You Write the Reviews, I'll Write the Play | Letters | Chicago Reader

You Write the Reviews, I'll Write the Play 

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Dramatist-critic George Bernard Shaw said of play reviewing: It is always a great temptation of the critic to instruct a playwright in how he should have written his play. Alas, the more difficult job is to criticize the play presented onstage by the lowly author, not the far superior one in the critic's own head.

Thus I was amused by Tony Adler's November 22 half-witty, no doubt well-intentioned writing lesson reviewing the play in his head while pretending to offer your readers a review of the one in mine.

Mr. Adler's conceit was that "I'd trim down Art Shay's Where Have You Gone, Jimmy Stewart? and Alan Berks's Goats and present them [critic graduates to producer!] as a double bill." He goes on to describe Berks's and my fellowship: We're both Jewish Americans, separated by a mere 60 years in age; Berks was a goatherd in Israel in 1995, I a navigator in WWII Europe in 1944. What a match! "The uncanniness creeps in," Adler avers, when my 21-year-old son Harmon disappears in "Florida's hippie jungle.... Harmon would be 51 now--which is to say, old enough to be Berks's father."

How's that uncanny? (I love his harrumphing Shavian non sequitur "which is to say"!) Your critic's revisionist theater then segues from Harmon's disapperance: "Which leads us, at least in my imaginary revision, to Berks" and "his (shiksa?) girlfriend." Try to get that chain of events past a director like Mike Nussbaum, Mr. Adler! He then allows that my play is "bracing in its ribald, truculent energy" but is essentially pointless except as a means for "Shay to get his version of things on the record."

Imagine! A lowly playwright usurping the role of critic.

Art Shay


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