Letter: A Reviewer's Task

I just read George Logan's review of the stage production Sordid Lives playing at Theatre Knoxville Downtown (TKD). ["Trash to Treasure," May 29, 2014] While it was exciting to see an entire four-column page of your paper devoted to Sordid Lives, as a theater professional, I am frustrated by what was offered up being called a review.

The point of a review is to provide an opinion on whether a production achieves what it set out to, thereby allowing potential audience to make an informed decision on whether or not to attend. In this process, the reviewer examines the various elements of a show—performances, direction, production—and offers a critique on the success of those elements, relative to perceived intent.

Instead, what was written was basically a synopsis of the plot peppered with parenthetical mentions of a handful of a few performers. Passing "played by" acknowledgments can be found by reading a program.

Mr. Logan did manage to give one full sentence of ink to the quality of the performance of Carol Goans, but the remainder of the paragraph was devoted to her biography and a positive nod to Gary Mullins in his role. Why not tell us why Mr. Mullins "takes the crown"?

Similarly, you say you prefer TKD's production to the film. That is fantastic. Now, tell us why. When something works, tell us why. When something doesn't work, tell us why. By all accounts, I understand the show is very entertaining. Tell us why. It would be far more useful information to audiences than a plot synopsis and the author's feud with Stacey Campfield; items better suited to feature stories and advertorials.

Where is mention of director Jim Richardson's efforts to capture the tone of the humor or the honesty of characterizations? Were, in your opinion, those efforts successful? Why or why not? Where is there mention of costumes or scenic elements used in capturing the world of the play?

I can only assume that your focus on the script and dialogue is because you are a writer by profession. But, contrary to popular belief, scripts are not literature. At least they're not written to be (not even Shakespeare). Scripts are written to be performed. To be given life and breath by theater artists who are creating an experience. A reviewer's task is to deconstruct what has been put immediately before him in the specific production of which he is writing and provide an overall assessment of experience.

I have been a member of the Knoxville theater community (even while freelancing around the country in the early part of my career) for 30 years, the last 15 of which have been as managing artistic director at Oak Ridge Playhouse. I offer this as evidence that I have some background to speak from.

Full disclosure, I am a friend and colleague of Mr. Richardson, as well as several cast members, but am in no way connected with the production or TKD. This response is not written as a rebuttal, defense, or comment on the production.

While I appreciate the efforts of Metro Pulse to give space to a review of locally produced theater (something that is sorely lacking in the Knoxville area press), I urge you to use that space to truly inform audiences not just on plays, but on Theater.

Reggie Law