For the third week in a row more people searched for reviews of Hay Fever than any other show at the Stratford Festival.
Four weeks ago it ranked second to the very popular production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, by less than 10%. So it’s safe to say that interest in Hay Fever and A Midsummer Night’s Dream is very strong.
Critically speaking, the press’ initial reviews of both shows weren’t favourable. The Toronto Star’s Richard Ouzounian gave A Midsummer Night’s Dream a half a star review, which as an aside, might have been inspired by J. Kelly Nestruck’s one star reviews of the Shaw Festival’s The Charity that Began at Home: A Comedy for Philanthropists.
The other reviewers almost unanimously praised and celebrated Chris Abraham’s fresh interpretation.
No critic gave Hay Fever half a star, but in the initial reviews a few were less than kind, suggesting the production lacked inspiration.
Then the Globe and Mail’s J. Kelly Nestruck, who tends to dig a bit deeper than some critics, wondered if “Palmer’s production is simply showing us the hollowness of Coward’s world and, more frighteningly, our own.”
Theorizing Alisa Palmer’s production in this way added much needed flare to a critical conversation that hadn’t ignited much of a conversation about the production.
Noah Millman’s review added to the conversation drawing attention to the lack of artistic integrity among the play’s family of artists: “And the thing to remember about the Blisses is they aren’t really great artists – they aren’t even really that good. They’re successful pros; that’s all. The play Judith loved doing so much sounds ghastly – her children tell her it’s ghastly, and even she knows it’s ghastly.”
These are just two examples of critical writing that leads the reader deeper into the text, confronting us with ideas that might not otherwise be apparent.
It’s also worth noting that later reviews of Hay Fever were quite favorable.
One of the reasons I created this site was to highlight social media’s ability to engage audience members in conversation with theatre workers and critics.
One comment, posted by an audience member, in the Hay Fever section had this to say about a critic’s review “…he can never resist moving from response to diagnosis, secure in his confidence that he knows better than anyone else what ought to be done and should have been done. Lots can go wrong on a production, and the dire results are often visible to an audience. But it’s dangerous to infer from the results to the causes, and I get annoyed at people who blithely state that the talented cast “rose above a bad director…”
Most popular restaurant: