by Valerie Cardinal
While doing research for my column this week, I ran into quite a few reviews that I loved. So, this week (as some of you might have guessed by the title) is all about my favorite things and what makes me love love love a review. Forget the editorial styles and restrictions of publications – this is about the writing, and only the writing.
First of all, I love it when the tone of a review perfectly emulates the tone of the production. That way, readers get a hint as to what they’re in for if they decide to see the show. This week, I thought The Coast’s Kate Watson did just that in her review of Reefer Madness. The language and style Watson uses conveys the campy comedy aspects of the production. Also notable is Watson’s response to a comment that she highly recommends to many shows, which I thought was well put and something I agree with: “I have also determined that the word count in a capsule review (which is what my job entails) is too small to allow for an in-depth accounting of the pros and cons of a production, so I consciously choose to emphasize the positive.”
I also enjoy reviews that drop readers right into the universe of the production, much like Patrick Langston’s review of Miss Caledonia in the Ottawa Citizen. He opens his review with a description of the main character, Peggy Ann Douglas, making us feel like we know her personally and turning her into someone we can recognize.
Another thing I love is when reviewers recognize that they aren’t the target audience of the show they’re seeing. I’ve had it happen before; you don’t enjoy a production as much as you could, but you know that a certain niche audience would really get a kick out of it. Mike Anderson of Mooney on Theatre does just that with his review of Improv Against Humanity, a mix of geeky comedy and popular game Cards Against Humanity. I like that apt comparison that Anderson makes between this show and seeing The Rocky Horror Picture Show for the first time. I also enjoy that Anderson realizes that even though he didn’t have the time of his life, comedy troupe the 404s “genuinely got a room full of people to spill their drinks with laughter.”
Last but certainly not least is an article written by Martin Morrow from Toronto’s The Grid about how a production can cause a variety of reactions in critics from love all the way to hate. It’s definitely worth a read!
With that, I hope you all have a great week and keep reading, and feel free to share your favorite things to read in reviews in the comments below!