Playwright Christopher Shinn defends Julie Taymor's version of 'Spider-Man'
It's easy to find damning critiques of "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark" -- just read the reviews. Much more difficult to locate are contrarian opinions in praise of the Broadway musical. Conservative commentator Glenn Beck counted himself a fan. And now we can add playwright (and strange bedfellow) Christopher Shinn to the modest list of supporters.
"I have to say I loved it, at least to start with," Shinn wrote in a blog essay for Britain's Guardian. The first half of the musical unfolded "with great visual and emotional energy," and the character of Arachne provided "a beautiful, terrifying maternal figure."
In the second act, Shinn wrote,"I started to feel alienated –- and at the same time more absorbed by Taymor's strange vision ... Peter Parker's being delivered over to the tempting, illusory promises of narcissism in the guise of Arachne was as startling a plot development, and penetrating an image, as I've ever seen in a Broadway musical."
Ultimately, the musical is "a critique of grandiosity -- a superhero musical that deconstructed superheroes."
Shinn said he saw Taymor's version of "Spider-Man" in March, after reading the mostly negative reviews from critics. In his essay, he saved his harshest words for the producers behind the musical.
"That her producers decided to shut it down and strip it of her most original contributions says less about her directorial competence and more about our cultural mindset," he wrote. "Questioning American ambition, rather than exploiting our infantile belief in it, is not only something the market will not tolerate -– it's something the market must punish."
"Spider-Man" is currently on hiatus at the Foxwoods Theatre in New York so that a new creative team (minus Taymor) can revise the production in time for a new opening date, set for June 14.
-- David Ng
Photo: Julie Taymor. Credit: Joan Marcus