Matthew Modine Saves the Alpacas: Turning Bad Reviews Around
As a theater reviewer for the website Edge Los Angeles, I recently reviewed Blair Singer’s play Matthew Modine Saves the Alpacas. I thought it would be a fun, campy play about a washed up 80s actor trying to turn his career around, and it was, sorta. The premise of the play is interesting but how it plays out is not. My friend and I were the only ones who laughed (and some of it did make me laugh) but most of the theater was quiet. The older couple next to me, who are regular Geffen theater attendees, didn’t like the show. They asked me if I was reviewing it and the wife gave a prompt thumbs down.
After I review a show, I always let myself think about it for at least a night so I don’t harshly judge something. As a former playwright, I can imagine negative reviews make a playwright want to stop writing, so I aim to be fair and look at it from all sides. But I still didn’t like it. The play was supposed to satirize Hollywood, but instead it was clumsy and sketch comedy at best. I did a quick search of recent reviews and found I wasn’t alone. The LA Times, Variety, Hollywood Reporter, LA Weekly all panned the play. I read the comments under the LA Times review by Charles McNulty with comments (I’m paraphrasing) like “it was supposed to be silly,” “reviewers don’t know much,” and “lighten up.”
So what’s a play in LA to do when it gets trashed by LA press? Turn the bad reviews into good publicity.
From the LA Times article:
Pull quote: “Just plain crass… Loony? Definitely!”
What Charles McNulty’s L.A. Times review really said: “Suffice it to say that the flamboyant flourishes of this A-list flack seem strained, and the wit Singer inflicts on her, instead of being smutty in a satirically revealing way, is often just plain crass… A veteran of loony comedy, Rando keeps revving up the high jinks, but this backfiring spoof cries out for a cease-and-desist order.
Lesson learned: When your play is a lemon, make some campy lemonade.