As you know if you follow my thoughts here, at Time Out Chicago or in my various extracurricular ventures with any regularity, one of my favorite hobby horses is the opportunities that the online world provides for interaction among critics, artists and audiences, and how the internet does and doesn't change the game. A few recent incidents on the East Coast offer good examples and bad examples of critical conversation.
Maso set the tone in his plea for readers to comment on Kennedy's review at boston.com; he tells readers they'll be "stunned" by Kennedy's opinion and accuses her of "condescension to the audience and artists alike" in disliking the show.
As Paul Rekk pointed out in the comments at Isaac Butler's blog (further thoughts from Isaac and commenters here), something similar occurred here a few months ago when TOC reviewer Zac Thompson panned The New Colony's FRAT.
On both The New Colony's blog and on Facebook, the company encouraged its patrons to comment on the TOC review. I stayed out of the fray [full disclosure: I count several members of The New Colony as friends, and thus have not and never will review one of their shows], but I thought at the time that the intensely web-savvy company's approach was a smart way of defusing a bad review. They set it up as a contrast between Zac's poor review and Nina Metz's very positive review at the Tribune, and cheekily acknowledged—this is crucial—that opinions are opinions: "Ladies and Gentlemen, the subjective nature of art has reared its ugly head again."
That's the difference, for me, between The New Colony's response and Huntington's. Maso presented the situation as artists being attacked by an elitist critic who thinks she's better than you and me. The New Colony approached it with a sense of humor and a sense of perspective.
A much happier example of online engagement can be found at New York's Critic-O-Meter review roundup of the Off-Broadway musical adaptation of Neil Gaiman's Coraline, wherein the New York Post's new lead critic Elisabeth Vincentelli (late of Time Out New York) responds to a critique of her Coraline pan from theater blogger Aaron Riccio. The two proceed to have a respectful, thoughtful, constructive conversation about the show in Critic-O-Meter's comments. Look! Dialogue about art!
Somewhere in between lies the throwdown this week between my NYC counterpart, Time Out New York theater editor David Cote, and the Wall Street Journal's Terry Teachout. Teachout dinged the president and first lady for attending a Broadway play in a manner that held true to Teachout's regular advocacy for regional theater but also parroted RNC talking points about the trip.
Cote first privately then publicly accused Teachout of masking his ideological leanings in criticizing the Obamas' date night. I haven't interacted with either of the two enough to weigh in meaningfully on the merits, but the fact that they're able to square off in public (and that Isaac Butler, Rob Weinert-Kendt and Helen Shaw, all TONY contributors under Cote's editorship, can all weigh in with their own "meh" takes) is a testament to the subjectivity of criticism and the democracy of the internet.