The world of the theatre is filled with art and inspiration. It can be funny and it can be harsh. In an episode of Mary Tyler Moore from 1971, Murray, the news writer, learns this when a critic reviews Murray’s original play-unleashing the same barbed and stinging contempt that he has used for his most vicious Broadway play reviews.
In “We Closed in Minneapolis,” Murray’s play is performed at a local theatre, after the vain and incompetent Ted submits it behind Murray’s back. Murray has to suffer through his work being performed by the clueless dullard who routinely mangles Murray’s news copy, and then has to face a review by the meanest critic ever to pour his bile on a production. The headline of the review is “Bomb Hits Minneapolis!” It claims only the admission was “satisfactory” and only Mary’s performance was “adequate.” While the critic doesn’t care for nudity in the theatre, he says at least that would have given the audience something to look at. He finally dismisses poor Murray himself as not a playwright, but a “play-wrong.”
Mary later consoles Murray by looking up some of the critic’s other work and pointing out that he also hated Death of a Salesman, My Fair Lady-and Hamlet!
Fortunately, not every critic in real-life is nearly so vicious as that fictional one, and most are much more fair-minded, writing from a love of the art form rather than the wish to bash, belittle, and berate every playwright and every performer. Writers such as Elizabeth Ahlfors who criticize from love instead of contempt are the best kinds of critics, praising the good and pointing out what could be better without humiliating the talent involved. Seek out these critics and trust their opinions, and you’ll probably grow to love the theatre as much as they do.