Arts Vanity Issue: 'The Harvard Theater Review Review' Review

Lien E. Le

“Maybe it was disinterest in theater on campus that incubated a culture of terrible write-ups and critiques. Or perhaps the disinterest in theater came from tragic, inexcusably contrived pieces of ‘journalism.’ Or maybe having well-articulated reviews concerning theater on campus is just too much to ask… Let’s focus on who we really should be reviewing: the reviewers.”

The Harvard Theater Review Review,” running Oct. 23 to God-only-knows-when on Wordpress, is a moving yet ultimately lackluster demonstration of misguided frustration and adolescent angst. Directed by one or more disaffected thespians who take comfort from the fact that they, unlike other student writers, do not have to own their words with a byline, “Review Review” fails to live up to its initial promise. Although the show starts strong with a burst of pathos, it quickly trails off due to a lack of convincing performances and a seeming inability to stay on track.

At its heart, “Review Review” draws on themes recognizable to all Harvard students: an inexplicable sense of victimization, a self-centric view of the universe, and a penchant for complaining loudly that “Something must be done!” rather than actually doing something. Its opening lines, a powerful elegy to the coverage that the “Review Review” cast Deserves But Has Not Had Delivered Upon Them From On High, impressively manage to cover the entire spectrum of off-putting techniques of social attention-seeking, from self-pity to passive-aggressiveness to specious claims of harm.

Yet even here, the seeds of the flaws that ultimately doom the show are apparent. The writers acknowledge a campus-wide “disinterest in theater” multiple times within the first scene alone, yet the only possible explanation offered is “inexcusably contrived pieces of ‘journalism.’” Spare this theater editor her blushes, anonymous Internet commentators! Methinks you doth give the Theater section of the Crimson Arts board far too much credit. For if you truly believe that bright-eyed freshmen are arriving on campus, deeply passionate about the Arts and the Stage, picking up an issue of the Crimson in Annenberg, flipping to the Theater section with bated breath and sweaty palms, and then being tragically dissuaded from ever participating in or even viewing a Harvard theater production by coming across a horrific line such as “these production decisions combine… for a certain sterility,” I suggest that you re-read this sentence while laughing aloud and saying, “God, I’m an idiot and I also don’t know how to properly use an ellipsis.”


Unfortunately, the opening lines of “Review Review” pass all too quickly; the show soon hits its nadir, where it is still trapped at the moment of this writing. “But that was October 23rd!” you, dear reader, may be saying. “How can that be?” The answer is that publishing one blog post of 128 words, 32 of which were taken from others’ work, is hard. It’s exhausting. Who has time to do that, like, every week? Just imagine if the piece had been longer—for instance, 600 to 800 words—or if there were multiple pieces that needed to be worked on at a time! It would be a mess. Which is actually about the state in which “Review Review” ends up.

Before departing the stage with no foreseeable curtain call, though, the cast of “Review Review” leaves us with one final spark of irony. “Let’s focus on who we really should be reviewing: the reviewers,” they exhort. But in an awful bit of tautological reality, by reviewing the reviewers, they, too, have become reviewers. So, by their own logic, we were naturally impelled to review them as well. For now, until the “Review Review” Review Review monstrosity is born, consider “The Harvard Review Review” a bright but short-lived flash of petulance, a cry out in the generally apathetic wilderness, a mirage of unsullied belief in one’s own all-surpassing importance.

—Lien E. Le is the Crimson Arts Board’s outgoing theater exec. She plans to spend her newfound free time watching bad TV and plotting ways to raise a puppy in her dorm room.


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