Review of Southern (dis)Comfort

Elisabeth Gray is a gifted writer and performer, and an ambitious producer. A Southern native who first took to the Asheville Community Theatre stage as a 16-year-old Asheville High School student (in Look Homeward, Angel, directed by Ralph Redpath, director of Southern (dis)Comfort), Gray trained at England’s Oxford University, has toured widely since, and has won a number of British acting accolades, particularly for Wish I Had a Sylvia Plath, a solo show written by Edward Anthony that debuted in 2007 as part of the Asheville Fringe Arts Festival.

Now Gray is the artistic director of New Umbrella, Inc., which is presenting Southern (dis)Comfort in conjunction with ACT. Next month, New Umbrella and ACT will offer Wish I Had a Sylvia Plath, also at 35below, before New Umbrella takes the show Off-Broadway in the fall.

Like Sylvia Plath, Southern (dis)Comfort is a solo show, though rather than one story, it’s a series of vignettes. According to a program note, the work evolved out of Gray’s “desire to explore a humorous, tragic, and honest vision of the South I grew up in and the fascinating people who inhabit it. The challenge and the fun of the project has been to discover compassion for characters who — on the surface, at least — warrant none, who would be overlooked by an outsider as slovenly or boring or materialistic or racist or demented — you name it.” She also wished to explore a particularly Southern form of loneliness, as identified by such writers as Tennessee Williams and Walker Percy.

Beginning with a brief evocation of memory — presented, somewhat oddly, with the hint of a British accent — Southern (dis)Comfort, which runs just over an hour, consists of five pieces about five very different people: a 61-year-old trucker; a 27-year-old woman obsessed with her appearance; a 56-year-old widower; a 42-year old member of the Olive Branch Mississippi Women’s Historical Society; and a 91-year-old woman in a nursing home.

Using minimal set and costume changes, performed languorously in full view, Gray is in no way flashy and makes minimal vocal adjustments of timbre and accent, yet she is professionally credible in each of her roles. No attempt is made to tie these characters’ stories to each other in any narrative sense; the only connection is the thematic one expressed in the program note.

There is, however, a still more significant connection (besides the actress), in that each monologue is constructed in essentially the same way: a somewhat preposterous person and/or situation creates a distance between the audience and the character, frequently provoking laughter, and that distance is bridged by an O.Henry-like twist, which humanizes the character and occasionally provokes tears (or, depending on your temperament, additional laughter). The language, too, is patterned, with ordinary speech prevailing but often compressed epigrammatically, so that several times in each sequence a phrase will catch the ear and impress with comedy, sagacity, or both.

In “Big Jim’s Tow & Go,” trucker Tommy Stutts picks up a pretty young hitchhiker who turns out to be an occasional porn actress, which provokes Stutts into a reminiscence of his own love live, which is primarily comic but ends with a revelation of loneliness and despair.

“Crooked,” winner of the One-on-One National Monologue Competition and the standout of the evening, finds Julia Hanover in a plastic surgeon’s office, chatting away with another unseen patient, slowly revealing the toll on her life and, oddly, on her cat, taken by lifelong distress about one eye being ever so slightly out of line with the other.

William Ernest Fells, the middle-aged engineer of “Gymnasium Eulogy,” offers a dispassionate review of his late wife’s life and their life together; the eulogy, always awkwardly at odds with Fells’ mostly mechanical presentation, becomes increasingly absurd with progressively unpleasant revelations.

Cheri Kane, of “Olive Branch Mississippi Women’s Historical Society,” is very excited to have helped make an exception to the rules in order to welcome the society’s first African-American member, though the pleasure she takes in this historic accomplishment is sadly at odds with the ingrained racism Kane inadvertently reveals with each freighted phrase.

Finally, “The Odyssey of Dementia” begins with an elderly woman who appears to be caught up in the world only to be revealed as suffering from … dementia.

Each of these monologues has its moments (and, in the first three, more than that), but the similarity of narrative approach makes the evening feel longer than it is, and the concluding pieces are too overt and, in terms of their revelations, inconsequential to rise to the level of drama. As a writer, Gray appears to have accomplished what she set out to do without creating a truly satisfying whole. One trusts that, next time, she’ll create a knockout. (Her bio states that she’s been commissioned “to write a play about Emily Dickinson traveling in a time portal to become Bob Dylan,” which will simply have to be seen.)

Southern (dis)Comfort, presented at 35below by New Umbrella, Inc. and Asheville Community Theatre. Written and performed by Elisabeth Gray. Directed by Ralph Redpath. Set design by Shane Meador. Costume design by George W. Martinat. Lighting design by Nicole Blastow. Thursday through Saturday through June 26. 7:30 p.m. $15.

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35 thoughts on “Review of Southern (dis)Comfort

  1. working pro

    This review tells me more about the critic than it does Ms. Gray or her wonderful performance. Quote…”each monologue is constructed in essentially the same way: a somewhat preposterous person/situation creates a distance between the audience and the character…the distance is bridged by an O.Henry like twist, which humanizes the character…” I found the people and situations being portrayed to be completely believable and (more importantly) human from the first line of dialogue, not preposterous. Mr. Samuels apparently houses many of the same prejudices about people from the South that this actress is trying to dispel. And as is the case in other reviews of his he deems that this work is to inconsequential to rise to the level of drama. I suppose we will have to wait until Mr. Samuels opens his theatre, Magnetic Field, to find out what can be called theatre. Meanwhile, Ms. Gray’s pretense free presentation creates a world that is filled with real and theatrical moments and is astonishing in it’s simplicity. Don’t miss it.

  2. Cobra Kibosh

    If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all!….oh wait, this is a review site…Fine, I suppose you can keep on having your confounded opinions then…..But I assure you they are all wrong! Not in opposition to mine…just plain wrong.

  3. young twist

    Here we go…I really think that Mr. Samuels only likes his original plays. With the notion that only his kind of theatre meets the qualifications of real theatre. I’m always reading how he would write the play if he were the playwright. Instead of an intelligent critique, he gives us Monday armchair quarterbacking. Yes. Let’s wait for Magnetic Field to open. I love how a playwright and a director, John Crutchfield have taken over Mtn. Xpress…hmmm…I’m sure they love their friends shows.

  4. Theatregoer

    That sound? Oh, that’s just Working Pro grinding their ax…

  5. working pro

    Theatregoer, if you would like I can chop up YOUR agenda into smaller pieces so it will be easier for all of us to swallow. Why is disagreeing with a critic who you believe is blatantly wrong having an axe to grind? This critic has a weekly forum to trash good work and we have this site to defend it if we so desire. But, for the record Cobra, yes, I do think he is wrong and have no problem expressing that opinion to anyone who may be considering going to see this performance. If you consider that to be an agenda that is your problem. I consider it to be my responsibility as a dramatist who is trying to support good theatre.

  6. zomBgrl

    Young Twist: to say that Crutchfield and Samuels “took over Mountain Express” is a pretty creative twist there, pal. You can’t even say thay “took over” the Sightlines review blog, since Crutchfield himself started the damn thing. Why? Presumably because other reviews in town weren’t forthright (or maybe long) enough. If anything, what Crutchfield, Samuels and Del Vecchio have taken over is the role of collective whipping boy. Have at ’em!

  7. Your Copy Editor

    Critic Samuels says, “Gray trained at England’s Oxford University.” If he means trained as an actress at Oxford, that seems unlikely, as Oxford’s many colleges do not offer acting training. She may have studied an academic subject at Oxford and acted with the many, highly regarded student drama societies. Professional acting “training” in the UK, as Mr. Samuels probably knows, is given at drama schools, such as the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.

  8. Jason

    Isn’t the whole reason for performing this play in Asheville to get feedback on it, both good and bad, before it’s taken off-Broadway? I would think Mr. Samuels criticism would be very helpful in that case. I hope he offered his opinion directly to the producers as well as writing it here, but even not, should he refrain from being critical just to avoid hurt feelings or decreased attendance. I think the Citizen-Times does that well enough.

  9. Theatre Goer

    Not to be confused with Theatregoer . . Jason raises the interesting point as to whom a critic’s reviews/comments are addressed. Is it the job of the newspaper reviewer/critic to be a kind of public dramaturg to help the playwright and the producers? Shouldn’t they hire or invite someone to be their “play doctor” the way professionals called in, say, Jerome Robbins, or George Abbott in the final stages of rehearsals to give them some fresh eyes?

    This seems to be part of the “problem” with MX reviews. No one is clear for whom the reviewers are writing: the theatre folks, the potential audience members, the arts-interested reader who wants to understand the cultural scene in his/her community?

    Jason says, “I hope he offered his opinion directly to the producers as well as writing it here.” Wouldn’t that be a clear journalistic conflict of interest, if the newspaper reviewer were giving private advice to the producers of the plays he was reviewing?

    On the question of feedback, are the producers of this play running audience surveys, the way movie producers do as they are making the final cuts to their films? Are they having discussions with audiences? Are they inviting local theatre “experts” (are there any here?) to give them feedback? What’s the process of using Asheville as a try-out town for New York?

  10. young twist

    zomBgrl,

    Actually Mtn. Xpress had reviews before two “theatre professionals” came to town. Their Magnetic Theatre just produced a play by John Crutchfield and directed by Samuels. They clearly have an aesthetic…verse plays set in Appalachia based on the Bible is one…I don’t believe that they should be trashing new plays by others in town while producing their own.

    My only point is that there should be more objective voices who perform the job of critic. I don’t think it’s ethical to have a playwright and his director be two of the major critical voices in town. You can’t be friends with certain theatres and give them great reviews. Especially a theatre like NC Stage who is helping produce your work. I don’t think it’s ethically sound.

  11. Steven Samuels

    young twist,

    I don’t mind being criticized; I expect to take my lumps not only for what I think and write and say but for what I produce and direct. But I do have to ask if you’ve read my reviews of NC Stage productions. They don’t strike me as the best way to curry favor.

    And I’ll be very curious to see how anyone defines my “aesthetic” once The Magnetic Theatre’s fully up and running. With the opening of The Magnetic Field in the fall, I think you’ll find we visit verse, Appalachia, and the Bible infrequently.

    Best,
    ss

  12. Steven Samuels

    Theatre Goer,

    Actually, New Umbrella did have a survey they asked the audience to fill out, at least the night I was there. But that didn’t affect my response; if I perceive deficiencies in a script, I think it’s my job to say so, whether it’s a work in progress or Shakespeare. And there are deficiencies in every play I know.

    Though I would never have thought to approach the producers directly, I’m happy to talk to anyone if there’s a chance I can be helpful in the slightest.

    Best,
    ss

  13. zomBgrl

    I see your point– and you’re not the first to make it on this blog. But these guys have been pretty up front about their involvement in theatre-making here. It’s a SMALL TOWN, people! Plus, speaking for myself, I don’t read the reviews expecting some kind of objectivity–whatever that is. I look for intelligent and honest subjectivity. And for the most part, I think they bring it. In fact, if anything I get a little frustrated by the constant civility and eggshell-treading. (I guess we disagree about what constitutes “trashing.” I don’t see it here–or anywhere else on this blog.) So Samuels wasn’t totally blown away by this show. So what? If people really object to the reviewers’ aesthetic, or to their “complicity” with the scene, why not offer to join them? Seriously now. If you think you have a better or at least a different perspective, plus the chops as a writer, why not step up to the plate? (Not necessarily you personally, young twist; I’m just sayin’…)

  14. John Crutchfield

    A brief point of fact: I did not single-handedly originate the idea for Sightlines. It emerged from my discussions with Rebecca Sulock (then A&E Editor of Mountain XPress) about a year and a half ago concerning what we both saw as the need for sustained, in-depth public discussion of theatre in Asheville. “Need” because there seemed be so much interesting theatre going on here that passed by more or less unnoticed.
    We consulted a number of respected local theatre artists as we developed the idea and put together a team of reviewers. While a diversity of viewpoints has been our aim from the beginning, we’ve never presumed to speak for anyone but ourselves. I hope the significant differences in taste, approach, and prose style between Steve, Lucia, the other more occasional writers, and I will be apparent to anyone who’s followed Sightlines for any length of time. I can certainly vouch for those differences in our casual discussions: we disagree as often as not. And that’s a good thing.

  15. sharkbear.org

    is this the part where we start setting the cars in our neighborhood on fire?

    seriously though, no matter how bad a piece of theatre is (not referring at all to Southern Discomfort, heard it was quite good)someone is going to like it. So in that essence every review is a bad review, it’s all about perspective.

    It’s also important to note that there is no perfect show. Not here, and not in any other sacred metropolis of the arts. If one had been produced, we would just be running that one over and over again until the end of time. So any review that treats a show like a perfect show by not even acknowledging its slight faults is abominable.

    I hate to use a bit of a slang term, but the backlash against critics in every location in every medium seems to be a variation of “you’re killing my high”. It’s not that you’re not right in your opinion and they’re not right in theirs, it’s just you’re disappointed that someone doesn’t see the show the way you do. And who know? Maybe they are, too (who counts the tears of the critics?).

    As to the validity and objectivity of these critics, I get what you’re saying to a certain extent (the part before someone opening a theatre in town should immediately lead to the end scene of the crucible i think). I feel we need to be reasonable about our ideal expectations here though. There are many supposed differences between here and New York (I hear the sun is just a little brighter there, but reports are still out) but one is that. I don’t know any people with theatre education and any passion for it in town that haven’t been involved in a show in the last five years because we can’t really pay people to just critique. I’m not discounting the idea I just think unless we can find the example we may not want to assume there’s a person trained enough in theatre that still enjoys it enough to want to see it without earning a livable wage from it who wants to never get to participate in it in a performance, technical, administration or slight association again so they can post opinions on a blog.

  16. Avid Dramatist

    Wow! Sharkbear, that was quite a last sentence there. I long for the pithy sharkbear…”Monocle drops from eye.” Now, I thought that Mr. Samuels review was quite intelligent and certainly was by no means a pan. I gather that he actually likes it. But I’m always surprised when a show which is so clearly above everything else in town with a gifted talent like Elisabeth Gray, especially when she is one of out own, doesn’t generate a little more excitement from a local critic. I mean, I know what other shows you’re seeing because I see them also. That said — What?! I must be in the dark. The two main drama critics for this journal are operating their own theater for which they write and direct?! Uh…I’m speechless. Has anyone ever heard of “conflict of interest?” If I misread those comments somebody set me straight.

  17. working pro

    It occured to me that the problem with this site is that way too frequently the discussions are not about the work or the people doing the work they are mostly about the reviews and reviewers. If you really want to have a community discussion about local theatre just have a site where people can come and comment about what they go and see and like or dislike. Mr. Samuels, Mr. Cruthchfield and Ms. Del Vecchio can go buy a ticket like everybody else (the best way to support theatre)and express their opinion along with the rest of us. Mtn Express says Sightlines is an “ongoing experiment”. Perhaps it is time to examine some of the results of that experiment. This week I talked to at least a dozen people (two publihed working playwrights, a theatre producer, and actor and a musical director) who all expressed the opinion that Sightlines reviews were having a detrimental effect on theatre attendance. Clearly Mr. Cruthchfield and Mr. Samuels do not feel there is any conflict of interest in them producing in and with theatres that they also critique. Honestly, in that regard, their opinion should not matter. It’s the Editors of Mtn Express that should look very closely at the policy that they currently have in place and ask themselves if this experiment is producing the sustained in-depth public discussion they were hoping to engender. A lot of people feel very strongly that it is not. And any conflict of interest pertaining to Mr. Crutchfield and Mr. Samuels should at the very least be addressed by Ms. Sulock.

  18. Theatre Goer

    I share some of the general concerns about the appearance of conflict of interest with Mr. Crutchfield, Mr. Samuels, and Ms. Del Vecchio (isn’t her husband a producer of Mr. Samuels and Mr. Crutchfield’s work?). I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt because they appear to be people of integrity, they write well, and they appear to know their stuff. However . . I can’t help but think there are people in Asheville who knowledgeable about theatre, who are good writers, and who are NOT actively involved with local theatre who could be recruited to review for Mountain Xpress. Avid Dramatist, Working Pro, and ZombieGirl (did I get that right?) seem to be good writers and knowledgeable about theatre. Have no idea of their theatre affiliations, if any. Could they be enlisted? Could others make specific suggestions of names? As an audience member, I’d like to see reviews I can respect, even if I disagree with the opinions, and that tell me enough about the production so I can make my own judgment about whether to go or not. Avid Dramatist, Working Pro and ZombieGirl, please suggest some names of people you’d like to see writing for Sightlines. Maybe Ms. Sulock will follow up.

  19. Rebecca Sulock

    I’ve been pleased with the discussion that Sightlines has generated. The project has filled a void, and it’s the first time there’s been an organized effort to provide reviews that aren’t simply back-patting and yea-saying.

    We’ve been straightforward and open about everyone’s affiliations and backgrounds since the beginning. That’s brought debate, which I expected, and continue to:

    http://www.mountainx.com/ae/2009/060309setting_our_isightlines_i_on_local_theatre/

    The internet empowers everyone to publish. At Xpress, we’ve seized that idea and are collaborating in new ways every week. We’ve recently revamped our food section, for example, to include collaborations with ASAP and other bloggers that in the past could’ve been considered conflicts. But we’re seizing on the concept of citizen journalism — the old idea of newspaper as gatekeeper hasn’t been working for a while.

    That said, the reviewers step back from a performance when there’s a conflict that could keep them from being as fair as possible. Every review gets edited before it’s posted. Still, I don’t think it’s possible to have objective arts writing. Readers of these reviews have to consider the source, just as they do with any information on the Wild Wild Internet.

    These aren’t back-patting reviews. But they’re certainly not panning or harsh, either.

    Working pro, it’s a big statement to make that Sightlines reviews are hurting theatre attendance. How is this being measured? I’d like to know more. My door is open, and has been since I took this position almost two years ago. I email regularly with the theaters in town, and no one has mentioned this. I’d hope they would (and invite them to), so we could talk about it.

    This is my name, these are my thoughts and this is my responsibility. I can be reached at rsulock@mountainx.com, or 251-1333 x. 113.

  20. Avid Dramatist

    Dear Ms. Sulock thank you for your post. I love this sight and the fact that it gives the theater-going, ticket-paying audience a chance to “express” ourselves along with your critics and in response to your critics regarding the theater we are offered here in the mountains. I too believe that getting away from the back-patting and yea-saying tone of most other reviewers is a good thing that will only strengthen the theater being produced in our city. I look forward to the next review.

  21. young twist

    Ms. Sulock,

    I don’t believe that theatres would tell you that their box offices are being hurt. You are the press and it is a careful line a producer walks. How do you measure that they are not hurting audiences? We all know that a good review can help box office. It is naive to believe in this economy that it doesn’t. There is a certain amount of power that a critic has. You are one of two reviews that a play would receive in town. Shocking for an editor to not take a modest amount of responsibility. It is even more of a revelation that Ms. Del Vecchio is a member of the same team of professionals.

    I realize the need for dialogue about theatre. However, should it be from a clique of reviewers with the same perceived (even if suspected) mission? I think that you can have objective arts writing with reporting from a journalist/critic who has nothing at stake in the local arts community. Its disturbing to me that you are all for citizen journalism, but are presenting folks who are far from normal citizens. Ethically I believe this is suspect. If you had three people write on the same play who had the same resumes then I’d see a more objective view point.

    I think for the sake of the integrity of a newspaper you must full disclosure of a reporters ties to a story. You have, but that doesn’t relieve the paper’s responsibilities. For two years I have read these reviews and don’t believe this particular club is working. These reporters are money making members of the theatre community and their opinions have the ability to sway their neighbors box office. Also, you print them which is not just Wild Wild internet comments. You have given them credentials by making them members of your staff.

    I think there’s a better way. Especially for fledgling new work. Have a non professional audience member review the play as they see it. That would be enlightening.

  22. Sacred Cow

    Are you kidding me Theatre Goer? Are you seriously suggesting the line of “We’re tired of the people with actual credibility getting to talk, me and my friends-concealed-by-screennames-I’ll pretend-not-to-know should get to review shows and talk about how awesome ACT and Montford shows are!! Like now!!” Please. Start your own blog and let people have their own opinions in public just like you have yours. It’s a small town and thus we all pretend not to know who is who under our spiffy little screen names. So let’s all go be productive and start our own little theatre companies and our own theaters and do our own thing so that eventually we can fracture this town’s artistic community into a soulless mush in which nobody wins.

  23. Sacred Cow

    Oh yes, please, Ms Sulock, turn loose the embittered theatre masses to write their versions of how awesome their friends shows are and so that they can wrap their lips firmly around those theatre companies that they want to work for. Let’s also face a fact, if anyone here was NOT connected to the local theatre community and was a “usual” citizen, we’d all be using our real names and not hiding behind horrible, horrible screen names. People, the internet is a big place, go start your own theatre blog if that’s what moves you. The MX owes you NOTHING. Granted with the emergence of Mr. Samuels’ Mis Del Vechio’s husband’s new business, the potential conflicts loom large, but I’ve not seen anything from either of them worth waving a flag over. This still reads like “YOU HATED A SHOW MY FRIEND WAS IN OR THAT I THOUGHT WAS GOOD SO YOU ARE WRONG AND UNETHICAL AND SHOULD BE KILLED”.

    GIve it a rest.

  24. working pro

    Ms. Sulock, thank you for your open and honest response. I now know where you stand in regard to both the conflict of interest debate and the real reason Sightlines exists. I am saddened to think that you and others at Mtn Express consider Mr. Cavener, Mr. Reid and Mr. Kiss, the critics for the AC-Times, to be nothing more than “back-patters and yea-sayers”. I doubt if they and many others would agree with you. As to the conflict of interest the buck stops with you and apparently you don’t have a problem with it. So what more is there to say ?

  25. Avid Theaterist

    I think the idea that these reviews could be hurting box office numbers is preposterous–have you read these reviews? Most of the time they are favorable. I thought this review was favorable.

    I’ve worked in theatre for years in this town, and people always used to bitch and whine about the fact that there were no real reviews, just the puff pieces that the C-T wrote, and then this project came along (which I personally think was very much needed, and is very well done, by the MX and the reviewers) and now people are bitching and whining about it. Too harsh, the reviewers know too many people, blah blah blah. And how many of those are the same people that used to go on about wanting real reviews?

    It’s a small town. EVERYONE doing theatre knows EVERYONE else doing theatre. Get over it. Focus on trying to become better at your craft.

  26. Jan Powell

    Okay, what to say? I saw the show at 35 Below with Elisabeth Gray and, to set the record straight, I do not know her nor anyone else that I’m aware of involved in the production. She is wonderful. Nice to see someone returning home to share part of her life with us. I read the review and said to myself, “Great, a nice intelligent review.” I did not disagree with it…but I did think that I would have mentioned how lucky we are to have this quality of talent in one of our smaller venues in Asheville. There is a lot to celebrate here and we should pay a little more attention to our home grown “theatre” talent like we do for potters, painters, wrought iron workers, et al. I believe that more people get excited over a new micro brew than over a daunting, challenging new theatre piece. If you are reading this and you haven’t been to see Elisabeth then just go see for yourself. And, Elisabeth, if you are reading this…heh…look at the number of comments here!

  27. Theatre Goer

    I’m not sure if Sacred Cow is referring to me or the other “Theatregoer” poster, so don’t understand his/her remarks. I’m a person who goes to the theatre, not involved with any of them, don’t know the identities of “Avid Dramatist” or “Working Pro” or “Zombie Girl,” (and don’t care), just have thought their remarks sound sensible. Is the general public/audience not welcome on this site? As I said earlier, a problem I perceive, as most of these comments indicate, the reviews seem to be written BY theatre-involved people FOR theatre-involved people. Some audience-centric reviewing and commenting would be appreciated by . . theatre-goers. (I know, I know, I don’t have to read the comments.)

  28. visitingartist

    Some of the readers of these reviews seem unfamiliar with the words “Criticism” and “Review”, neither of which suggest or guarantee positive feedback. Negative criticism can be part of constructive evaluation, and the variety of criticism that appears in any major publication (say, The New York Times) make the reviews found on this blog seem unbearably polite. If the theater artists in town need their backs patted they should ask their loved ones for feedback, and refrain from reading the writings of professionals in the field who were hired to write based on their expertise. Theater goers needn’t agree with them, but the reviewers are not “wrong” in their evaluations.

    Wikipedia provides useful definitions of both terms above:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticism
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Review

  29. young twist

    Thank you for the lesson visitingartist. Shucks. We’re so small town that we didn’t even know there was such a thang as a wiki…what? Wow, I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a New York Times. We don’t get that down here. You’ve cleared it up for us. On behalf of all of us here, we are indebted to your “setting us straight”. What a light you’ve turned on!

    Actually, reviews can be very “wrong” in their evaluations. Ask anyone who has seen a play or musical and disagreed. To say that they are experts and therefore are perfect in the evaluations is silly. They’re theatre professionals as I read over and over. They’ll be fine with a little criticism themselves. Right?

    No one’s asking for pats on the backs. Only fair reporting from professionals who aren’t sitting at the same table. I think the editor and her staff know what I mean.

  30. visitingartist

    “Young Twist”

    Your vitriolic and “twisting” tone is unproductive. A review that everyone in the audience agrees with sounds like a near impossible task to me.

    I didn’t say anyone was perfect – how ridiculous – and I wasn’t putting anyone down. Wikipedia is hardly high culture, it
    is for and by everyone. I simply pointed out that the nature of reviews is to evaluate merits as well as faults. A review is an expert’s opinion, an educated evaluation – that’s all. It can’t be wrong, but it can be vastly different than yours, mine, or another reviewer’s.

    Serious reviews are clearly something Asheville lacked, and Ms. Sulock deserves credit for identifying the need.

  31. sharkbear.org

    not to be confused with bearshark.org. and for the record, I’m always pithy. It’s where I find my unending supply of adorable.

    There are truths in this life. Just as every goth kid listening to The Cure is secretly singing Strawberry Alarm Clock in their head, every theatre person has been unhappy since the day we discovered people thought we were more attractive when we were brooding.

    By this I mean the following: I agree that the current conflict of interest between our reviewers and their theatrical lives is a bit weighty and deserves attention, but let’s not forget that back when Magnetic Fields was just a twinkle in some poor impregnated person’s eye that we were still freaking out anytime John Crutchfield had a sandwich in the same deli as an actor in a reviewed show. Incidentally, when we look back on this years from now I think we’ll find the downfall of this entire blog to be Crutchfield’s almost obsessive love of sandwich formatted foods

    I sincerely hope this blog isn’t hurting ticket sales anywhere. Personally, to get me to change my mind on whether I’m seeing a show based on a review it’s going to have to either be a write up equating the performance to either a portrait of hell on earth or the theatrical equivalent of unicorns phasing in and out of the room like Kitty Pride.

    Anyone who sees a review and honestly thinks “well I really was jazzed about seeing it, but X says it’s bad! My research is done, on to an evening of lasertag instead!”, regardless of X’s credentials, should probably just start thinking now about what they want for lunch tomorrow so they don’t waste an hour of the server’s time

    I feel we have an imaginary pedestal we place reviewers on, but mostly just to judge them for being on the pedestals we put them on in the first place. I have a thought every time we start these discussions (which I do love partaking of) which is, “here goes Sisyphus again”. What’s at the top of this hill, exactly? Different reviewers we’ll all respect enough to accept their opinions as law? A lack of formal reviewers entirely? a site of preview articles? None of these sound very good to me.

    in closing, just about all of you know who I am. the joy of a pseudonym is that the 3 people who don’t aren’t close enough to me to really want or need to know if we end up at an interview on the other side of the table. the reviewers on this site (and some commenters) are willing to stand by their opinions with actual names, while they could just as easily comment as workingtheatregoerpro. I’m not knocking anonymity at all because i think it’s important, but let’s not shoot those who choose to shed it on sight.

  32. Curious

    Apparently most of the people commenting here about the review and the reviewers did not see the show, if lack of comments about the show itself is any indication.

  33. bvl28714

    This show was a good show and we enjoyed it and the comments here on this blog do not appear to be at all satisfying what the stated purpose is.

    Some objectivity is required and while the reviewers here are all qualified the fact that they are having to defend their objectivity because they are also producing does call into question the integrity of the discussion. It is difficult to take such a negative discussion seriously.

    There are precious little comments about making theatre better in our community. I would argue that the very art form this forum is supposed to be elevating is in fact accomplishing just the opposite.

    Ms. Gray’s accomplishments are considerable and her talent is quite obvious. The work she has created deserves an honest constructive discussion which it has not really received. Too bad.

  34. Jan Powell

    Thanks bvl.

    Having seen both of Ms. Gray’s shows now I would have to agree with you about her accomplished and considerable talent. While “Southern (dis)Comfort” is a series of vignettes it does not detract from it being a well written theatre piece that is definitely worthy of its place on the stage. And speaking of the stage, I’ve never seen anyone in Asheville utilize such a small, low-ceiling space to such dramatic advantage as her collaborative team.

    Now, speaking of collaboration…I did get out last evening to see Ms. Gray’s other show “Wish I Had a Sylvia Plath” and all I can say is “WOW!” We are lucky indeed to have this caliber of talent on the boards in Asheville. The whole effort from the striking set to the pitch perfect costumes and the extraordinary film conceived, directed and edited by the very talented John Farmanesh-Bocca make the perfect background for the glittering writing and electrifying performance of Elisabeth Gray. If this sounds like high praise, believe me it is deserved. Please do yourself a favor and get out to see this one.

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