The Playgoer: "Dying City"

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

"Dying City"

photo: Sara Krulwich
As a result of our correspondence over the "Rachel Corrie" affair I actually got to know Christopher Shinn as a person before as a playwright. I regretted not having the chance to see his first major works "Four" and "Where Do We Live." So I'm grateful to Chris' help in prodding Lincoln Center Theatre to arrange a "bloggers' night" for his latest, "Dying City," so that I and others in the blogosphere could see his work. And, of course, comment upon it.

Each of the bloggers (so far: Mark, the ringleader, George, James, Jaime, Rocco, Matt, Lucas, and Adam) may have their own similar "full disclaimer" disclosures. I myself would just like to say I am not treating this as a "review" but as reflections upon an interesting play I've just seen that happens to be written by a friend. Given that, I feel like approaching this as an analysis more than an evaluation.

To me the most outstanding quality of "Dying City" is how unsettling it is, emotionally. Anthony Ward's ingenious creepily rotating set (so ballyhooed in Ben Brantley's lede) only externalizes the deceptions and instabilities going on inside the characters all the time. Say what you want about it, but this is a play that confronts emotional pain nakedly, and head-on. Not with sentimentalizing speeches and solutions, mind you. The fact that the pain on display in each character never gets resolved--or even fully expressed--makes for not a pleasant 90 minutes of theatre.

So what I can honestly say I admire about Shinn's writing here is how--unlike a lot of new plays on the nonprofit circuit--this is not a script begging to be liked, in the sense of "enjoyed." The dialogue is not littered with bon mots to lighten its load, it doesn't invite undue spectacle or cheesy "magical" moments accompanied by lame pop-synth background music. It is an incredibly serious play, in all the best senses of that word (rigorous, passionate, consistent).

On the other hand, neither would anyone call it "preachy," I think. I mean, what "message" is there? Yes, he wanted to address the war and our post 9/11 culture, but his subject is the effect of all that on particular lives. He does not attempt to ventriloquize George Bush, or build the whole play around feelgood speechifying. The plot of "Dying City" is clearly not just a flimsy string to hang sermons on.

And the plot, or the dramatic situations of the play--as enacted by two magnetic actors emodying three intriguing characters--is why people will go, I think. I'm not normally a fan of "jumbled-chronology" plays. But Shinn's focus here is so dramtically disciplined: just back and forth between 2 pivotal nights in the characters' lives. One is the night before Kelly's husband Craig ships out to a military base en route to Iraq. The other (where the play starts from) is a year later, in the same apartment, when Kelly receives a surprise visit from Craig's twin brother Peter, who also was present the earlier night. The two parallel stories manage to intensify effectively without really much "happening" because what's changing is what we learn about the characters. Sturcturally it's an impressive feat.

Ok, so what's it all about? The play is set in NYC, and Kelly is a youngish therapist. Some may say it's unlikely in our experience that such a woman would find herself married to a military guy. (Ok, I found myself saying that to myself.) But who knows? I also questioned how many soldiers in Iraq are ex-Harvard literary scholars, just trapped by their ROTC obligations....Then again, all I'm saying is: I don't know anyone like that. It's become proverbial that one of the major factors that allows this war to go on is that--unlike in Vietnam--those living in or close to the seats of power and wealth don't know anyone in this draft-free war. Shinn does lay the groundwork in Craig's middle-American working class background (along with scholarships and a education-dreaming mom) to fill out the scenario. And I'm sure there are men like him out there. Just because they're not the majority doesn't mean their story can't be told. And is this a way of bringing the war home--"home" to Lincoln Center theatregoers, that is. Or at least to bring home the war's issues to a recognizable NYC way of life. (More on this later...)

As I said, though, the play does not intend to address Iraq directly but only obliquely--by way of its affects on lives on this side. And in the 3 lives we see on stage, it has, one way or another, fucked them up completely. Peter, the brother, a gay actor, had been enjoying his freedom in New York and Hollywood after escaping the confines of home. But the loss of his other half, Craig, has clearly blown a hole in his world. The whole "present" section of the play depicts his desperate, awkward, and downright unhealthy attempts to find in the resistant Kelly the love and bonding he needs--even if it means exposing her to the worst secrets of Craig's (and his own) past. (He even proposes having a child with her.) Kelly, so obviously still scarred from her loss, spend most of the present "coping" through her hurt, trying to put on a good face for Peter, but clearly underneath cutting off and rejecting him. Indeed rejecting, secretly, her whole past, which is what her whole conflict turns out to be about. In her last moments with Craig the year before, we see a much more vulnerable person and one losing control of a relationship that clearly had been her anchor.

I'm sensing divided opinion on Rachel Brooksher's performance as Kelly. There's Brantley who was blown away, but some of the bloggers and other critics found her cold. I can see the "cold" complaint, but it was clear for me from the outset this was a very calculated characterization. And she was certainly credible as a young over-responsible idealistic therapist who has to protect herself a bit for being a woman in such a risky profession. (The moment when, in the middle of her life falling apart, she has to call a patient to cancel his appointment is actually almost hilarious in how true and revealing it is.) By the end, though, I was totally sold on Brooksher. She pulls off an amazing unwinding as the character spirals into trauma--twice. (The two plotlines both rip her apart.) And the ending would not be nearly so affecting if she had not put up such a strong facade at the top.

As for Craig himself, he is embodied with striking severity by Pablo Schreiber, all the more strking since Shreiber also plays the more easygoing and affable Peter. Switching back and forth between these polar twins in alternating scenes is surely an actor's feat. But Schreiber and director James Macdonald are careful never to make it seem just a stunt. Shcreiber transformation is so total you're hardly concious of effort involved. And the fluid staging keeps forcing you to see one right after the other with nary a break. Shreiber's mutiple entrances and exits become eerie, not just because one of his roles is effectively a ghost, but because both characters, in scene after scene, are revealed to be not quite who you (or Kelly) thought they were....Schreiber as Peter, as I said, starts as a friendly presence to the audience. But when he's exposed as a serial liar, a keeper of secrets, and not necessarily out to do Kelly good, his presence becomes as menacing as the troubled Craig's.

I dwell on the acting so much since they're a major reason to see the show. Schreiber (who I had mixed feelings about in Awake and Sing) is giving a career-making performance. And not just because of the stunt. He is able to embody without words all that Shinn leaves out in these twisted deceiving/self-deceiving male psyches. In both cases there's something a little scary about him--his pumped up physique, his intense narrow eyes, and heavy brooding bearing. Both actors are classically beautiful, which, hey, doesn't hurt. But they're also incredibly reticent--no doubt the mark of director MacDonald, a Royal Court regular expert in Sarah Kane and Caryl Churchill. From what I know, Shinn fought to retain MacDonald for any NY production, since he directed the London premiere. I can see why. I've rarely seen an American play acted by American actors with such quiet inensity, and where so much was going on between the lines while yet so little was showing on the actor's faces.

This creepy aura is complemented by Ward's set, which is amazing not for its relatively low-tech revolve but for its minimalism, for all it doesn't do. Gutting out the LCT Mitzi Newhouse theatre like I've never seen before, "Dying City" is performed in the round, with one spare couch and television center stage on a small square section of the suggestion of a hardwood floor. One narrow walkway leads to a few kitchen items, two more lead off to exits. That's it. Credit also Pat Collins' lighting for making the world around these essentials vanish in dark, dark, darkness. To get lost in this ominous world for an uninterrupted 90 minutes is in itself riveting theatre.

So, again, what's it all about. "Dying City" may be an anti-war play, but not any typical kind. As written in Schreiber's strained calm demeanor, war is not just a policy, but a male psychosis. And that's to some extend what the play explores. It does so, by the way, very conscious of an American literary tradition exploring brothers vs brothers, fathers and sons. Craig's passions at school were Faulkner and Hemmingway. Peter's reason for being in New York is playing Edmund in a star-studded B'way revival(!) of "Long Day's Journey." The unnamed literary ghost hovering over "Dying City," though, is Arthur Miller, whose domestic warguilt drama "All My Sons" woke up a more victorious postwar audience in 1947, reminding them of the trauma they had all suffered and taken part in. In a recent interview Shinn fessed up to being an Ibsen man, no matter how unfashionable that may sound today. But to his credit, "Dying City" does pick up the mantel of Ibsen and Miller, addressing the polis through personal psychology in a very similar way.

When I said this is not a script that begs to be liked, I meant partly that people may very well not like it who don't like, say, Arthur Miller anyway. It won't be everyone's cup of tea. (And it certainly wasn't for the LCT subscriber ostentatiously coughing and moaning throuout.) I myself tend to like my political theatre more political than personal, even. But I couldn't deny that at the end of "Dying City" I was genuinely affected and disturbed, going places I didn't want to go. Note I don't say "moved" as in a "movie of the week." There's no "triumph over adversity" here.

Maybe one thing that got to me was what I'll just call the Jon Stewart stuff. I had heard about this in advance of the play and was intrigued. But not prepared for how challenging it was in the context of the play to those of us who depend on our irony and distance to deal with what we hate about the world. Basically, Shinn calls out the cynics among us. He himself admits to liking Stewart fine. And it's not a soapbox moment. But just enough to goad us all into thinking--as dramtized in one haunting image--are we helping either ourselves or the world by splaying out on the couch watching hours of Tivo'd "Daily Shows", laughing away while Rome burns? (One of the most revealing moments of the performance was hearing the guilt in the air while some coudln't help laughing at the clips of Stewart's jokes.)

In short, it doesn't address everything about this current mess we're in. But it speaks to the present moment more honestly than any other play I've seen recently. And for that alone it's worth seeing.

For more ticket info and more on Dying City see Lincoln Center Theatre website.


Alison Croggon said...

Well, I got to read the play, at least. And it's a very fine piece of work. (I saw All My Sons last week, so the connection wasn't so far away for me either). From what you say here, it sounds like a fascinating production - something about small domestic spaces lit in huge darkness does something to me, invoking a sense of fragility and mortality. I saw an amazing Moscow Arts Theatre production of The Seagull once that had that quality, anyway. And I have to say Chekhov swum into my purview, in how the seeming inconsequentiality of the dialogue relentlessly exposed pain, loss, inadequacy, in ways that resonated beyond the merely personal or domestic. Or maybe that echo is simply in the rhythms of the language itself.

What struck me most, aside from the emotional drama - which is very bleak indeed, I think - is how accurately the play maps the corruption of a culture that lies to itself. What that refusal to actually deal with the truths that art (and hence life) implicitly demands actually means. Those demands lurk uneasily around the edges of the play, realities that are consciously or unconsciously put away in boxes (the false consolations of tv or therapy). It's also a good and subtle portrait of misogyny, and of how women can become complicit in its mechanisms in their role of confessor, healer, helpmeet. Very interesting and subtle piece.

Anonymous said...

"So I'm grateful to Chris' help in prodding Lincoln Center Theatre to arrange a "bloggers' night" for his latest, "Dying City," so that I and others in the blogosphere could see his work. And, of course, comment upon it."

Don't you mean:
"So I'm grateful to Chris' help in prodding Lincoln Center Theatre to arrange a "bloggers' night" for his latest, "Dying City," so that I and others in the blogosphere could see his work FOR FREE. And, of course, comment upon it."?
I mean, was someone preventing you from seeing it and commenting upon it in your blog?
Here we go, again . . . Or not. But at least you should be honest.

Alison Croggon said...

Hmm. I don't get this shirtiness about free tickets. That's how I get my theatre: as a blogger who reviews, I get complimentary tickets like all other reviewers. And - personally speaking - I work quite hard for them.

Anonymous said...

I don't think there was any confusion about the tickets being free. What was presumably preveting PG from seeing the play was cost, which prevents me from seeing just about everything at Lincoln Center. I certainly don't begrudge him a free ticket, given the free service he provides here; I'm on this blog every day.

Playgoer said...


I have nothing to hide. And didn't even know I was hiding it.

Yes, the tix were free. I guess I assumed that was implied. But fair enough, and I'm sorry I didn't make that even more explicit.

Let it be known from now on, on this site and most other theatre blog sites, that a "Bloggers Night" entails free tickets.

Lest you or anyone think, though, that anyone offering me free tix gets an equally favorable posting, I'll point out that MANY of the shows I write about here I see for free. Definitely all the ones I've covered for the Voice & Time Out. And, as most of those producers would quickly tell you, it didn't help much...

I hope that most readers of newspapers know that the critics aren't paying out of pocket for the shows they're reviewing, right?

Of course, this ISN'T a newspaper, so I can see why the assumption isn't there. So yes, I am grateful to Lincoln Center, but not just for sparing me $50 or $75. I appreciate that for this show they recognized serious blogs as a legitimate branch of "press"m especially a branch that could help reach the play's ideal (younger) audience better than traditional media.

As I've said before here, the issue of who pays for the tickets is an interesting debate. But one that should be questioned across the criticism spectrum--not just in blogs but all the way up the ladder to the NYT. Until then, though... I'll take 'em whichever way I can get 'em. Without apologies.

Lastly, to Andrew--thanks for your daily visits!

Anonymous said...

I think this is a fantastic review/reaction to the play. My hat is off to you.

Here's a question though. How different, do you think, would your review have been if you weren't friends with Chris Shinn?

Interesting that you label your response not a review at all, but a "reflection." Truth be told, I prefer your reflections to your reviews.

Do you feel like you can't write an objective review once you become friends with a playwright? Do you feel like you can? Do you pull your punches knowing Chris Shinn, your new slightly famous friend who got you free tickets is going to be reading it? And if so, is that really such a bad thing?

Your disclosure is appreciated. He's your buddy now. He very kindly arranged free tickets for you and several other bloggers to see his show at Lincoln Center. Though I must say I find it hard to believe he'd do that simply out of kindness. Befriending snarky bloggers and fostering their good will is both smart and very much in a playwright's best interest. Well played, Shinn. Well played.

Maybe you think you're immune to the magnetic pull of the inner circle’s warmth. If so, I suggest you take a gander back at those Rachel Corrie discussions. Your giddiness at Chris Shinn's posting on YOUR blog was palpable.

Not that any of this is a bad thing. In fact, quite the contrary. I think your connection to the playwright, however tenuous and/or agenda-ridden it may be, enabled you, I suspect, to look at the work in a different way. Whereas many of your other reviews (not all, mind you, but many) are dismissive and glib, your review of Dying City is incredibly thoughtful and refreshingly fair. If only you brought such a positive attitude and desire to find what was good in everyone's plays. Heck, as I’ve pointed out in other threads, you have a penchant for trash-talking lots of shows you’ve never even seen, dismissing them outright based solely on gossip, prejudices or other people’s opinions. I was starting to think you weren’t really a PlayGOER so much as someone who made grand pronouncements and judgments from the comfort of his keyboard, only OCCASSIONALLY venturing out into the world of live theater.

How refreshing then to read your “reflections” on Dying City. You obviously went into that play WANTING to like it. You were LOOKING for what worked and what you admired, and guess what? You found them. How wonderful for all involved, including this reader. I wonder what would happen if you went into EVERY show with that same attitude.

I have no interest in you (or any reviewer, because really I'm talking about ALL critics here, not just you) praising work that is bad. BUT, I would love for critics to work harder at engaging work on a deeper level, and get out of the thumbs-up thumbs down mentality that is so pervasive in theater criticism.

Your response to Dying City is intelligent, insightful and it opens up doors for DISCUSSION, which is exactly (in my opinion obviously) what good theater criticism should do. And that’s what can happen when critics and playwrights become friends with each other. And I don’t mean that literally of course (although I think it’s sweet that you and Chris can go grab a cup of coffee together,) I’m talking about redefining that adversarial relationship.

Too often a critic walks into a show as if they were walking into battle, and any misstep by the playwright feels like a personal attack to their aesthetic, or their intellect, and so their response is to PUMMEL their opponent, call them out, expose their nakedness, and punish them for their transgressions. Guess what? Most playwrights aren’t picking a fight with you (usually) – they are trying to engage you in all manner of discussion, be it emotional, political, intellectual, whatever. What they say may not always be worth listening to, but please, I beg you, hear them out first, really LISTEN, and take part in the discussion. Only good can come of it.


Anonymous said...

Just for the record: No intention to begrudge the press seats -- though I think it would be healthier for the theater if no critics got free tickets, ever, regardless of the platform they write on -- but simply to point out that bloggers who write reviews and get press seats are functioning like most reviewers in the MSM (most of whom are NOT writing for the NY Times and lack the machinery and clout of that institution) from whom Playgoer (and some other bloggers) labor to differentiate themselves. The blogs are great -- that's not the point. Rather, it's to raise the question of whether bloggers are becoming part of the critical establishment they claim to be combating. This is a structural question -- not a personal attack. I love Playgoer, too.

Anonymous said...

All of us will have different responses to this structural question; my own is that I don't see blogs as "becoming part of the critical establishment they claim to be combating," but as an alternative and/or addition to the critical dialogue surrounding theatre. The theatrical blogosphere arose to supplement (and yes, in some but not all cases, to challenge), not necessarily to combat, the critical establishment found in the MSM: to offer a forum for alternative voices, and to allow those voices considerable freedom, of length and perspective, that for whatever reason can't be found in the Times or Time Out New York, because of editorial considerations (can't write more than 350 words, if that, for TONY), perceived provincialism (the Times), whatever. As David Cote and the Guardian theatre critic/bloggers demonstrate, crossover between MSM and the blogosphere can be a productive process and needn't be considered in terms of opposition or contest.

This "levelling" -- to have the press pay for their seats just like the bloggers -- would re-establish the same exclusion of critical voices that existed before the emergence of the 'sphere. Neither Garrett, nor I, nor I'm guessing 90% of the bloggers could afford to see these shows; the Times and TONY would be able to absorb the costs for their own reviewers.

For what it's worth, from what I hear, New York producers and press agents are far behind those in other cities and countries in offering seats to theatre bloggers, just as conservative in their critical reach as, say, the New York Times. Given the wide spectrum of response to "Dying City," from James Comtois and Aaron Riccio to Garrett Eisler and Mark Armstrong (and myself), I don't think it can be said any more that a Bloggers' Night ensures good virtual word-of-mouth for a show just out of appreciation for the free tickets. There is a much broader difference in opinion for this show between James Comtois and Mark Armstrong than there was between, say, David Cote and Ben Brantley in print.

Better still: free tickets for the bloggers; make TONY and the Times pay for their reviewers' seats. Now there's a levelling of the playing field for you.

Aaron Riccio said...

And for what it's worth (responding to George and all), I didn't get free tickets for Dying City; I used a membership with LCT. However, I do rely on complimentary passes to abet the volume of shows I go to (see Show Showdown), and I don't think there's anything wrong with entering a mutually beneficial arrangement with a publicist to do more of the thing one loves. (In my case, seeing theater...and talking about it.) George is absolutely right: giving blogs the same access as giant media organizations isn't making us cogs in that machine; it's giving us a chance to work in parallel with them.

Alison Croggon said...

Well, the claims that free tickets are some kind of payola seem very naive to me. Yes, if blogs work they will be (I would say, are) part of the continuum of critical discourse around theatre. Which continuum includes mainstream criticism. If they're just hermetically sealed off from this discourse in the pursuit of some misguided idea of purity, they're not going to part of that discourse, and what's the point? They'll only have impact if they are. The onus is on bloggers to keep up the quality of their content - as far as I'm concerned, that's what makes the differentiation.

Anonymous said...

Did anyone charge that free tix were payola? Never! That was not the point. George Hunka is rightpon: who wouldn't want to write at length instead of in 350-word bites? It's just really about that question of alternative and bloggers as somehow the voice of the people and all those claims that some have made on this site previously. I don't agree with that claim. I think bloggers writing reviews are critics. I don't have a problem with them getting free tickets like other critics. The problem is in then pretending that you aren't part of the system. No implication of being "bought" in that formulation. I make no negative judgment about being part of the whole machinery -- just that one shouldn't pretend that s/he isn't part of it.
And just to push things toward a utopian view: should all theater-goers be encouraged to post their responses to plays on a blog and thereby receive free tickets? Or even if they shouldn't be encouraged: should anyone who blogs about theater be allotted free tickets? Or does one have to blog "well" or demonstrate a certain minimun number of hits on their site -- and who would determine that?

Alison Croggon said...

The "machinery" you're talking about there is the machinery of cultural discourse. Why wouldn't one want to be part of it? I guess that's what puzzles me here. As for your other questions - they're all up for grabs, imho. But, frankly, keeping a decent review blog is bloody hard work, and perhaps that work earns its own legitimacy.

Anonymous said...

Alison: You are reading a combative tone in these posts that is not at all intended. I am well aware of the hard work of maintaining a review blog and applaud those who do it. I am not questioning its legitimacy. I am simply revisiting a question, which has been discussed on this blog before, about the relationship of blog reviewers to MSM reviewers and to the strange dance of commerce between theaters and MSM reviewers (whether the reviewers want to join it or not) and what it means for bloggers to enter it. In early conversations here, some bloggers held themselves apart from that. Without begrudging anyone their free tickets, I think there are questions worth considering without any rancor. How would blog reviewers feel about their blog reviews being cherry-picked for promotional quotes, for example? Maybe thrilled, maybe disgusted, maybe indifferent. Different people will have different reactions. I'm curious. Are bloggers prepared to honor official opening dates of all shows from now on -- ie not post about shows during previews (a condition for MSM reviewers)? A press agent for a show a blogger wants free tix for who is pissed at that blogger for posting early about something else s/he represents might not supply them. But the immediacy of blog responses to shows is one of their many charms, imho. These are just a couple of the niggling matters of at least the NYC scene that could start to have an impact on theater blogging. I am not making or implying any judgments about what decisions anyone might make about any of this. I'm just wondering. Yes, I agree, those other questions are up for grabs. I think it would be fun to consider them as part of the cultural discourse we are all happy to be part of.

I don't know why you are taking offense. I certainly don't intend any and apologize if a tone or comment came off in a way I didn't intend.

Mark said...

Just to clarify some of the comments above, I personally organized the bloggers night for Dying City through my communications with Lincoln Center Theater. I pitched the idea to them and mentioned our previous bloggers nights at the Roundabout and the Vineyard. Chris was supportive of the idea.

The reason people are assuming a tone on your part, anonymous, is that there were one or more anonymous commenters that persistently raised the payola question at my blog and Playgoer after our first bloggers night at the Roundabout. And since you comment anonymously, you may or not be one of those people. Doesn't sound like you are, but any confusion is understandable.

Aaron Riccio said...

Anonymous, you raise some good points; I define my blogs and my reviews as separate entities. There are Web logs, and then there is online press. Show Showdown is a blog; New Theater Corps is an attempt to widen the scope of thoughtful criticism to a younger perspective, but with a professional approach (modeled, I guess, after MSM). One works within the system, one works without; both media have access to comps. I post without anonymity because I believe in accountability, and if anybody wants to respond to my reviews or mine them for quotes, that's their right: I mean what I say (I just say it more casually on the blog).

As for what justifies free tickets, that depends on the publicist and unfortunately not on the quality of the blog. A blogger has no obligation to a publicist when getting tickets, but it works in reverse too, so a blogger who ignores "review dates" may find themselves cut out of the loop. (It is, ultimately, more a social system than a mainstream machine: someone who ignores formality at a dinner party, regardless of how they got there, is not likely to be invited back.)

Alison Croggon said...

Erm. I'm not taking offence at all. The key word is "puzzled". And my remarks were prompted by a post by Anon which claimed that Garrett was not being up-front because he got free tix, with a clear implication that this was somehow compromising.

Maybe it's my journalistic background but I can't help seeing that - and other questions, such as previews (I never go to previews, unless there is no choice, and don't review them - a press night is a press night) as a non-issue. It seems to me that there are other questions - one of them brought up by an earlier poster talking about Garrett's "response" - which are far more interesting and complex and unresolved.

I spend a fair bit of time negotiating - and evolving - my own ethics as a reviewer. I am not a mainstream reviewer, I do not write for those who want a star rating out of five. I feel a loyalty and responsibility towards the art of theatre as much as I feel it towards my experiences as an audience member. I have worked with some of the people I review, and am close friends with a few of them; it's a small theatre community in Melbourne, and of course you end up knowing many people. Which is to say, there is a minefield of possible problems. As far as I'm concerned, the only way to negotiate these things is absolute honesty. I am upfront about my aesthetic and preferences. I am upfront about my personal interests. I try to approach every review I write with the seriousness a work of art deserves, being as conscious as I can be of anything that is impinging on my perception of it: and I believe that criticism is useless if it involves fudging one's responses. I write my reviews in the certainty that they are up for argument, that they are part of a dialogue that is ultimately part of an ongoing meta-discourse that is about the nature of theatre itself.

This meta-discourse (excuse the term, I can't think of another) seems to me the valuable thing that blogs offer, and that the msm can't - a review printed in a paper has a finality by its very printedness that argumentative pixels don't. And I think that is a Good Thing: something of the dynamic flux and temporality of theatre can be reflected in its discussion as well.

However, the other thing that blogging brings to the surface is the network of relationships that underlie any participation in an artistic community. That can be a problem and Scott Walters, bless him, has taken out of context a few comments by a few bloggers to smear the whole blogosphere as self-interested and corrupt. But I guess my point is that those networks exist anyway - the reviewers of the msm are not aside from those networks, by any means. (I use to work as an msm critic, btw). They are simply less visible And that question of relationship is something that bloggers have to negotiate in their own ways. No rules on that one yet, aside from a seemingly tacit agreement that it's a good idea to declare one's own self interest, as Garrett does here.

Myself, I think it's a good idea for critics to put down their Olympian mantles and just be upfront: it's "I" thinking/feeling/responding thus, for these reasons; not as some Godlike representative of the mythically singular "Audience", which is often the pose of mainstream critics. It makes for more interesting responses, for a start.

Anyway, that's probably enough from me...