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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.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Adventures of Caveman Robot: The Review

George Hunka delivers a shot at one of the most earnest and hardworking crews in NYC, the Brick, with his rather harsh review of "Adventures of Caveman Robot: The Musical" here.

Now, I haven't seen this show. Perhaps it's as bad as George says. Reviewing, as I've said, is a balancing act. Reviewing for the New York Times, as George does now, means that you can wield a brickbat to the fortunes of others.

I'd like to say, for those interested, that the Brick Theater is one of the true gems of the Off-Off Broadway scene. Situated in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the Brick features a fantastic crew of producers, writers and actors that are dedicated to the true Fringe theatre in the NYC area. They present an alternative to the Fringe Festival now, as well, first called "The Hell Festival," then "The Moral Values Festival" and this year "The $ellout Festival." I'm a huge fan of their work, a supporter of the kind of output and attitude they provide, and of Jeff Lewonczyk, one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet in the "Indie" scene.

I don't mean to criticize the review... I'm sure there are clunkers to be found Off-Off and even from people I adore (I've seen many.) But it was painful to see this so snarkily dispatched in so influential a space. The Brick ( and others who work hard to create oddball pleasures, with shoestring budgets in an overstuffed field) deserve, perhaps, a little less snark and a little more respect.

I'm probably just kneejerk defending a company that I have love for, but I'm only human. This show might not warrant an endorsement, but those involved certainly don't warrant this sort of drubbing. The Brick represents the sort of venue we need to see more of, innovative, undaunted, brave and fun.

So... I'll leave it at that.


Anonymous said...

Matt --

Thanks for the kind words about The Brick -- I'm not an "official" staff member there, but I might as well be in some ways (I spend many days a week there on most of what goes up, in various functions). I love the place, and it has become a valuable theatrical home for me.

That said, George's review, whether one agrees or disagrees, is fair enough I think in attitude, and not so snarky as many other reviews are these days (and I'm not just saying that, full disclosure, because I was one of the few things given some praise in the midst of the slam). Both Jeff and I (and John Devore, and others for that matter) have gotten our honest share of TRULY snarky negative reviews for our work at The Brick from other sources, so George's review seems plenty reasonable given past experience. I wish he'd thought different, it was disappointing to read (not unexpected though, I DO read George's blog, after all), but he expressed his dislike in a better and more fair manner than we often get.

I was once even given a very positive review for an original show of mine at The Brick that was written in such a manner that unless you REALLY read it closely, it came off as a pan. People were expressing their condolences to me on the review, when it actually was full of phrases like "tour de force," just amidst an overall tone of sourness that made it hard to see the positive things the freelancer was saying.

(amusingly enough, this positive-while-not-sounding-positive review was for one of my dimly-lit, very image-based shows, and the reviewer showed up . . . and turned out to be visually-impaired(!), and had to be led through the lobby, into the theatre, and to her seat -- I didn't know whether to laugh or cry when I saw that . . . but I accepted the positive/not-sounding-positive review, of course)

In response to Jones above as well, actually, this work is a long time collaboration between The Brick's Jeff Lewonczyk and the Caveman Robot creative team, who appeared at The Brick's variety show in 2003 and charmed everybody. So, credit or blame where ever credit or blame is due.

The Brick does all kinds of theatre -- low art, high art, "gallery" theatre, "barroom" theatre, text-based, image-based, dance-theatre, what have you -- and gets all kinds of responses. George's is reasonable enough. We're waiting for true snark from other corners, honestly. Thanks for the kneejerk defense, as you put it, but The Brick is, as David Cote put it in the Times last week, "scrappy," and can take it.

PS Belated thanks, by the way, for your very smart review of my production of Foreman's FILM IS EVIL: RADIO IS GOOD at The Brick in nytheatre.com. Not meaning to flatter a reviewer here -- Richard Foreman's best bit of personal advice to me was to ALWAYS write a thank-you note to EVERYONE who reviews your shows, good or bad -- but while I've gotten a good share of nice reviews, it was particularly pleasing to get one from someone who REALLY GOT the show and everything I was going for. Again, thanks.

Iason Ragnar Bellerophon said...

Whoever "jones" is, he is kind of talking out of turn, Jeff and I have been working on the production for over a year and all the cast and crew really put our all into this show- in no way did we come to the Brick with a fully formed show. I am gald you have a plush toy (since I make each one by hand), I am at a loss to see how one of them could be better than our last color book which Joe Infurnari took a year doing and is a masterpiece of comic art. I disagree with Ian about the New York Times review, I think critics are just that "critics" and can say whatever they want, but it does not make it true. Just like some of the things "jones" has assumed about Caveman Robot are not based on any fact.

Whatever the case, I had never heard of Hunka, but after the review came out, I found his blog-
Which is titled -
Superfluities: unnecessary thoughts from an unimportant man
This nicely sums up what I think of what he thinks about Caveman Robot.