Victor Fiorillo, A Doll’s House, and the role of the reviewer

Julius Ferraro, Phindie's coolest reviewer
Julius Ferraro, Phindie‘s coolest reviewer

A review by Victor Fiorillo of EgoPo Classic Theatre’s A Doll’s House got Phindie writer Julius Ferraro contemplating the role of reviewer. This is part of Phindie‘s ongoing series on theater criticism.

Excerpted from Julius’s blog, Notes on Words.

From my experience, Victor Fiorillo is not anti-small theater nor is he the kind of reviewer who patently enjoys destroying companies and shows, so it is a bit puzzling to me how he could write some of the stuff in this review for Philadelphia Magazine. Lines like “[the audience’s] lukewarm (that’s generous) response at the end of the performance” seem to be completely fabricated; the audience around me seemed to enjoy the show even more than I did.

But “this show is not fit for public consumption”: I wonder if a reviewer should ever pen this. Does anyone reading that paragraph think that it’s an okay thing to say? Particularly about a show that has a lot of value in it. I wouldn’t say that this is the best show in the 2013 Fringe Festival, nor near EgoPo’s or director Brenna Geffers’s potential. However, it’s still great in a lot of ways and I think that any general audience (not one with Fiorillo’s or my high expectations) will enjoy the shit out of it.

“. . . not fit for public consumption.”

Victor Fiorillo is so over Shake Shack
Victor Fiorillo is so over Shake Shack

Not to be snitty, but maybe “consumption” is too much on Fiorillo’s mind. His article starts with two paragraphs of lamenting an empty belly and the anxiety of getting to his next show on time. That can make me like a show less than I should. I’d rather not chalk it up to lack of professionalism. But I wonder if anyone reading this can tell me: is it the reviewer’s role to say that a show is absolute shit?

Particularly when it’s actually pretty good?

It exists in the between-area; it’s not fully realized dramatic orgasm, but it is surely not worth the panning Fiorillo gave it. Yet that review, which is the first that comes up on Google when you search for EgoPo and A Doll’s House (ahead of Phindie’s own, by Christopher Munden), surely cut down on audiences later in the end of the run. Cheers to those audience members who, in the comments below, give their own opinion. Notice that no one in the comments agrees with Fiorillo’s opinion.

This is part of a larger discussion on the role of the reviewer, which I am slowly learning about. Here are two much more well-thought-out discussions about it:

4 Replies to “Victor Fiorillo, A Doll’s House, and the role of the reviewer”
    1. Victor, I understand why someone would not like it. City Paper and WHYY really really enjoyed it – I understand why someone might really enjoy it. But Stearns included lines like: “Previously luminous characters became mere devices,” and “The dangers of updating were also exposed, namely, when novelty fails to mask interpretive imprecision,” which was followed by examples, are specific critiques which allow a reader to agree or disagree with his approach. For example, I can say that I haven’t read A Doll’s House in years, and that probably has something to do with why Stearns and Chris and I saw it differently.

      When slamming a play, is it better to provide a reason you didn’t like it beyond quoting others and giving statements with no empirical basis, like “It seemed to me that what I was looking at was a work-in-progress”? That is literally the most empirical line in your piece. When reading your article, it seemed to me that I was looking at first impressions, before evidence was applied. When I’d finished it, I really had no idea why we disagreed so strongly, and actually wondered if you were just crabby from being hungry. It’s something that’s happened to me before.

      You’re a great, respected writer who gets top hits on Google. I read your stuff – you write in a way that’s easy to grasp and relate to. Your coverage of Fringe has been helpful for the most part. I’ve gotten a good sense of shows I didn’t see, or a perspective on some that I did. But this one did nothing but make me wonder if as reviewers we have some responsibility to the play we’re seeing and the artists who put it on. I think we do.

      I haven’t been doing this a terribly long time. Please, let me know if I’m wrong.

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