I reviewed Scorched Earth for Richmond.com, and I feel a little like I murdered a puppy. Okay that's slightly dramatic. More like I kicked a puppy. I am a young writer in the Richmond community, and at this point I know a few other writers, but I still don't have a grasp on the larger literary "scene." Probably because I am not in any way a part of it. But I'd like to be one day, and I realize that I may have just imploded any hope of that by giving a negative review to the local, very successful literary "hero" David L. Robbins, whose story was the main focus of my complaints.
I wanted to love this play. Honestly. I hated that I didn't. When I sat down to write my review, I kept starting with this sentence: "I wish it were better." That was the most honest thing I could think to say. I wanted to give it a rave, to support a local writer and a Richmond World Premiere. And I tried to still support it as much as possible, because I do think it's worthy of anyone's time and that Richmonders should go to support it. But when it came down to it, I still wish it were better, and my review reflected that disappointment.
As a writer of the fiction variety (in my secret life-it even says so on my diploma! which is in my parent's basement), I couldn't get past the major flaws in the story, plotting, and characterization (on a literary level, on an entertainment level it's fun, and again, if I didn't emphasize this enough, GO SEE IT and support local theater). As I struggled with starting the review, there were moments where I wondered if I should just fudge it, so as not to piss off a whole lot of (powerful) people.
But then I told myself what I always tell myself, which is becoming increasingly more difficult as I become more familiar with theater people and start to really, really like the whole bunch of them. It's not my job to blow smoke up someone's butt, simply because that butt is particularly smoke-worthy (I apologize immediately for that analogy) It's my job to be honest.
It's just like in all those creative writing workshops, where it pained me, physically, to criticize other people's stories. I hated it so much that it was pretty much the major reason I never even considered getting an MFA in creative writing. And oddly enough I find myself faced with a similar task now. But I remind myself, as I did in those workshops, that anyone who does something creative, who puts that creativity into the universe, deserves honesty in return. Flattery, false praise-none of those things mean anything. They don't benefit anyone.
We have to be honest. And sometimes it sucks. Because I also remember being on the other end of that "honesty", going home and weeping for 24 hours after particularly brutal workshops. I would get angry, convince myself that my art was so MISUNDERSTOOD (I was 21 after all). But eventually, I would accept that my classmates weren't evil or mean or cruel. They were honest. They had to be.
All of this is to say, sometimes it's really hard to be honest. Especially for someone raised Catholic and who tends to be overcome by soul crushing guilt on a daily basis.