Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Former Newsman Rips Into Enquirer Critic

Former Newsman Rips into Enquirer Critic


This is an e-mail sent to the Enquirer that the Enquirer has, as of Wednesday's paper, declined to print. It was sent Monday, June 5.


Fernando Dovalina

Co-writer, "The Gospel According to Tammy Faye"


  The Cincinnati Enquirer's Jackie Demaline ripped apart "The Gospel According to Tammy Faye," which still has four more performances, on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

     I am one of the writers of "The Gospel," and I am also a former newspaper reporter and editor--and yes, critic. I have reviewed books, plays, records, movies and even magazines. So I understand the role that a critic plays in the dissemination of information and the public discussion of the arts.

     I even agree with a couple of Ms. Demaline's darts. This is, after all, the first performance of "The Gospel," the first time that we the writers get to see our work in one piece, and to see and hear the audience reaction (which was very positive, incidentally). JT Buck, the other co-writer, and I had to downsize "The Gospel" to two hours to fit Cincinnati Fringe guidelines, so yes, there are some shortcuts, and yes, there are some aspects of the story that are missing.

     So I can understand some of Ms. Demaline's confusion about the story, even though as a newspaper reporter she probably ought to be more up on her recent American history.

     But what I cannot understand is Ms. Demaline's behavior. She walked out after the first act of "The Gospel" and still felt qualified to review the entire play. She felt qualified to critique us for what she called lack of character development, and she wondered, in print, where we writers were when that topic was discussed in theater class.

     I feel compelled to ask where she was when fairness was discussed in the ethics-in-journalism class? Where was she when the importance of telling the complete story was discussed in reporting class?  

     I also cannot understand a newspaper that would tolerate such behavior. Would the Enquirer allow a food critic to review the entire cuisine of a restaurant after only soup and salad? Or a record reviewer who only listened to six of the 12 songs on the disc?  Would the Enquirer allow a trial reporter to report on the entire trial after only hearing the prosecution's side?

     Of course not. But Ms. Demaline thought it was OK, and the Enquirer allowed her to proudly admit it in print.

     The only excuse for leaving a performance and still reviewing it is deadline. Since Ms. Demaline saw the performance on Saturday and reviewed it in the Monday paper, that excuse does not hold.

     When I was an editor, I would have considered a reporter who did this to have grown smug and lazy, if not irresponsible and unethical. So, I hope you will allow me to tell your readers what happens in the second act, just so that your paper goes on record with the complete story.

     Maybe if Ms. Demaline had not walked out, she might have written thusly:

     Act II redeems the entire play. It begins with a bang, literally--a psychedelic fantasy on a plane headed for the Betty Ford Clinic that combines, in Ms. Bakker's drug-addled mind, with the  trial on fraud charges against her husband, Jim Bakker. In the middle of Tammy Faye's nightmare in the sky, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, whom Ms. Bakker has always suspected of having acted against the Bakkers' welfare, appear as malevolent figures. They are played by the remarkably dexterous Leo Northart and the young NKU actor with the gifted comedic eyes, Charles Roetting, and they almost steal the show as they dance a tango of betrayal and intrigue, "The Judas Tango."

     After going through her Betty Ford recovery, Ms. Bakker appears ready to lose her faith, faulting God for having treated her so shabbily. But guided by an unearthly visitor and her younger self, who reappears and reminds her of the joy, peace and power she found when she first discovered God at the age of 10, Tammy finds herself renewed in her faith.

     The rediscovery is handled with deftness and care, and it is one of the most moving pieces in the musical. The hymn, "I Have Found Jesus" resonates with the power of faith.

     The writers could have been satisfied with ending the play right there, but thankfully, they did not. This scene is followed by the most hilarious moment of the play--a visit by Ms. Bakker to a drag queen bar, where Ms. Bakker is the judge in a look-alike contest. The scene is based on fact, but, as with the other scenes--this is, after all, a fantasy, the writers bestow an air of absurdity and outrageousness to this one.

     Having found Jesus again, Ms. Bakker now has only one other thing to find--love. Ken Renner, who plays her second husband, Roe Messner, shows off a lovely tenor in a memorable love ballad, "Just Look at Those Eyes." The scene segues nicely into the first scene, at the cancer treatment clinic, and a magnificent song of hope, "Somebody Up There Likes Me."

Fernando Dovalina

Co-Writer, The Gospel According to Tammy Faye"



Blogger unimental said...

Great post. Love the "continuation" of the review. Note that today's Enquirer contained a pic and preview of your show... perhaps their way of saying "sorry 'bout that one."

8:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was volunteering at the art gallery across from the Ensemble on Friday night when a guy came in. He said he was waiting for a show. He turned out to be JT Buck, one of the writers of "Gospel According to Tammy Faye." Asked how the show was going, he said that the Enquirer had panned it, but that they were getting standing ovations every night. I told him that unfortunately, in Cincinnati, almost EVERYTHING gets a standing ovation.

When my shift was over, I decided to catch the 9:30 show of Tammy Faye. I'm glad I did! I wasn't expecting much, but by intermission, I had to seek out JT and tell him I would lead a standing ovation for the show.

The lyrics are clever, and some of the rhymes are incredible! Before I got there, I didn't realize it was a musical. I also didn't know Tammy Faye's story beyond what was in the news and the weepy-eyed, mascara-running caricature you've seen. I'm glad the title characters were presented with dignity. The underlying message of love and acceptance was delivered in a gracious, rather than a heavy-handed, manner.

I was proud to lead a well-deserved standing ovation.

11:21 AM  

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