Mar 16, 2010

Congratulations, You Suck!

Another rich topic on today's American Theatre Facebook page: What's the best thing to say to a friend whose show you didn't like? My favorite response so far is probably Sasha Anawalt's "You did it!" There are also a lot of variations on my own preferred feedback for a show I didn't like, which is, "I enjoyed myself" or "I had a good time" (I just omit the rest of the sentence, which would be, "I had a good time thinking about what to make for dinner tomorrow"). I used this recently, when I interviewed Catherine Zeta-Jones after catching what I considered her so-so performance in A Little Night Music, and I added another not-the-whole-truth compliment: "You were lovely in the show." I mean, she is lovely, and she's in the show.

A lot of respondents recommend one fool-proof word I only learned recently. It was during post-show handshakes at a show I'd done the music for; I didn't pick up on it at first, but when a certain colleague of mine kept repeating this one word over and over again, and offering no elaboration, I got the gist. That one deadly word? "Congratulations."


Aaron Riccio said...

I would argue that the best thing you can say to a friend whose show you didn't like is, "I didn't like your show. Here's why."

It doesn't help anyone to lie, and if the friendship is so precarious that truth would break it, better that you break it now.

Scott Walters said...

Hear! Hear! Aaron. The biggest problem we have in the theatre is our unwillingness to actually seriously critique each other. The result is that the only people left to do it are newspaper critics, and we get all bent out of shape about it.

That said, I never comment on a performance while it is still running, and I tell anybody who asks me what I thought exactly that policy. After the show closes, I tell them, I'll tell you exactly what I thought.