Barely one month into his tenure as Chief Theatre Critic at the New York Times, Ben Brantley is subject of a cover story profile in America's leading alternative paper, the Village Voice.
The October 15 issue of the Voice features a profile of Brantley by Todd London that discusses the critic's strengths and weaknesses, particularly in the shadow cast by Frank Rich, the last Times critic to have had a lasting impact on the New York theatre community. In a typically ambivalent assessment of Brantley's abilities, London writes, "Brantley displays many of the virtues that make a good critic, and, in stark contrast to the sometimes brilliant and overreaching Rich, few of the ambitions that make a great one."
Further in the article, Brantley himself describes his critical aesthetics as being based more on emotion than theatrical form: "If I have any agenda, I guess - it's not even an agenda. I'm heartened by a return to feeling, a trying to identify feelings after this long, cold age of irony."
Glitz and spectacle in musicals are detested: "I love musicals.... And I don't like seeing them turned into theme-park rides. I love Pirates of the Caribbean, but it's not what I want to see on a Broadway stage."
The Voice profile comes just days after a critical piece by Variety's NY editor Jeremy Gerard describing Broadway producers' concern over the waning theater coverage in the Times' Sunday Arts and Leisure section. Of particular displeasure was the dearth of editorial content in the September 8 Fall Preview edition, which featured 21 full pages of theatre advertising and 2 pages of actual stories. The common theme of the Voice and Variety articles is that the three years of upheaval in the Times' theatre desk, which saw the chief critic position change three times following the departure of Rich, have diminished the newspaper's vaunted power over audiences and the NY theatre community.
-- By Andrew Ku