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What's in the name

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October 18, 2006



I thought your review of Hell House was a hoot - you were certainly inspired, and it's nice to see some creativity with the form. But in the absence of a formal review, I will admit to checking the star-rating to try to get a bead on what you actually thought of the piece qualitatively. And a five-of-six star review doesn't seem to reflect the reservations you express here. Pourquoi?

David Cote

Good question! You see, the TONY star-rating system is very intricate, very scientific. Um... The truth is, I covered Hell House in three modes: the TONY review, this blog post, and the NY1 review. Different media, different shades. I guess, given the reservations I had, I could have given Hell House 4, not 5, stars. But the truth is, it's a pretty unique and fun time (althugh $25 is a little steep for a concept) and that went into weighing how many stars. I personally would have liked a more intense theatrical experience, but given the basic ingenuity of the whole enterprise, I thought it merited a little more than 4. Will it end up on my Best Ten Shows list? Probably not. But you're right to ask. Frankly, this blog exists partly so I can dwell on something logn enough to stop liking it. Or liking it so unreservedly.


Nice. It definitely shows up the weakness inherent in a categorical system like the stars, for all that they provide an exceedingly handy mental handhold. When I was reading scripts at EST, we were supposed to give them a rating of 1-10, and even THAT felt limiting. I swear to god, I'd agonize over whether to give something a 7 or an 8, and ended up giving some 7+'s.

It's interesting that the hardest breaking point falls right there, between "It's really quite good" and "It's really REALLY good" - for me, between 7 and 8, for you, between 4-star and 5. In each case, the former can feel like too-faint praise for something where the elements that work do so exceptionally well (which I believe can be said for HH).

In any event, thanks for the thoughtful response. I've heard lots of theoretical discussion of the nature of Criticism, and the possibility of dialogue built around public criticism, but to actually be able to have such a dialogue is extraordinarily bracing.

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