It’s been a highly enjoyable three-plus years since CityLife theater critic Dave Surratt passed the torch to myself — a journey ranging from epiphanies (The Chairs) to piffle (Summers of Fear). Sadly, even the best things must come to an end and I sense that it’s time for a different voice. The bottom line is that I feel the danger of becoming repetitious and sliding toward the simplistic “thumbs up/thumbs down” school of criticism I abhor.
Since the spring of 2009, I’ve tried to provide perspective, context, historical background and the benefit of experience in order to provide readers with the basis to make your own, informed decision about what you want to see or avoid. And, yes, I’ll admit to having tried to infiltrate some pedagogy along the way. I come from a long line of academics, so it’s in my DNA.
Whether or not I succeeded is for you to judge. But I’ve always tried to give you my best effort. You’re not quite rid of me: My byline will continue to grace CityLife occasionally, but in other contexts.
Since I entered reviewing an Onyx Theatre show (Facts of Life: The Lost Episode) there’s a fitting symmetry in having made my exit with another one (Next Fall). In between, Onyx has improved beyond recognition, Las Vegas Little Theatre has made long strides away from its old-fogey image and Cockroach Theatre has gone from being a troupe far more often spoken of than seen to being on the brink of its first full season in the brand-new Art Square Theatre downtown.
Conversely, Insurgo Theater Movement, which I met riding high with Medea, has fallen into total disarray, perhaps fatally. Signature Productions was effectively killed by the greed of the Library District. And Nevada Conservatory Theatre should file for artistic bankruptcy. It’s celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, but at the rate that degree tracks and student opportunities are being flung overboard, it’s unlikely to see a 20th.
Finally, a precept to every theater company in Vegas: Stop doing crap! Adults seeking grown-up entertainment are confronted instead with a torrent of twaddle. Not every scratchy, Grade-Z drive-in fright flick merits conversion into musical theater and, for God’s sake, stop condescending to the audience and hiding behind the excuse, “It’s deliberately bad” — incompetence’s last line of defense. You’ve got a responsibility to the paying public, so treat it with respect.