Monday, August 23, 2010

the complete lack of integrity in the off-off Broadway review system

There are plenty of bad plays on Broadway and off-Broadway, as I've blogged about here - I was unimpressed, to say the very least, by LASCIVIOUS SOMETHING, RACE, and ANNA IN THE TROPICS, just to name three right off the top of my head. No, it isn't the quality of work so much that distinguishes Broadway and off-Broadway from off-off Broadway.

It's the absolute lack of integrity that makes off-off Broadway a joke.

Case in point - a Fringe Festival review at - the reviewer is a Manhattan Theatre Source colleague of at least two people in the show.

Thanks to the Internet, these kinds of things are very easy to document - just a quick Google search will demonstrate, for example, that the reviewer is a fellow volunteer at Manhattan Theatre Source of one of the cast members. And they've known each other for at least three years - they were in a show together in 2007.

Nowhere in the review does the reviewer mention his connection to the show's cast and crew. Not that I think he's trying to hide anything - the issue isn't covering up lack of ethics - the issue is not having a conception of ethics in the first place, either the reviewer or the editor (if there is one) at

And I am sure that the response to my pointing this out will not be one of embarrassment, much less a consideration of the issue of ethics, it will be confusion - they have no idea what I'm talking about. And then the outrage - how dare I be such a spoilsport, going on about pretentious things as integrity and ethics?

According to Andrew Bellware, Manhattan Theatre Source sucks, sucks, sucks, but that's no excuse. Reviewing a play that friends of yours are involved in - especially if you don't even admit your connection - is unethical. And the fact that doesn't use professional critics, but a loose collection of volunteers is no excuse either.

And it isn't only the easily-documented web of friends at Manhattan Theatre Source that is the issue - a friend of mine has written reviews for and she told me that once she was told to tone down a negative review because friends of a bigwig at were involved in the show.

It's a nice little system for people who are well-connected. They give their friends favorable reviews, the friends return the favor, and they all vote for each other for the IT awards. And nobody even attempts to pretend otherwise. They absolutely wallow in their lack of integrity. And then some of these same people write plays with ethical or moral themes. Well why not go for it? It doesn't seem to matter in the world of off-off Broadway.

You might as well work the corrupt system for all it's worth, right?