May 10, 2007

"Bad Theatre for Stupid People"

As a longtime theatergoer and critic, I can think of a few instances in which such a redundantly rude phrase would apply. But I was shocked to discover the object to which the estimable David Cote, theater editor of Time Out, applied this breathtaking put-down, without qualifiers, in his review of Young Jean Lee's Church, which he seemed to admire even though it wasn't the God-bashing fiesta he apparently wanted:
[Lee] seems more intent on roasting her audience’s secular complacency than blaspheming or exposing the machinery of belief. Of course, if artists (or scientists) could find out why some people can’t do without supernatural bigotry, the world would be a better place. Since religion is bad theater for stupid people, I will happily worship in the house of Young Jean Lee.

Cote has some interesting further thoughts on the play at his blog, which help explain his response further. I'm no fan of blogging about opinions of shows I haven't had a chance to see myself, and I haven't quite kept up with the back-and-forth over religion, class, and the arts that has been raging since the infamous Mike Daisey water-spill/walkout incident. For the record, I found that incident horrifying, and more than a little chilling (though I don't think it portends incipient fascism). But as a Christian believer and intermittent churchgoer myself, albeit of the much-maligned liberal mainline variety--not to mention as someone who's seen more than my share of truly bad theatre--I find Cote's choice of words a little chilling, as well.

UPDATE: Some thoughtful comments on David's blog.

1 comment:

Leonard Jacobs said...

No single incident portends incipient Fascism, and I didn't say that one single incident ever does. What I did say is that the totality of incidents, like drops of water, add up, and demonstrate patterns of thought that are deeply worrying. I hate to make the Nazi comparison over and over again, but Germany did not become a Fascist state overnight.