? What on earth does that even mean?

Now you may say that that is not what you meant, etc., but if people are misinterpreting you (as I am, and others may be) that is rather a problem for a reviewer, no?

On a different, but related, note, there was another item that caught my eye – you tell your readers that “I usually never notice lighting.” You have some compliments for the designer in this case, but admitting you usually do not notice lighting in the theater is a very damning admission for someone who is reviewing live performance. Theater artists tell me that lighting is nothing less than another character in the show – it has a huge impact on tone and style and many other crucial elements of performance. Lighting engages in a visual dialogue with actors and audience, as opposed to a verbal one. To say you don’t notice lighting is like saying you went to see Hamlet and did not “notice” Ophelia or Polonius. Failing to notice the lighting is failing to see the entire performance, as a whole, the complete result of the time and craft that went into preparing it. That lack of attention compromises your ability to evaluate the performance as a whole as well.

By misrepresenting the intentions of the artists involved, and downright ignoring the contributions of others (like lighting designers), you do a disservice to those who work to create it. This goes beyond your opinion of a performance and actually casts doubt on the sincerity and necessity of those involved, which I do not think you have the credentials or the information to evaluate.

tamhas's picture

Err, read the cited sentence again ... it is not the actors or the playwright who make the pretense, but the "stuff" of childhood. Seems to me to be a perfectly normal use of the word. E.g., "pretense: the act of giving a false appearance; "his conformity was only pretending"" right near the top of the googled definitions.

And, isn't the goal of a good lighting designer to provide good lighting without attracting attention to itself? Only in certain dramatic situations ... if then ... should one notice lighting as lighting because then one's attention is not on the performance.

Theresa de Valence's picture

When something is done extremely well, it is often "not noticed" because it does not jar the perceiver's attention; this is true of many excellent things in life. Lighting in most Masquers performances I've seen slides by very easily; I did not mean to undervalue its importance and I'm sorry my remarks struck you that way. It's difficult to mention every single member of the cast and performance crew in a review in an engaging way, but I'll pay closer attention in future.

As for a "pretence at humour", I suppose that everything that one (someone) doesn't find funny while some others do, can be reasonably described (by that one) as something which "pretends to be funny." It's fairly certain you might find many of my jokes "mere pretences at humour".

I'm sorry you don't like my reviews because I work pretty hard at them. I've never pretended to be like or write like other people, but like most creators of creative work, I like to be appreciated. And like most creative work, there are always some people who don't like it.

And, not to lose sight of the point, this is community theâtre we're talking about, right?

Well, I could not disagree more about the role of lighting. Lighting effects are pivotal in most productions - seamless blending (making the audience basically unaware of it directly) is only one way in which it is utilized, and not the only indication of its quality. But saying you simply don't notice it, without any qualification, is just odd. You do notice that the play is not performed in the dark, right? And someone works very hard to make that happen.

And your last question strikes me funny as well. "...this is community theater we are talking about, right?" What is that supposed to imply? That it is unimportant, strictly amateur, unworthy of defense? You find it important enough to blog about, clearly. And those who work at it - largely unpaid as I understand it - think it is a good use of their time and energy and work very hard to make it happen. They take it seriously. So should you.

Theresa de Valence's picture

They take it seriously. So should you.

I do.

tamhas's picture

Did anyone say it wasn't taken seriously? Done right, one shouldn't notice it.

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