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Morris Panych on 'The Admirable Crichton'

Admirable Crichton shaw fest
In my review of the Shaw Festival's imaginative production of J.M. Barrie's "The Admirable Crichton," which ran in Gusto today, I took issue with the program notes of director Morris Panych. In those notes, he wrote (it turns out, apparently, entirely in jest) that the sort of inequality Barrie writes about in his play was a thing of the past. Of course, in reading his notes, it struck me that Panych was either making an infelicitious joke or simply trying to get a conversation started. Even so, the humor escaped me and it seemed that note deserved some kind of reaction.

Here's what I wrote: "The only thing that rubbed me the wrong way came with Panych’s program notes, in which he claimed (it’s unclear how flippantly) that the class issues Barrie confronts have been solved and 'we are all equal now.' For those of us attuned to the socioeconomic realities of Buffalo, one of the poorest and most segregated cities in the U. S., Panych’s contention that we’ve moved substantially beyond the late-Victorian class divide Barrie confronts with his play is a bit hard to stomach. Panych was probably just trying to get a discussion going. But to me, his program notes do in their way serve to reinforce the antiquated notion of theater as an activity reserved for a particular group of bubble-dwelling folks with money."

The director kindly responded to the review by e-mail today, and in the interest of clarifying things, I'm printing his feedback below

Mr. Dabkowski:

I am a little shocked that you thought I was serious in my Crichton notes about society having come a long way. I guess it was just a little too tongue in cheek. I certainly had no intention of portraying modern times as being less inequitable; hardly. I don't have to go as far as Buffalo to see that, but I have been there.  Hamilton is also a fine town to visit if you want to see how well things are not going; or for that matter any one of the outlying high rise slums that constitute Toronto's colourful outskirts. But I wanted to write and clarify for you since you wrote such a nice notice about the show - which I hugely appreciate - and I didn't want you thinking I was an idiot; at least not consciously so.

--Colin Dabkowski


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