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Geffen Playhouse embraces bad reviews for 'Alpacas'

September 26, 2009 |  6:00 am

Modine

The Geffen Playhouse is attempting to turn some bad reviews for its production of "Matthew Modine Saves the Alpacas" into marketing gold.

In an advertisement appearing in the Sunday Arts & Books section of the Los Angeles Times, the theater company runs quotes from reviews, including from The Times and Variety critics, both of whom panned the movie-industry satire in their respective pages.

"What we were up to in this ad was to use the words in the reviews to point up how funny and silly the show is," said Ken Novice, managing director of the Geffen Playhouse.

In the ostensibly comedic play, written by Blair Singer, Modine plays a version of himself -- a movie actor well past his peak fame who embarks on a journey to save a rare species of mammal in order to revive his career.

Directed by John Rando, the play also stars French Stewart and Peri Gilpin.

For some, it may seem that the ad is taking after the movie-world tactic in which certain comedies treat negative reviews as a badge of honor. (eg, "Two thumbs down!") But the Geffen Playhouse said it wasn't aiming to be snarky or ironic.

The Sunday ad takes a highly selective -- and overly punctuated -- approach to the practice of quoting. Here are some of the quotes it uses, next to what the reviews actually stated.

***

Pull quote: "Just plain crass... Loony? Definitely!"

What Charles McNulty's L.A. Times review really said: "Suffice it to say that the flamboyant flourishes of this A-list flack seem strained, and the wit Singer inflicts on her, instead of being smutty in a satirically revealing way, is often just plain crass... A veteran of loony comedy, Rando keeps revving up the high jinks, but this backfiring spoof cries out for a cease-and-desist order."

***

Pull quote: "A close encounter with alpaca poop!"

What Bob Verini's Variety review really said: "Our hero arrives to help the village, where a close encounter with alpaca poop threatens to divert this rabid germophobe's vision quest."

***

Pull quote: "Crosses the boundary into outright bad taste!"

What Laurence Vittes' Hollywood Reporter review really said: "Some of the humor crosses a boundary into outright bad taste (something about condoms and Afghani women pleasuring themselves) or sheer desperation (Gilpin having had more tucks than a Motel 6 housekeeper)."

***

Pull quote: "Held together with the very frayed duct tape of charm and silliness!"

What Steven Leigh Morris' LA Weekly review really said: "As is, Singer's lackadaisical comedic logic is held together with the very frayed duct tape of charm and silliness, so that the satire plays itself out as a string of jokes that skewer the obvious."

-- David Ng


 
Comments () | Archives (4)

I saw the play and it had all the worst qualities that reviewers describe, and more. I sometimes wonder how far an advertisement might go in twisting the meaning of a review before a critic would investigate whether legal action were possible. This ad really pushes that boundary.

Ted, the ad was a joke, just like the play. Obviously you just didn't get it.

Matthew Modine Saves the Alpacas is a very funny and clever play in the spirit of Mel Brooks and The Carol Burnett Show. I enjoyed it so much I saw it twice! The LA Times seems to have put fair and unbiased journalism aside by attacking a very funny advertisement. The joke is on you LA Times for taking things so personally! However, I must thank you for reminding me to see the play again and to treat some friends to an evening of fun and enjoyable theater!

The play was just awful. The marketing above is much better than the play it describes. Great marketing team, bad play.


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