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Critiquing the Critics

September 23, 2000

Velina Hasu Houston's "Ikebana" at the Pasadena Playhouse is an important, exquisite work; I would hate for theatergoers to miss its world premiere based on Michael Phillips' review (" 'Ikebana' Arranges Itself in Metaphors," Sept. 19).

This is a rare opportunity for Angelenos to see an expertly crafted play that deals with crucial sociological, cultural and historical issues from a complex perspective beyond American centricity. Houston accomplishes this with graceful, often humorous and always lyrical playwriting, as she explores emotional angles of obsession in a story set in 1957 in Japan.

LAURA SHAMAS

Pacific Palisades

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In her review of my play "Spinelli" (Theater Beat, by Jana J. Monji, Sept. 15), your critic says "his satire is like inflating a flat tire--a lot of air is pointlessly puffed." May I suggest a more effective simile?

I think she means to pan the play, but inflating a flat tire is not pointless at all. You see, the air goes into the tire and suddenly that which could go nowhere can suddenly zoom off into horizons no critic dares to go.

It may have better served her purposes to say something like, "His satire is like a set of Firestones on a Ford Explorer, a tragedy/catastrophe/disaster waiting to happen."

I suspect Monji knows as much about inflating tires as she does about reviewing plays.

DAN RILEY

Vista

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I take harsh exception to the review of my play "Trumpet to the Morn" by Philip Brandes ("No 'Trumpet' Call; We've Heard It Before," Sept. 8). The critic compares my play to the film "Shakespeare in Love." These pieces have nothing to do with one another, except they both use Shakespeare as a central character. In my play he is presented as a most human writer facing a deadline.

This play was written and copyrighted in 1992. It is totally different from the 1998 film, and your review does acknowledge that the play "strikes out in different directions [from the movie]." So why did the headline say "We've heard it before"?

Unfortunately, that film seems to have soured your judgment toward my play. Thank heaven the audiences who see it don't have your problem. Nor has any other reviewer. No one else saw fit to compare it to "Shakespeare in Love."

ALLAN BYRNS

North Hollywood

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