To the editors:
Some comments on the petulant attack by Achy Obejas on our comedy and music review, Dream House (August 23). You should’ve seen the sour and beleaguered reviewer, visibly flinching during the laughter. It must’ve felt terribly isolating, and more than a little disappointing, to sit sulking among an audience that found ample entertainment where she did not. Nothing like people having a good time to piss off an elitist. All those disagreeably incorrect preferences in the room.
Let’s talk about the reviewer’s obligation to the reader. Obejas never acknowledges the consistent laughter from the rest of the folks. By what rationale? Those laughing people looked just as real as Obejas’s scowl. Seems to me the reader’s entitled to the facts, even the ones that undermine the reviewer’s dogma. This is a general circulation paper, not Obejas’s diary, and with that comes responsibility.
Laughter validates comedy. It really is that simple. While Objejas doesn’t understand or approve of the material, that doesn’t make it unfunny to anyone but Obejas. Our audiences are laughing. It’s dishonest to withhold that information from the reader. Dishonest and weak.
And if it’s my word against hers about the response of our actual audience (not the dour tribunal of the reviewer’s longings), I’ve got the goods. The audience filled out comment sheets, anonymously. Not everyone liked every sketch, but everyone–and I mean everyone–liked the show. (Want to publish those audience comments, Reader, just for balance?) Some loved it, raved about it, said they’d bring their friends. Which they’re doing. We’ve had standing room only every night, and we have lots of reservations for the rest of the run at Puszh Studios. We’ve also been invited to do four weeks at another theater. All without the benefit of a Reader ad.
Some specifics. Obejas speculates about our writers’ “workshops,” about how timid they must’ve been. A comforting fantasy for Obejas, who wasn’t there, but our writing sessions weren’t “workshops,” and they weren’t timid. Three of us make our living as writers (the credits in our playbill–the films for Harry Belafonte, Danny DeVito and the others–are all legit), and we gave and took aggressively. Which begs a question–what are the credentials of this reviewer? I mean, if her carping pulls more weight than an audience’s enthusiasm, there ought to be something substantial there. (The word I got from Yaddo is that Obejas went long on rhetoric.)
One thing I’ll give Obejas, though. She attacks our best. She gripes about the “Guy With a Bag of Groceries,” which the audience comment sheets uniformly and effusively praise. She complains that the setup isn’t funny. Ms. Obejas, it’s setup, then punch line. The jokes comes after. Ask anybody. I also particularly like her characterization of our Honeymooners parody as “derivative.” No kidding? Since parody is a play on the original–well, you get the idea.
Another thing. You sure can’t tell from Obejas’s diatribe that there are any women in the Dream House ensemble. In fact, the gender mix is four women, four men. Moreover, Lenora Rand codirected with me, and wrote part of the show, which Obejas ignores. Perhaps she’s sparing the women her invective. That’s sweet, but these women don’t need your condescension. They’re grown up and loaded with talent. After all their hard work, Marcia Jablonski (also a cowriter), Traci Nevins, Kelli McBride and Joan Polner deserve acknowledgment.
Finally, let’s consider accountability. The critic scrutinizes the entertainer, but who scrutinizes the critic? When they get as shrill as Obejas does here, the noise becomes indistinguishable from the grinding of somebody’s axe. This time, the discrepancy between reviewer and audience is way too wide, too suspect.
So here’s a proposal that extends to actual people, which probably excludes the Brahmans at the Reader. I’ll guarantee Dream House. Come and give it your own review. If you don’t like it, show us a copy of this letter and we’ll refund your dough. Then you’ll have had a freebie, like Obejas and the companion we comped in.
And you, Ms. Obejas, get the last word in the Reader. That should be safe.