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Matthew Freeman is a Brooklyn based playwright with a BFA from Emerson College. His plays include THE DEATH OF KING ARTHUR, REASONS FOR MOVING, THE GREAT ESCAPE, THE AMERICANS, THE WHITE SWALLOW, AN INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR, THE MOST WONDERFUL LOVE, WHEN IS A CLOCK, GLEE CLUB, THAT OLD SOFT SHOE and BRANDYWINE DISTILLERY FIRE. He served as Assistant Producer and Senior Writer for the live webcast from Times Square on New Year's Eve 2010-2012. As a freelance writer, he has contributed to Gamespy, Premiere, Complex Magazine, Maxim Online, and MTV Magazine. His plays have been published by Playscripts, Inc., New York Theatre Experience, and Samuel French.

Friday, June 11, 2010

It's written in the stars

Quick, read this review of Amerissiah from Time Out New York and imagine what the star rating is (out of five).

Off Broadway is always on the make for saviors, and troupes can earn cults before their miracles pan out. The Amoralists inhabit that tricky space, somewhere between treading and walking on water, in Amerissiah. As in previous Amoralist joints, Derek Ahonen’s play features plenty of extreme emotion, wild-eyed acting, loud screaming and theatrical shock tactics. (Poop-stained rags are thrown out the kitchen window on two separate occasions.) Yet behind all the zaniness is an ultimately serious look at belief and forgiveness, and Ahonen can’t quite keep it all in the same plane.

The troupe’s core regulars—including Matthew Pilieci as a dying man who believes he’s a god, Sarah Lemp as his materialistic sister and James Kautz as her adenoidal ex-husband—give enjoyably broad, glazed-hammy performances; other actors, such as Williams Apps as a reformed junkie and Selene Beretta as his nerve-jangled girlfriend (both excellent), give scarily realistic ones. But the actor playing Margie, Pilieci’s older hippie wife, is simply inadequate; it’s almost as though Ahonen, having written the part with startling malice, wanted to sabotage the character even further. But a play like Amerissiah lives and dies by momentum: The emotions are too high, and writing too pocked with little holes, to let you stop and think about it midway. Both Ahonen’s script and his direction of it are undeniably jagged; to believers (and I am one), that is part of its charm, but also, at times, a test of faith.


Then, go look at the actual review.

Yeah, me neither.

Ah, star ratings!

13 comments:

derekahonen said...

Matthew. You're a playwright correct? Why would waist your time knocking others plays? I guess you have nothing better to write about. But then again most writers who blog don't. -Derek Ahonen

Freeman said...

Derek -

Yes I'm a playwright. And I've been on the other end of all sorts of reviews, positive and negative. I'm not knocking your work. Just commenting on star ratings. I felt like Adam Feldman's review came off as rather mixed and he gave you four stars. Obviously, an interpretation is that he really loved the show, and the review doesn't reflect that adequately. It is nothing personal against you, your actual work, or the production.

I've heard nothing but good things about your company. The success you're having means people will have you on their radar and occasionally include you in their conversations. That's what you'll have to accept if you continue to work in a medium where you invite public comment - especially as your reputation and popularity grows. Trying to insult me (we don't know each other and you're clearly unfamiliar with my work) is just not really worthy of a guy who just had a profile in The New York Times. Enjoy your success, and try to take stuff like this in stride.

Adam said...

Our particular ratings system can be a little confusing. My estimable colleague Helen Shaw wrote a useful blog on this subject a little while back:
http://www3.timeoutny.com/newyork/upstaged/2010/03/its-in-our-stars-the-ratings-system-and-how-we-use-it/

Freeman said...

So in Time Out New York...

"A four-star review means the reviewer comfortably recommends the show. There is a wide range within the four-star bracket: They can be shows we think are worthy but that did not excite us unduly, or they can be works we enjoyed very much but about which we had reservations."

There you have it. Thanks Adam. And, of course, Helen Shaw.

derekahonen said...

Matthew. I do know your work and I respect it. That's why I didnt quite understand why you would go after another playwright and young company. We gotta fight the good fight together.

Freeman said...

Honestly, I just didn't see the post in that way. If it comes off that way, let me be clear (to you and everyone else) I was just sort of confused by the star rating, trying to put it i a punchy way, and not intending to attack you or your company. I have tremendous respect for the way in which you guys have forged a place in the New York Theater scene, and I'm personally looking forward to seeing the play.

isaac butler said...

I find it almost impossible to interpret matthew's post as being about going after the ahonen. He's confused how a show with a really mixed review ended up with a four-out-of-five rating. It's a legitimate question. He was clearly criticizing Time Out New York.

This is something that we struggle with on StageGrade all the time, btw.

AlysiaDraeger0417永瑞 said...

the food is delicious!............................................................

judyrod said...

Haste makes waste. ....................................................

joshcon80 said...

I agree with AlysiaDraeger0417.

Freeman said...

I know, right?

dramadaily said...

Reviews and ways of consolidating reviews (stars, percentages, etc.) never cease to amaze me. Sometimes the two means jive; and, well, lots of times they don't. Matt, your point was pretty clear to me, which Isaac already has gotten at. I've developed a similar skepticism for the LA theatre blog Bitter Lemons for reasons similar to what you point out here in this Time Out NY review...I can't tell you how many times I've read reviews of plays there that are rated anywhere from 89-100% 'sweet' and wondered how on earth they arrived at 'sweet' given the mixed nature of individual reviews.

Cooki said...

My one comment is not on the blog but about the first response Derek Ahonen posted. If a writer/playwright actually misspelled the word WASTE into WAIST, I'd be very afraid to attend the production.