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Mike Kuchwara, AP's veteran theater critic, is dead

May 22, 2010 |  7:23 pm

Mike kuch Rest in peace Michael Kuchwara. AP's veteran theater critic died Saturday from complications of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis at the age of 63.

I last saw Mike (a friend, so I'll avail myself of the liberty of calling him informally by his first name) at a Broadway press preview for "Promises, Promises." He asked, with his characteristic twinkle of good humor and fellowship seasoned with a knowing irony, if life had calmed down for me after the hullabaloo of my service as chairman of the Pulitzer drama jury.

Of course it hadn't, and he knew it. The theater never stops, which is why people like us press on in our crazy careers as critics -- it's our other family and faith. 

Indeed, Mike had a way of making you feel that you were a part of something special. The excitement of the lights going dark and the curtain going up was for him a world view.

 
Dependably discerning in his always fair-minded reviews, Mike was whom you'd turn to for straightforward reporting, balanced assessment and historical perspective. 

He was, on a more personal level, the most amiable theater critic I've known. I used to live around the corner from him in the West Village in New York, and whenever I’d bump into him on Hudson Street, I always felt better informed about what was about coming up in the theater, more eager to tackle another opening, another show.

He left us too early, and I’m sorry that his last years, like everyone else’s in this embattled field of journalism, were so harried and pressed. Amazingly, he never let you see the wear and tear. I’m pleased that Variety gave him his due, referring to him as "arguably the most influential legit critic in America" last year.
 
He had an encyclopedic knowledge of Broadway that was fueled by pure passion. I, along with all my colleagues who knew him (which is just about everyone in the business), will miss reading him. But even more, I will miss his welcoming, kindhearted presence that made the notion of "the theater community” something more than a cliché.
 
--Charles McNulty  

Photo: Michael Kuchwara. Credit: Santos Chaparro / Associated Press

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