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Tuesday, 26 July 2005


John Vain

Right on theaterboy! Given the difficulty of filling theaters these days, this is a good example of cutting off the nose to spite the face. I guess these nitpickers will be more than happy to have Peter Marks come magnify every little detail that doesn't meet with his approval and ravage their production, especially since he'll now have a bigger voice.


If you're going to start picking on grammar and writing among the critics, I know a whole hell of a lot of theater writers to kill under the microscope. These online "critics" need to show some credentials - who are these people writing reviews anyway????????????? Can any old patron (like me) write up some crap and get it published too?


In general, if a theater company has quoted Mr. Anthony's reviews (or any zine or blog for that matter) for promotional purposes, they sure as hell better give him a professional comp. I don't know if that's the case with WSC, but I've read a lot of advertisements with his byline--as a community, let's not bite the hand that feeds us.


Bob Anothony really loves theatre and whether you agree with him or not on a particular review, he writes more intelligently about local shows than some with higher profile jobs. (No Theatreboy, this is not a jab at you, I'm just sayin'.)

As for errors in details, I was recently credited by one of DC's daily papers for my work in certain role. Much fun as it is to see my name in print, THAT WASN'T ME. The point being:
shite happens, and people with more readership than poor old Bob make bigger mistakes than whatever horrible sin against grammar he managed to piss off WSC with.

I agree with whoever it was above who pointed out that it seems pretty silly to ban someone when you can't even fill the seats. It seems especially prissy to do so to a guy who, though not always larking off to, oh I dunno, NYC or somesuch is knowledgeable about theatre in general and certainly has a long history with DC Theatre.


Bob's favoreable review of a show I directed and choreographed called PETITE ROUGE, listed the title character as Petite Rose. Hmmmm....? Also, he seemed to love Debbie Wicks Lapuma's (musical director)choreography. I thought it was funny.


With all due respect, Mr. Anthony, in his review of THE SCARLET LETTER, demonstrated a degree of ignorance that should not be tolerated in a ninth-grader, let alone a theatre critic, when he asserted that the playwright invented the character of Roger Chillingworth out of whole cloth. This type of error leads me to believe that Mr. Anthony grew up on a street with a sign that read "Slow Children Playing"--and that it was not placed there because of traffic concerns.

That said, Hugh does have an awfully huge pair of Owens.


With all due respect, however little that may be, Mr. Anthony criticized Terrence McNally's corpus christi for historical inaccuracies and implied that the opening monologue of Kushner's Homebody/Kabul might be a touch boring for the vast majority of the audience, since we are all already intimately familiar with the history of Afghanistan. Apologies to those above who have reviewed Mr. Anthony positively, but just because he can throw out words like "echolaic," "athetoidal" and "Philobolus" [sic?] doesn't an intelligent reviewer make. His reviews do provide great entertainment, though...


Most theatres I have worked at tend to take Bob Anthony;s reviews as a joke. A bad review from him means the show will do well... his approval is the kiss of death. Yes, they are bad, but they are also fun. They have inspired many inside jokes (WWBLD?), and I love reading them. He is one of the many great characters who help make DC theatre a community instead of the annonymous business it is in other towns.


It's true that I'm trying to cut Mr. Anthony some slack, but it's also true that reading some of these posts and the reviews of some of the plays I've been in, what I want to know is who the heck is reading his reviews as actual criticism? I mean, does someone say, "What am I going to do this weekend? Hmm...maybe I'll check out Foggy Bottom News and see what's good out there."

...If you think about it, Mr Anthony was a blogger before blogging was cool...

I still maintain that if you're going to quote him--give the guy a comp. And while he's not the most credible,informed, etc. source, he is still part of the community--more people know who Bob Anthony is than who I am...wait: that's probably not saying much...anyway, all I'm saying is that it's one butt in one seat and DC theatre, particularly if you are not one of the bigger houses, needs all the butts they can get.

Now that the "skunk is on the table" in regards to this community's feelings about Mr. Anthony's writing, I wonder what will happen next...


Working at a certain theatre and being faced with the dilemma of whether to allow Mr. Anthony to attend our shows, I came to a valuable conclusion. Why the hell not? I have seen him praise the un-praisable and hate the creative and bold for years. It isn't as though anyone takes him seriously. I mean no company with the name Shakespeare in its name would dare use a Review4U quotes in their advertising for years for shows every legitimate or illegitimate press organization had slammed.
And then to withdraw the invite because the suddenly realize he is a hack. I know press seats can be at a premium for press nights and to be honest Mr. Anthony is not invited to most theaters anymore, but if he calls up and asks for one seat, you can at least have the joy of watching his tiny little face scrunch up when they get to the big words.


I think the question of readership makes the most sense. If Bob-A wants to make a case for the legitimacy of his criticism, he should install Statcounter on his AOL homepage (www.statcounter.com) -- or break down and buy a real domain name -- to generate some hard numbers: who reads it? how long do they stay when they click his page? where do they live? You can get all this info from a free HTML drag-and-drop code and then say, "Hey, I get 50k hits when I drop a review, so obviously SOMEONE finds my loquacious posts useful." I guess I leave that as a courtesy to any other would-be bloggers out there who need a way to quantify their influence for the purposes of comps, advertising, etc.

And I'd have to second that comment from before: if you quote the guy, you should let him in. Otherwise it's kinda like saying "Winner of the 2005 WSC Awards! For Their Own Stuff!"


If quote him, let him in ... though his reviews are farcical, and in some ways, upsetting: legitimate criticism comes with education and understanding, not just a form of distribution and an opinion.

People may pay attention to his blog, but that doesn't mean they should (based on what I've read and compared to what I've seen).

Perhaps WSC is doing the right thing by no longer including him as part of the "established" press, provided they stop using his quotes.


I must live in a world where all is fine and good: if a company is going to quote a "critic" (and for the sake of this string I use the term loosely), then they MUST feel his praise is legitimate enough to use it to fill the seats.

Don't they?

(pause to adjust rose colored glasses)

Since we're criticizing Mr. Anthony's criticism, what's farcical and upsetting to one reader may be right on to another reader. Again, I'm not saying that I have ever been inspired by Mr. Anthony's writing, but am I, an educated theatre person like everyone else on this blog, the most objective person to form an opinion on it? This leads right back to one of my previous questions: who the heck really reads his stuff?

...and let me hastily add (as the start of the whole "quote aspect") that I never said WSC did use Mr. Anthony's quotes. I said I've read his byline in theatrical advertisements. I'd actually be very interested to hear from those theatre companies who have used his quotes--do you agree with what's been said here?


Well said, Edward! We're all, each and every one of us, a critic. That said, some are better than others, some have more experience, education and insight.. Personally I will side with Peter Marks just because I know he knows his theater and he is a good writer.

You know what they say, opinions are like a@@holes. Everybody has one!


Google on ["Bob Anthony" Shakespeare] and you'll discover that the nice folks at the Lansburgh aren't ashamed to quote him -- at least about their Midsummer and their Macbeth...

Frequent Roamer

I willingly admit to perusing Bob's site on occasion. While I find the writing to be fairly pedestrian, and often times infantile, he does have pretty comprehensive coverage. Moreover, I usually can find out if a favorite director, designer or actor is involved in a particular production. (Brad Hathaway has pretty comprehensive coverage as well.)

With that being said, I have often wondered why theater company's continue to invite him as a member of the press. In five or six short lines, he consistently makes glaring mistakes - often missing whole plot lines/themes/character arcs. A favorite gem was in the review of 'Take Me Out.' He writes, "Except for a couple of muscled actors, the rest of the player cast were unconvincing regarding their small stature. And all of them really showed miminal development of characterizations except Jake Suffian as the yokel who was the saving-grace pitcher who led the team to victory in the World Series...almost... for tragedy sets in." The writing is borderline incomprehensible - I am still trying to decipher the intent of that sentence(?).

I am sure he is a lovely man, and I admire his deep passion for the DC theatre scene, but a credible member of the press he is not.


What makes Potomac Stages or Curtain-up or DC Theater Review different than Review4U? I have no real evidence that any of these web sites bring people into or keep people from seeing shows.

What I do know is that their web pages look good in comparison to Mr. Anthony's UnaBomber inspired role of show after show after show. Recently another so called web site started contacting theater's through the Yahoo Group, telling people to ad him to their press list, then we find out that the man sending out the emails may in fact be stalking an unnamed member of the theater press and has about the same right to saying he has a web site as Bob Anthony.

Let's face it folks if you had a scam that got you into the theaters you love for free and all you had to do was ramble on for a paragraph or two. Wouldn't you? Or maybe I am just saying that if we have fallen for this scam over the years it’s not Bob Anthony's fault, it’s ours.

To be extremely honest, what is the legitimate press in this town? Half our press lists are made up of free weeklies and web sites. Would anyone argue that Pamela, Trey and Bob M. aren't real reviewers because they work for a free paper that most people buy to read Savage Love and News of the Weird? Do I stop inviting the Montgomery County Sentinel because most of it is filled with public notices for foreclosures and bankruptcies? And do I stop inviting the Post because I feel that Peter Marks would rather be in New York than here? Face it folks that would leave us with no press at all.
So invite Bob Anthony or don't but for the love of God please don't tell me that WSC is striking some kind of blow for the moral high ground or they can't fit him in on press night. That is insulting.


While I hate to admit it, you do have a point DCeption ... though CurtainUp and Potomac Stages seem like larger, more credible sources for information -- there is no knowing their actual credentials.

Though as theatre practicioners, we should know good criticism when we see/hear it/read it -- the only way we can improve is through constructive criticism and practice.

And I am aware that Mr. Anothny was with 90.whatever once upon a time, and that station is now C-SPAN. 'nuf said.


Am I the only one who thinks that Mr. Anthony has been known to get it right when the Name Critics didn't? There was this production of "Measure for Measure" at the Shakespeare Theatre some years back. The only person with the guts to say how bad it was was Bob Anthony.

No one bats 1000, and criticism is subjective, but I read Mr. A's blog - agree or disagree, his reviews have more content and less aroma of writer's ego than most other people writing about theatre in DC. Plus, at least he shows up. Smaller/newer companies pretty much have to set themselves on fire to get the Post to show up. (It's just wrong that the Post is pretty much the bottom line on whether a show does business or not, especially when you look at the quality of the second string that ends up covering a lot of the local scene, but that's another topic.)


Speaking of that other "second string" critic at the Post, why is it that when speaking of Post coverage, no one EVER mentions Ms. O by name?? I've been wondering what everyone ELSE thinks of her nasty reviews and lack of taste in theater. Her writing in CP is a lot more comprehensible when she's talking about movies than her theater reviews. What does everyone else think?

Tboy, what sayest thou?

- Gill


In answer to the oft repeated question, "Who reads Bob Anthony's reviews?" - you do. Everyone who has followed this disccussion is clearly reading his reviews. Regardless of wether or not a theater is currently using one of Mr. Anthony's quotes for press, in most cases, it once did. I will be willing to bet that those quotes will be seen again when Peter Marks or Ms. O or Theaterboy next review negatively. By insisting that Review4U is not "professional enough, learned enough, etc." one presumes the work that he is reviewing is professional and worthy of review. PLEASE take a minute and rethink your arguments, if a critic were to lambast a theater in DC for being unprofessional and sub-par therefore struck from it's list of theaters to review, you can bet people would be up in arms on this website. As a matter of fact, they have been and continue to be everytime the Post reviews a show in it's third week or not at all. Regardless of what you think about Bob Anthony's writing, he covers as much theater as is humanly possible and covers it within a day or two of press if at all possible. I would also be curious if Theaterboy stopped reviewing for his paper, but continued his web-site if WSC and others would drop him from their press lists? I doubt it. Finally, theater is in such a state that really, I have almost never been to sold out shows, so what does it hurt to have one more butt in the seats? It is easy to get so wrapped up in artistic temprament that we take ourselves too seriously. Chill out, have a bud and be a little kind. There is too much bitchiness in this world as it is.


I love B-O-B reviews...we read them outloud in the dressin rooms...they are much better than mad libs. Take the recent review of The Last 5 Years...he did not understand the show, and struggled thru the review, sounding it out...SO funny...the list goes on...Are they valid reviews? To someone, I guess. Are they enjoyable? As in, do they give you entertainment? I say H-E-L-L yes! The reviews are no worse than some that appear in the more prestigious papers.
Bob is a silly theatre cartoon for DC to enjoy and roll their eyes at. Let's not take it more seriously than that...and if he takes it more seriously than that, it makes it even funnier!
PS...I loved the Unabomber comment! LOL

Bob Anthony Lover

Intelligence, knowledge of theatre, and good grammar are completely irrelevant to the question of whom to comp. The only reason we comp reviewers is that we feel they will help publicize our shows. If Bob Anthony does that, he should be let in. If he can show that people are reading his reviews, or if we quote him for marketing purposes, we should let him in. That's the only reasonable criteria. Since when do we comp reviewers because we value what they have to say?

Don't get me wrong. I find Bob Anthony reviews hilarious. They are usually poorly thought-out, badly spelled, and more often than not show a complete misunderstanding of the play he just saw. The rest of the time, they're just incomprehensible.

But that's what makes them so entertaining! So let the man in - if for no other reason then so that we can continue to gather around and giggle at his prose.



Not takin' that bait. Tricia's a smart young woman, and as you rightly point out, she does good work for the City Paper.

(And yes, before you point it out: I'm willing to take swipes at the lead critic. But he's got the chair and the 401-k.)

Jay Hardee

Since Bob Anthony misquoted me in his call to arms, I thought I would copy the relevant part of the email I sent him explaining our decision to remove Review4u from the press list:

"While we eagerly await your opinion of our shows, your website does not meet the requirements we are now using to determine who to invite as press to our productions. Our greatest concern is the apparent lack of an editor for your website. For example, in your review of Medea you incorrectly refer to us as “the Washington Shakespeare Theater,” instead of Washington Shakespeare Company. In the review of The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore, Hugh T. Owen was referred to as “Huge T. Owens.” There are also numerous grammatical and syntax errors in nearly every posting I’ve read on your website. It is also a concern of ours that unlike other press outlets that provide an editorial forum for feedback and discussion from readers, your site offers no such opportunity."

You're still free to agree or disagree with my decision. I just wanted to make clear what I actually wrote him. And in anticipation of what some are probably salivating to point out: I tried but was unable to italicize the play titles on this posting.

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