Writing is no trouble: you just jot down ideas as they occur to you. The jotting is simplicity itself - it is the occurring which is difficult.
~ Stephen Leacock
A Walk in the Woods
TONIGHT on DVD
A Simple Plan
SOMETIMES YOU GET A FREEBEE
5 August 2004
As Ive reported here, Ive been doing a lot of reviewing lately. And I have several more shows all crunched together into this brief summer theatre season.
The Davis Enterprise does not publish on Saturday, so if I see a show on Friday I usually have until Monday to write my review. Those are lovely, luxurious times when I can come home from a show and just go to bed and worry about the review in the morning.
But at least a third of the time, the review is due first thing the next morning, which means that I come home from the show and write the review before going to bed, often not getting to bed until 1 or 2 in the morning.
Despite having done this now for several years, I still am never quite comfortable with putting together a review. When I read them later, Im happy with what I wrote, but I struggle a lot with saying it right.
If its a musical with which Im familiar, its a bit easier, but if its a premiere of something, or if its a straight play with heavy undertones, it takes quite a long time.
Im never sure Im saying it quite right, never sure if Ive picked up on the right nuances, never sure if Ive understood what the playwright was trying to say.
Its gotten easier over the years, but I still agonize over what Im going to write.
I believe Ive explained before, how the writing process involves pacing, eating, hand wringing and more pacing. It usually involves some computer solitaire, checking e-mail and other diversionary tactics to stall having to actually put those first words to screen.
When its finished, its generally taken me about 1½-2 hours to write. I imagine "real" reviewers coming home, sitting down and dashing something off in half an hour, something filled with wise observations and intelligent interpretations.
Still, people have said that they like what Ive written. I dont feel like Im reviewing a show so much as I am writing a journal entry about what its been like to see this particular production.
But sometimes it becomes a piece of cake. For example, I can dash off a review of The Music Man in nothing flat, since Ive seen it so often.
When its a production of Gilbert & Sullivan, Im home free. Now were talking my turf.
Last night we attended Music Circus production of The Pirates of Penzance, the Joseph Papp version which premiered on Broadway in 1980 and which brought the 1879 chestnut up to date, changed orchestrations to take advantage of the invention of the synthesizer, took a few liberties with the dialog and added a couple of songs from other operettas, but essentially kept the basic Gilbert & Sullivan piece as it was originally written--just with a more modern look.
(See, Im reviewing it already)
I dont know how many times Ive seen Pirates in my life--both the original version, and the Papp version--but there was none of the reviewer angst when I sat down at the computer last night.
I knew what I liked. I knew what I didnt. I knew who had goofed, and why. I knew what hadnt worked for me.
It was as refreshing as 6 hours at the seaside to sit down, fully confident that I could really review this production without any of the usual tortures of the damned.
I needed to check the Internet for dates about the original Papp production but other than that, the words fairly flowed out of my fingers and into the computer. The review was written in 30 minutes and I was in bed before midnight.
Id love to reach a point where all reviews came that effortlessly, but until that time, Ill be happy that occasionally I get lucky and get to write something that I really know about.