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What theater critics know

Rick Rogers Modified: June 6, 2013 at 7:05 am •  Published: June 6, 2013

Having written about the theater for more than a quarter century, I’ve amassed a considerable amount of knowledge about plays, musicals, acting,  Tony Award winners, theatrical long runs and other stage-related information. Not surprisingly, someone in my position also picks up on a vast amount of theatrical trivia, much of which would only be helpful in playing a game of Trivial Pursuit. Spending considerable time in the theater has also resulted in some curious observations that I’m happy to share.

1. The unobstructed view you thought you had will suddenly disappear when a very tall man takes the empty seat in front of you.

2. The other empty seat in the middle of your row won’t be claimed until the lights are dimmed. And the ticketholder will invariably disrupt the entire row trying to get to his seat.

3. People who know you’re a working critic will inevitably ask you what you think of the production, an assessment you’d rather not share, particularly at intermission.

4. A 90-minute show without an intermission is risky. A two-hour, intermissionless show is asking for trouble, particularly if you’ve had several glasses of tea with dinner.

5. A show that is advertised as a multimedia production is certain to have plot problems.

6. A patron who unwittingly claims that the production you’re seeing is superior to Broadway probably has never been to New York.

7. An actor who receives a rave for one performance feels betrayed if every subsequent performance isn’t greeted with equal enthusiasm.

8. A production that has a weak first act will almost never improve after intermission.

9. People sitting around you who talk during a musical’s overture will probably carry on a running commentary during the remainder of the show.

10. Despite the fact that mixed to negative reviews tend to outnumber his positive notices, Ben Brantley of The New York Times is pretty reliable.

11. Nearly every production you see will receive a standing ovation, a gesture that has been rendered meaningless.

12. Community theater volunteers don’t understand that most theater critics are a one-person department.

13. A patron who loved a production a theater critic dismissed probably doesn’t realize the latter has seen multiple productions of the show in question, most of which were better.

14. Many theater publicists don’t trust computers and feel compelled to call you just to make certain you received their e-mail.

15. A bad meal, an argument with a loved one or traffic problems have no bearing on a review. The quality of the production dictates the tone of a theater review.