I can't be objective about LA Times theater critic Charles McNulty. He's one of the nation's finest theater critics; I think that was clear well before he won the Nathan. But I did campaign for the job he's got, and I still have complicated feelings about the LA Times' appetite for New York theater coverage (even as I've personally benefited from it). And I've beat this drum before, so I promise not to go on about this too much here. But McNulty's recent essay, in which he casts a critical eye across the ups and downs of the Broadway season just past, made me wonder, rhetorically, again: Is there a comparable think piece about the state of theater in Los Angeles over the past year that I've missed? And where should a theater lover look for such a piece, if not in the LA Times? (The Weekly's Steven Leigh Morris provides an obvious answer.)
It's true that Peter Marks at WaPo and Chris Jones at the Trib do their share of New York coverage, too. But when they do their year-end "best of" lists, or reflect on the state of theater, it's generally understood that they're talking about their hometown beat, that their views are firmly grounded in theater in their respective area. Not to give Los Angeles theater similar due because it's seen as a lesser market only fuels a vicious cycle of insignificance. Theater can literally exist without the nurturing and pruning of critics, but this ephemeral and public art form demands and deserves attention, commentary, a paper of record. Theater in L.A. too often languishes in a self-reinforcing desert of neglect. After all, I'm proof; even I abandoned it. I would rest easier, though, if I knew someone besides Morris were on the beat.