A reader writes, apropos (I think) of my Wall Street Journal piece on The Producers:
My $85.00 evening at the Ahmanson, Los Angeles, was very enjoyable. I laughed, giggled, and smiled. I am so glad that in my many years of theatregoing I have never read a review prior to seeing the production.
Amen to that! I think reviews should be read after the performance, not before, mine included. And even then, don’t let critics tell you what to think. I’ve known too many critics to take their opinions too seriously. A critic’s point of view is just that–a point of view. The theory, of course, is that he knows more than you and thus can enhance your enjoyment of the art object under consideration, but it ain’t necessarily so. Here’s an almanac encore, from C.S. Lewis’ An Experiment in Criticism, a book I passionately commend to your attention: “If we have to choose, it is always better to read Chaucer again than to read a new criticism of him.”
Having said that, though, I must add that a goodly number of the people who wrote to me about my comments on The Producers, possibly including my present correspondent, have somehow gotten the mistaken impression that I didn’t think the show was funny. When readers misunderstand me, I usually take it for granted that I failed to make myself clear, but in this case I don’t think I’m to blame. I said The Producers was out of date, not unfunny, and I described it as “nothing more (or less) than a virtuoso reminiscence of the lapel-grabbing, kill-for-a-laugh shtickery on which so much of the stand-up comedy of my youth was based.” Does that really sound like I didn’t think it was funny?
I sometimes wonder whether the professional deformation of bloggers is the sort of black-or-white opinionizing that leaves no room for carefully shaded qualifications. Around here, OGIC and I do our best to say exactly what we mean, at least at the moment we’re saying it.