When I read Cecil Bothwell’s article on Lucia Del Vecchio’s new play, Athena [“Dogged by Doubt: Actors Face Huge Hurdles in NC Stage Catalyst Production,” Aug. 8], my jaw dropped. Literally, not figuratively. Was this meant to be a review? Mr. Bothwell certainly seemed to be exercising a lot of critical judgment.
I’ve never heard of a theater critic reviewing a production on the basis of reading the script before the production opens. Would Ken Hanke review a new movie by reading the screenplay without seeing it? Would your music critic review a musician’s debut of a new album by reading the score and not listening to the CD? (Can your music critic read a score?) Even experienced play readers don’t see (and hear in their mind’s ear) what an experienced and imaginative theater director (not to mention playwright) may.
There’s a famous story that when Peter Shaffer was circulating the manuscript of a new play in the early 1960s (this was long before Amadeus), potential producers laughed at Shaffer’s stage direction about the Spanish conquerors of Peru: “They climb the Andes.” They didn’t laugh when director John Dexter turned Royal Hunt of the Sun into one of the most thrilling productions of the decade.
You’ll need to send someone else now to review Athena. Mr. Bothwell has compromised his objectivity on this one.
— Arnold Wengrow
Writer Cecil Bothwell responds: When offering a preview of a world-premier play, one has very little to go on other than the script and the reputation of the director and players. As a playwright and actor in numerous productions since the mid-1960s, I believe I have some basis for critical judgment of a script—though I fully acknowledge that my opinion is only that. And as noted in my piece, the Asheville track record of those cast in Athena suggests they are fully capable of pulling a surprising rabbit out of a somewhat limp scriptural hat.