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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.

Monday, September 13, 2010

First two reviews for Brandywine Distillery Fire

I'm rather fond of Paul Menard's summation of Brandywine Distillery Fire for Time Out New York. Here's an excerpt:

"It’s difficult to know where to begin when discussing a play that runs away from any sense of a narrative beginning (not to mention middle and end) like an unruly toddler. But subverting theatrical convention is exactly the point of Michael Gardner and Matthew Freeman’s playfully illogical Brandywine Distillery Fire, which, it turns out, has absolutely nothing to do with Brandywine, distilleries or fires.

The title is only the first of many red herrings designed to throw audiences off the trail of a stable dramatic experience. At first glance—with the set’s red velour curtain, brocade chesterfield sofa and footlights—one might think that Gardner and Freeman are serving up a drawing-room comedy. The formal-wear-attired performers (including Steve Burns, former host of the children’s show Blue’s Clues), looking very Noël Coward but speaking very Gertrude Stein, deliver dialogue that seethes with subtext as they starkly shift from one seemingly vapid conversation to the next. Affecting a stilted cadence, the ensemble creates a disconnect between words and actions, continuously undercutting the value of language.

Don’t be scared off by this highfalutin metatheatricality: Brandywine embraces a winsome avant-garde sense of humor."Read the whole thing here.

Mitch Montgomery at Backstage calls the piece "frustrating and hilarious." Can't argue with that. His review seems happy and mystified in equal measure.

When more reviews appear, I'll link to them.

UPDATE: Aaron Riccio seems particularly perturbed by our play, but I'll link to it in the name of general goodwill. He refers to it as "too mystifying to be annoying." Yikes. At least that means it's not annoying?

Criticism is something that it's always hard to engage with publicly. I'm sure I'm not the only playwright that doesn't want to quibble with reviews in public: it seems petty, and sort of pointless, and it risks making you seem thin-skinned. It also can create an adversarial relationship with the press - not exactly a great plan. Also, some reviewers might touch on weaknesses in the piece that are valid, and you can't really absorb that right away. Just like anything, in the midst of the creative process, it's impossible to be objective.

Some people claim that they don't read their reviews, but I'm not one of those people. Honestly, I sort of have to. They're currency in a world with very few paychecks.

It's also a rare thing to work on a piece for over a year, obsesses over every little dip and nuance, sweat over the sound that someone makes during scene 3, in minute 14... and realize later that even the most astute critic will have a relationship with the play that's about one hour and twenty minutes long and give you their, essentially, best and most good-faith assessment of what they saw. Heck, they're not even giving it to you...they're talking to a ticket-buying public about what to see this week, maybe. Or they're simply responding to a piece of art with all the tools in their tool box with no agenda other than a reasonable reaction given the constraints of their word count.

Either way, the play seems to strike a chord with people and cause them to have all sorts of responses. I'm happy with that. I certainly hope that if you're reading this, you're planning on attending. Only four performances left.

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