Feb 1, 2006

Moral Danger

I have nothing to add to the obituaries for Wendy Wasserstein, as I must confess that I've never seen her work. How I managed to do that in 15-plus years of theater criticism, I'm not sure; my only excuse is that I did most of my journeyman work in L.A., and she's not produced quite as frequently and intently out there as she is here in New York.

The redoubtable Terry Teachout did see a lot of her work, and he didn't think much of it, which occasions a very thoughtful post about criticism and guilt. He freely admits that if he'd gotten to know Wasserstein, he might have felt differently about her work, quoting Orwell on Spender to make a similar point, and says that's why he keeps theater folks "at arm's length." I've done my own dance with this quandary, but nevertheless tried to stay objective.

I loved this quote:
Criticism is a morally dangerous profession, and those who practice it without ever feeling guilty are…well, not very nice.

I'd never quite thought of it in quote those terms, and it certainly sounds a lot more dramatic than it usually feels. But then we wouldn't be in this field if we didn't like a little drama, eh?

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