Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Christian Carvajal is no Laughing Stock

Christian Carvajal in David Mamet's Oleanna. Photo courtesy Olympia Little Theatre

Christian Carvajal is an actor, director, and writer; and an original thinker who throws himself with unbridled passion into everything he undertakes. For quite a few years he was a theater critic for the Weekly Volcano. Since I am also a theater critic and have reviewed many of the same plays, we have naturally met in lobbies many times, and although we seldom talked in depth about plays we were reviewing prior to writing the reviews, we have always read each other’s reviews and sometimes talked about them afterwards.
As an offhand observation, I would guess that we agree on our assessment of plays about 95 percent of the time, the one difference being that he has tended to be a tad more critical than I. He has joked that I always get to be the good cop to his bad cop. But joking aside, he has said, and I know this to be true, that it hurts him to have to give a play a bad review. He’s in the business. He knows many of the actors, directors, scenic designers and theater managers. He knows how much of their lives they devote to the incredibly hard task of putting on a play—and always with little or no pay. How can a guy like that, who is more sensitive to others than others might expect, trash in print an endeavor that others have given so much of their lives to? Yet as a critic he knew—as do I—that his reviews would mean nothing if he were not honest, if he were simply a cheerleader for local theater companies. After all, you pay money to see stage shows and you don’t want to be told something is good when it’s not.
When he tried to be gently honest, he and the newspaper he writes for were sent nasty emails, perhaps not always but enough to make reviewing a thankless job. That may not be the only reason he no longer writes theater reviews, but it is surely a factor.
Here’s a little something he wrote about directing Laughing Stock, opening this week at Olympia Little Theatre:
In the past few weeks, we've exhausted ourselves to the point of shaking. We've left literal blood, sweat and tears on the boards at OLT. In a month it'll all be gone and we'll move on to other projects. So why do we do it? What drives us to kill ourselves for ephemera? We do it so both we and you can laugh. We do it to tell and enjoy a good story. We do it because your inexpensive ticket helps keep OLT's lights on for season 76, but more importantly, because coming together to share adventures and emotions is what makes community an actual thing. And my God, this is an emotional show. I feel safe in saying it's crawled inside all of us. We can feel we've made something special. And part of what we've made, an important part, is the coming together of "another little temporary family." And that, Gentle Reader, has been the story of my life, over and over again. (Read the complete article..)

In the near future I will review this show. I will also review Olympia Family Theatre’s production of Our Only May Amelia. There are friends in the cast and crew of both plays. I surely hope they will do a good job. It would kill me to have to pan either of them, which thankfully and realistically I don’t expect to happen.

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