Alfred Molina Plays Merciless Children’s Theatre Critic, Comedy Ensues

In 1997 David Sedaris pub­lished a fun­ny sto­ry called “Front Row Cen­ter with Thad­deus Bris­tol,” nar­rat­ed by a mer­ci­less dra­ma crit­ic who takes it upon him­self to expose the appalling­ly low the­atri­cal stan­dards of ele­men­tary and mid­dle school Christ­mas plays. The sto­ry is sub­ti­tled “Trite Christ­mas: Scotts­field­’s young hams offer the bland­est of hol­i­day fare,” and it goes like this:

In the role of Mary, six-year-old Shan­non Burke just bare­ly man­ages to pass her­self off as a vir­gin. A cloy­ing, preen­ing stage pres­ence, her per­for­mance seemed based on noth­ing but an annoy­ing pro­cliv­i­ty toward lift­ing her skirt and, on rare occa­sions, open­ing her eyes. As Joseph, sec­ond-grade stu­dent Dou­glas Traz­zare need­ed to be remind­ed that, although his char­ac­ter did not tech­ni­cal­ly impreg­nate the vir­gin moth­er, he should behave as though he were capa­ble of doing so. Thrown into the mix were a hand­ful of inat­ten­tive shep­herds and a trio of gift-bear­ing sev­en-year-olds who could prob­a­bly give the Three Stooges a run for their mon­ey. As for the light­ing, Sacred Heart Ele­men­tary chose to rely on noth­ing more than the flash­bulbs ignit­ed by the obnox­ious stage moth­ers and fathers who had cre­at­ed those zom­bies stag­ger­ing back and forth across the linoleum-floored din­ing hall. Under cer­tain cir­cum­stances parental pride is under­stand­able but it has no place in the the­ater, where it tends to encour­age a child to believe in a tal­ent that, more often than not, sim­ply fails to exist.

In the same spir­it of uncom­pro­mis­ing ser­vice to the sanc­ti­ty of the dra­mat­ic arts, Fun­ny Or Die intro­duces Arthur H. Cartwright, Chil­dren’s The­atre Crit­ic. (See above.) Alfred Moli­na plays the per­pet­u­al­ly scowl­ing Cartwright, who bul­lies a cast of pre­pu­bes­cent medi­oc­ri­ties. “The direc­tion was staid, the sets ram­shackle and the cos­tumes unremarkable–hardly worth the free admis­sion,” he says. “But we tried hard,” says a cute lit­tle girl. “Try telling that to the spir­its of Ibsen and Brecht,” says Cartwright, “because you’ve just tram­pled all over them!”

Speak­ing of Brecht, don’t miss our post from ear­li­er today: Bertolt Brecht Tes­ti­fies Before the House Un-Amer­i­can Activ­i­ties Com­mit­tee (1947)

via Gal­l­ey­Cat

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