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Glib Review Unappreciated

April 17, 1993

Mark Chalon Smith's review of the PAC Theatre Company production of "Jesus Christ Superstar" ("Fading 'Superstar,' " April 7) displayed some of the most irresponsible journalism and mean-spiritedness that I have ever read.

The general tone of extreme condescension in such phrases as "hodgepodge of artifacts . . . dropped a few ropes . . . gang of archeologists . . . dissonant pseudo-rock," and the glib turn of phrase "obtuse at best, inexplicable at worst" show a total lack of respect for the artistic endeavor by a group of people whose sole aim was to explore a popular piece of theater from a different perspective and create a fresh way of experiencing the mystery of the Passion of Christ.

I suggest that the confusion Smith seemed to have with the production was due less to the obtuseness and inexplicability of the ideas . . . than his blatant contempt for the material and an assumption that college students couldn't possibly be intelligent enough to really understand the implication of their choices.

The review breezily disposes of the approach to the production with, "unfortunately the fascination subsides too quickly, replaced by a riddle that doesn't have a ready answer." Would Smith care to elaborate on what riddle that might be and why it requires a ready answer?

Our patrons, who have indicated their interest in the material by record sales and expressed their excitement about the performance by their comments after the show and their returning to see the production again, don't seem to have Smith's difficulty with the conceptual through-line. Perhaps Smith believes that he is writing for a group of readers who don't know anything about Christianity, nor have read or seen "2001: A Space Odyssey," "Tron," "Raiders of the Lost Ark," nor an episode of "Star Trek."

It is very easy to take glib potshots at the work of others; it is another thing to take a production on its own terms, evaluate the intention of the project and give constructive criticism about what needs clarification and what succeeded. We need champions of the theater, not detractors.

These students, like all performance artists, put themselves at risk every time they take the stage. They deserve better than an underlying commentary (that seems to say) "don't see this production because it made me have to think, and I don't like the music anyway."

ROBERT G. LEIGH

Managing Director

PAC Theatre Company

Rancho Santiago College

Santa Ana

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