Monday, May 5, 2008

Paris by Night Review Round-Up

Sandy MacDonald's astringent review for is unapologetically negative. PBN is a "watery pastiche," its musical mode "reductive," and its characters "hackneyed." It wears its musical and narrative influences too obviously on its sleeve and is "a tedious, if earnest, slog." Her writing is bracingly saline.

Louise Kennedy at the Boston Globe recognizes the same influences but evaluates the show on its own merits. It's "an old song in a new key." Her review is lively and admiring.

James Merolla at the Sun Chronicle gushes but can't quite get over the gay love story. He calls it "controversial" (there's no better way to provoke controversy) and asserts, broadly and blandly, that one's response to the show "depends completely on [one's] liberal or conservative bent." Me
rolla is so liberal that he can't contain himself: his review is a wonderful collage of extravagant adjectives.

Channing Gray rebuts Louise Kennedy: PBN is an old song in an old key. His is a dull-edged piece with some legitimate questions--what does the lovely and urbane singer Marie see in the troglodytic and duplicitous Frank?--but, as always, it's strangely vacant. Gray seems to have no interest in human nature or in expressive language; reading him is like reading joyless notes, carelessly scrawled, casually disposed.


ciaoboy said...

It isn't Merolla who couldn't get past the gay love story. It was certain members of the audience on press night. I was seated next to him and them. When the two (shirtless) men French Kiss (would there be any other way in 'Paris by Night?'), there were uncomfortable gasps and "ewwwwwws!" from women, older couples, others. They were clearly audible. Merolla, like any good reporter, was gauging the audience reaction, not his own. A critic's job is to serve the future crowd and let them know what they are in for; especially the blue hairs who are buying tickets at $50 or more a pop. Ciao.

John Rogers said...

Fair enough. When I saw PBN I heard nothing like that reaction. Still, Merolla's comment that Sam's and Buck's kiss is "cringe-inducing" does not convince me that the show is controversial or polarizing, or that one's enjoyment of it "depends completely" on whether one is liberal or conservative. (I cringed too: I was sure that something terrible was going to happen because of that kiss.) You invoke the responsibility of a good reporter to his readers; I completely agree. But a good reporter provides evidence (reference to the audible disapprobation in the audience; the results, perhaps, of an informal survey after the show) to support his or her assertions. Without it, all we have is opinion.

As counter-evidence to Merolla's claim about personal politics and viewer reponse, look at Sandy MacDonald's review: she pans PBN without a single reference to her politics or the show's supposed controversy.

I like Merolla's writing. It's vibrant and agitated--I called it a collage in the round-up but it may have more in common with an "action painting." He's a terrific force in the local critical culture. But none of this means that his generalizations should go unchallenged.

ciaoboy said...

Also fair enough. I like Merolla's writing as well. He writes for a small, very good daily in Attleboro. He used to be with the ProJo, but they didn't know what they had. He deserves a bigger audience, I think. I like this blog, too. Keep analyzing the analysts. Interesting reads.