So… The idea is outlined, and I can now start writing the review.
There is one bureaucratic responsibility for which I have yet to account: a synopsis of the play.
That tasks requires I spend words against my 700 word limit, so I have to tread careful.
This requires some real editing. I must say just enough that the reader knows the story without spoiling crucial moments in the plot. My basic rule of thumb is 10% of the review can be spent summarizing plot. Anymore and I run the risk of not being to talk about direction, acting, design, or thematic concerns. After all, it is a critical engagement with a production not a summary of a text.
So in the case of The Advocate, 700 words means around 70 on plot. Now, if plot points emerge in discussing other qualities of the show all’s the better, but if I spend two paragraphs or more laying out the tale, I am short changing my reader of what is essential in making the choice to attend or making sense of a show that they have seen.
The great exception is new work. If the play is a regional or world premiere, then the text itself is fair game. Its structures, rhythms and concerns, in fact, should be front and center. That changes the structure of the review, because it turns the order of discussion into an analysis of what the play is trying to achieve, the quality of that writing, and then answering the question does the production do service to that mandate.
In the case of Midsummer, I had the advantage of that play being incredibly well known even beyond the usual familiarity with The Bard’s work. Since, I had a great deal to say about the production I kept the thrust short and sweet…
It is unlikely you will see the resources used to tell this version of Shakespeare’s tale of love and confusion in an enchanted forest available to any other nonmusical production in town.
Throughout the remainder of that review, I do explicate a number of the characters’ importance to the plot, and it helps create a better picture of the overall tale. However, I begin with the presumption that anyone invested in reading my review knows the contours of this particular play.
Yes, as with all rules of thumb, there are exceptions (and if you read my reviews you will find them), but each and every one of them should be grounded in helping amplify the critical engagement of the immediate production.
Anything else is a book report.