Angriest. Review. EVER.

I read this first thing this morning, which was hardly how I wanted to start my day.

‘Great Books’ needs a rewrite


Now, before I go any further, I like Marty a lot. He’s a great guy, who really cares about the arts in this area. Anyone who’s been here for a stretch of time can attest to that. Music, dance, visual art, theater – he’s a supporter.

This review (and to be wholly fair, the review of the same play when it was produced at American Stage) is just downright MAD.

So, below is what I sent Marty. If I put the good up here to brag, I have to put the bad – right?

I guess I’m just baffled by the outright anger

Hi Marty,

I expected in advance that the review for All the Great Books (abridged) would not to be stellar, by any stretch, as you’ve not liked our previous efforts in The Bible or America. I said as much directly to you before you came, just because I felt very strongly that the play deserved a look. You’ve not found fault with our performances or our production in any of the (abridged) reviews, including this one, but have never been able to get past the scripts. By your own admission you’re not a fan of the genre, and I’ve always respected that. I don’t like opera or the Grateful Dead. We all have our tastes

What I really find odd is the outright anger you write with in regards to not only our production, but the production at American Stage. You seemed highly offended on a personal level by a light night out, and I just don’t get it.

What’s more troubling is that in your review you’re blaming producers for the state of audience development because we produce work like this. I’ve told you before that producing these shows has kept us in a financial position to be able to produce shows like The Pillowman, or plays by Mamet, Rabe, Albee or Churchill. Why? Because these shows almost always consistently outsell everything else we produce. People like them. We enjoy the loose format and the casual nature of the shows that keep people coming back again and again. In short – they’re fun for everyone. I feel even more validated in my position here because both Jobsite and American Stage chose to produce the play in the same season, two months apart, and we both felt confident we could do the business we needed to do with them. If we felt as strongly about running concurrent productions of A View from the Bridge, we’d probably do that, too.

Jobsite is almost exclusively reliant on ticket sales. Artistic philosophy aside, we have to ensure that our season can pay for itself from sales.

We truly hope, little by little, that these people that only come see us for a show like Books decide to branch out on their own and try new things. That they get to know some of us personally, or become a fan of any one of us enough that it makes them get a ticket to something else. That they becomes season ticket holders. But we have to meet a developing audience in the middle. We can’t simply throw a play down on the table and say “Hey! This is Strindberg, you’re going to watch it and like it because it’s important, you cretin!” We find that a play can win a Pulitzer, Obie, Tony or Nobel and that’s not going to guarantee sales in Tampa. We are not New York, we are not Chicago, LA or Seattle.

In any city though, sometimes people just want to turn off and go laugh somewhere. We feel like we provide a great outlet for that in our late-night shows. We’ve never kidded ourselves that it’s high art. Then again, After The Pillowman and The Serpent – we were all eager to goof off an have some laughs.

We’re not denying other material from our season in order to do a show like Books. In fact, we’re doing shows like this (or like other late night efforts like A Girl’s Guide to Chaos or Phyro-Giants!) during a late-night slot prone to get a far younger crowd in the theater – which is actual audience development work – while still keeping the “prime time” slot open for new important work by Neil LaBute or Suzan-Lori Parks.

I challenge you to tell me why, if the plays are so downright horrible, that people come out in such force to see them. The audience you were in was full and they were enjoying themselves. You can’t deny that, even if you never addressed it in your review. You make it sound, from the “lousy” jokes to the “unanimously reviled” audience participation that it’s simply a miserable time for everyone involved and that’s just one person’s opinion. The show is hardly a “slap in the face” to anyone. That sort of writing hurts us and the community as a whole.

I typically find you separate your opinion quite objectively in your reviews. You make your tastes and predilections known usually, and often make note when something isn’t your thing that there’s still an audience for whatever it is you’re discussing. I am troubled to see so many opinions formed as hard fact. It’s deceptive, unfair and plain inaccurate.

I suppose I just don’t understand why you’re so angry about such a silly, light and user-friendly piece of theater.

Best Regards,



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4 Responses

  1. That review was almost funny in a way.
    To abridge it.

    It sucked a hair less than the previous production.
    Theater sucks because of production companies.
    The performers were appealing.

    Marty needs to take a page from my philosophy, if a season doesn’t contain a show that I don’t like, it means the company isn’t trying hard enough. Either to meet everyone’s tastes or to challenge audiences.

    The abridged shows really aren’t to my taste either, but they are amusing and aren’t ruining theater either. And despite his review there actually are some clever and erudite things in the show.

    Marty should save his ire for something more appropriate, like the tepid 2007-2008 broadway series full of repeat cash-cows being shoved down subscribers throats.

    I mean Jesus Christ, you guys produce The Serpent and if that isn’t going out on a limb I don’t know what is. Yet Marty remains strangely quiet on the return of The Lion King and the Radio City Christmas Spectacular to the subscribers in the big theater and chooses to blast you guys for a show in a 100 seat venue.

    Yes Marty, there are problems with theater, and some do stem from production companies, but it isn’t coming from companies like Jobsite. Look up to the big money to see where the safe lowest common denominator pap is originating.

    I can be an angry dude too!!

  2. Thanks a lot, David. I always appreciate your feedback.

    Bottom line – I simply can’t fathom how you let yourself get so worked up about an (abridged) play. If you’re that insulted, you’re likely taking yourself too seriously.

    We’ve said over and over that these are not high art, but we have a ton of fun and there are a lot of people who love these shows.

  3. Poor Marty! He has been angry for a very very long time. He called my musical treatment of Macbeth the worst show in Tampa Bay Theater history and said my costume made me look like Elmer Fudd! Now that’s just angry!

    I have an idea Dave J, send him a gift certificate for a day spa the same day he reviews a show. Maybe he will be in a better mood. I did not like his review of your show but I loved his article on keeping leaves out of your airducts. Check it out!

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