When a Theater Critic Learned to Grade on a Curve

When a Theater Critic Learned to Grade on a Curve

When a Theater Critic Discovered to Grade on a Curve

Nothing a lot concerning the technique of reviewing theater had but modified by March 7, once I got down to see the musical “Six” on Broadway. My husband and I braved the subway from Brooklyn to a jammed Occasions Sq., squeezed our method into the Brooks Atkinson Theater, hugged buddies, took our seats and inhaled the ambiance of pleasure and anxiousness that perfumes each present about to open.

Three days later, once I caught up with “Darling Grenadine” on the Roundabout Underground, the anxiousness was of a special form. Hugs had been changed by elbow bumps — adopted by hand washings. Copious coughing through the present was nervously monitored. The packed elevator journey again to road stage from the deeply subterranean theater felt like an hour in a petri dish.

After which: pfft. I didn’t see one other present — the old style, in-person form — till late October, once I ventured out to a Neil LaBute play in New Paltz, N.Y. Even then, it was a play with out dwell actors.

There’s lots that theater lovers, critics amongst them, have needed to regulate to those previous 9 months. Among the many changes for me, some usually are not disagreeable; I not should put on sneakers to exhibits. I’ve saved a fortune in subway fare.

I do nonetheless preserve some minor self-discipline. I neither eat snacks nor test my telephone whereas watching. I even observe a model of my beforetimes five-block rule, not commenting on what I’ve seen till I’m far sufficient away, which now means the kitchen.

And although I attempt to maintain what I see to the identical requirements I might have utilized had been I a part of an viewers of 1,000 as a substitute of only one, that has generally proved troublesome. The convenience of entry that permits me to look at something by anybody from wherever — a boon, absolutely, in attending to know a wider vary of artists and work — additionally admits an incredible deal that’s glitchy, gawky and amateurish.

However at a time when an nameless newcomer can end up theater sooner than an institutional battleship can, it’s unattainable to not really feel grateful for even shaggy efforts to maintain the artwork kind alive. Consciously or not, I wind up grading on a curve that acknowledges effort from former outsiders.

Or maybe I’m the one being graded on a curve. As I be taught to method this new materials with a brand new eye, I’ve slowly realized that as a lot because the pandemic has modified what it means to be a theater critic, it has additionally modified what I as a critic need and want from theater. When the expertise of drama is distant in each senses, when you’ll be able to not really feel the damp of an viewers quietly weeping collectively or really feel in your pores and skin the report of its fusillades of laughter, one thing has to interchange what’s lacking.

For me that one thing is depth. Properly noticed little dramas I used to like (and can once more) proper now seem to be beasts of a special period. Musicals with out massive emotions and the songs to match not transfer me. Mental doodles I wish to swat away like gnats.

The pandemic and its concurrent plagues, having pressured us to soak up an excessive amount of grief and fury, require a special sort of a theater as we speak: a extra concentrated theater, boiled to its essence. So give me the wailers and screamers, on the moor or in the lounge. Give me the geniuses of self-amplification and the tragedians of even small issues — those who perceive, as we now do, that each minute issues.

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