Thursday, May 29, 2008

Charting the season

Always seeking to make our aesthetic assessments more accurate, I thought I'd borrow a page from business consulting and see if I could "chart" the spring theatrical season against two axes. The results are above, with axes for "Material" ("Was it worth doing?") and "Execution" ("Did they make it worth seeing?") - rather a rough fudge, I admit, but I'm still toying with how to express other data. In the meantime, I find the results intriguing (your data, of course, may differ), and even somewhat heartening. It was nice to realize, for instance, that I could really compress the "Not Worth Doing/Not Worth Seeing" quadrant - only a few theatre companies were foolish enough to mount weak scripts (chosen, no doubt, for their clearly-targeted audiences rather than their actual quality), and of those most nevertheless managed strong productions. Perhaps somewhat discouraging was the lagging "tail" of flaccid versions of the classics, but these were overwhelmed in sheer numbers by the number of scripts that were worth doing, and done well, with at least half a dozen hitting the "sweet spot" of worthy script and worthy production.


  1. Is this limited to shows you've seen?

    Because I don't see ART's Cardenio and was wondering how you'd categorize that.

  2. Yes, the chart is only of shows I've seen. I've been dragging my feet on Cardenio because it's gotten terrible buzz, the ART already hates me, and I loved Will in the World (although after that really obnoxious Globe interview with Greenblatt I almost threw it out in the trash). I'll get to it eventually and add it to the chart.

  3. I'll save you the time and energy you might expend on Cardenio - just put it down in the lower left hand quadrant and have done with it. Sadly, this was not worth doing and not worth seeing either. If I seem overly negative on this, it's because I had really high hopes for this show- it might rank as the biggest disappointment of the season for me. All the directorial tricks in the world, a great set and cast can't save this one.

  4. It is a fun play, but Greenblatt, Mee and ART would've saved themselves a lot of heartbreak if they'd just chosen a different title.

    Because, advertised as "Cardenio, by the great Shakespearean Greenblatt" it's a disappointment.
    If you unload that baggage and try not to think of it as a Shakespearean play, but just as a new work, I think it would've been better received.

    It's still not great, but it was fun.

    However, the name and marketing raises expectations the production cannot match.