Grumpy Reviews

I have a general grumpiness about the state of playwriting. Looking through the American Theater Magazine and the TCG Publications catalog is depressing for what is not being written or produced. Everything that is deemed worthy by official pundits seems pointless, trivial, or ordinary. Especially ordinary. I hate ordinary and if I wanted pure entertainment I’d go see a movie. Unlike plays, movies are pre chewed, partly digested, and fortified with quick edits and special effects.

Plays that are painful, frightening, or confusing – that is, plays that should be written and experienced, are best categorized as surrealist. Other terms that work for me are “theater of the absurd”, dadaist, commedia, and deep satire. These genres can be entertaining but can also leave audiences wondering why they were entertained since often the material is very dark. Its stick to your ribs stuff.

I do support local theater in Lake County, or rather Lake County writers and actors. But I go steeled for a product pitched to local tastes. I don’t expect to be enlightened. What I do expect is reasonable technical proficiency.

A couple weeks back a friend and I went to see a local rock musical done to Elton John music called “Good Bye Yellow Brick Road.” Obviously the band played Elton John music. A local person wrote a thin story that interspersed with the songs. This is what we expected. We are supporting local theater so that maybe it will evolve into something quirky and relevant.

Unfortunately, the show’s producer, Michael Adams, dropped the ball in the sound department. The performance was at the Soper Reese Theater so sound wasn’t going to work by itself. Someone had to make it happen. The producer selected separate stage and music directors. However the band was autonomous as far as being responsible for their own miking and amplification.

So whose job was it to mike the singing? Ultimately this is the producer’s responsibility to designate someone. During intermission a band member made it clear it wasn’t their job. Nick Reid was listed as the music director but his reputation is as a voice coach. I have only seen him work with light acoustic back up. If there was a full dress rehearsal the lack of functional voice amplification would have been obvious. Only the seats up front could hear all of the singing. Everyone else had to wait for the occasional pumped up segments.

If this was some corny but charming assortment of local talent like Lake County Live that charged 5 dollars to get in I wouldn’t be writing this. But Yellow Brick was promoted as a serious production that charged a full range of ticket prices (I bought 2 of the 18 dollar seats). I expected a minimum of technical competence. If a producer charges for professional work they are obligated to deliver the product. Given that there was no original music, perfunctory writing, and an aging cast the very least one would expect is minimum sound quality.

I’m getting a little tired of local dilettantes who won’t put in the minimum of effort to create a quality product but expect the public to pick up their slack at the ticket booth. Remember, the Bay Area is always an option as a theater destination for Lake residents. When no one responded to our complaints during intermission that there was a sound problem we walked out. We felt a little abused. If Adams wants me to show up at another one of his music events he’s going to have to announce “OK, I get it. It won’t happen again.”

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