Judging by the feedback I hear, readers are keenly interested in reviews of the theater, concerts and movies playing in the Kansas City area. But that certainly doesnt mean they always agree with The Kansas City Stars critics.
By DEREK DONOVAN
The Kansas City Star
One of the most common complaints I hear is about which performances are chosen for review. There are hundreds of shows every month, so obviously every one cant be covered.
That means there will always be people who miss out on entertainment theyve enjoyed. Editors weigh a variety of factors in allocating space and time for reviews. Some of the considerations include the relative popularity of the show, and whether Kansas City audiences have had the chance to see it in the recent past.
For example, some big pop and country stars make frequent visits to major cities. If The Star reviewed one artists last appearance, and this time around theres another major show the same night from someone who hasnt visited before, it would most likely make sense to visit the act that hasnt been here before.
Theres also a consumer angle to arts reviews when a show isnt just a single-night event. A critics assessment of a piece of theater that runs for three weeks might help ticket-buyers decide whether or not to spend their money and time on a production, for example.
But thats hardly to say readers always agree with the critics. I cant count how many times through the years Ive spoken to people who have asked if The Stars reviewers were at the same show they attended.
One such emailer last week had an opinion diametrically opposed to the one theater critic Robert Trussell expressed in his mixed review of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying at the Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre.
You should not have used your power of words to keep people away from the funniest, most delightful play I've seen in years and I've seen a lot, she wrote to Trussell, copying me.
I asked Trussell for his take. Reactions to critical opinions in print fall into two broad categories, he told me. Those who are personally offended by a negative review of a show they liked, and validation if they happen to agree with either a negative or positive review.
I understand both reactions because that's exactly how I feel if I read a negative review of a book I enjoyed. By the same token, I thoroughly enjoy a negative review of a bad movie.
Pop music critic Timothy Finn offered similar thoughts, with one insight I hadnt considered: I'll get some negative feedback if I don't express the same enthusiasm for a show that someone else feels. That can happen when I'm seeing a band or performer for the fourth or fifth time and I'll hear from someone seeing them for the first time, when the anticipation and excitement level are high.
Part of the reason that a bad review of something weve enjoyed stings is that the critics negative take feels like personal criticism as if its saying we just arent smart enough to get why the show was inferior.
Thats an impulse we should all resist. While what makes a good critic is a demonstrated breadth of knowledge and level of taste, at the end of the day a lot of any review is unavoidably subjective.
Critics offer guidance and expertise. But every viewer brings a unique set of eyes and ears to the theater. Sometimes, reviewers and their readers have to agree to disagree.