To the editors:
A review in this week’s Reader [March 2] was so destructive and so ugly it calls into question the faculties of its author, Mary Shen Barnidge, who in her review of the show Breaking Wood has mistakenly identified criticism with vicious personal attack. This “review” is much more revealing of a pathetic mean-spiritedness on Mary Shen Barnidge’s part than it is of the play, which I’ve seen and enjoyed, as did others in the audience the night she was there. I was one of the 5 in the theater that night and overheard Mary Shen Barnidge remark to Susan MacNeil that she “really liked your form, content, and performance,” but this sort of blatant hypocrisy is something for Barnidge’s associates to ponder. She must be leading a very interesting life as in this piece she pronounces illness, banal, death, banal, and sex, banal! From reading other recent diatribes printed under her byline I can only conclude that she may be fit to review children’s theater (which seems to be about her speed), but as a critic she has nothing going for her beyond a low hostility to creative endeavor and a prose style that’s sharp as a bowling ball. This play, any play, deserves better than this; future critiques by Mary Shen Barnidge would be best played in the empty theater of her own mind.
Mary Shen Barnidge replies:
When I spoke of Ms. MacNeil’s form and performance, I was referring to her karate technique, which is excellent.