Jul 25, 2017
   Beers About Songs   

Read the original review on www.cbc.ca.


Michelle Palansky is a fringe show reviewer for CBC, reviewing shows at this year's Winnipeg Fringe. But she's also a fringe show-reviewer in the sense that just like at the fringe, you never know quite what to expect. Whether it's reviews that don't give five stars despite having no negative points or reviews that give away the show's final reveal (not linked for the obvious reason), Palansky's reviews range from merely uninformative to truly bizarre. Rather than reviewing shows on their merits, she sometimes seems to evaluate a show based on how well it fits her preconceptions, like when she gave a middling score because the shadow puppet show she went to see was mostly shadow puppets, not human acting.

This is no more apparent than this year's review of Ryan Adam Wells' Beers About Songs, which got three stars because the performer had a beer and she didn't. I fully understand if you don't believe anyone old enough to drink would be that petulent in public, so I'll quote the entirety of her complaint here:

Which leads me to my main criticism of the show. For goodness sake man, if you are going to devote a show to the joys of beer, mount the damn thing in a bar. It is a special kind of torture to sit cheek by jowl with 50 other people, listening to songs about beer, watching the performer drink beer, while the audience stays dry.

For those of you wondering, this isn't a show about beer. There is a show about beer at the Winnipeg Fringe, and it does take place in a bar where the audience can drink, but that isn't this show. Which leads me to my main criticism of the review. For goodness sake woman, if you are going to write a review about Beers About Songs, write the damn thing about the actual show. It's a special kind of torture to click on a link that says Beers About Songs, and hear how the writer went to see Beers About Songs, while the reader is left with no idea what the show is actually like.

For once she doesn't spoil anything, as she proudly states, but she does still write a review with no negative points (about the show, anyway) and then gives it three stars. Three stars is average, but this is not an average show, this is a show that won awards at other festivals. But maybe Wells bribed those audiences with liquor like in early American elections, as Palansky seemed to expect. If she has any complaints about the show itself, she doesn't share them with her readers in the same way Wells didn't share his beer with her. But the cycle of abuse ends here, as I'm more than happy to tell you exactly what I didn't like about this review.

"Why can't I have what he has?" is a valid complaint in a restaurant, not at a show. Because the obvious answer is "It's part of the show, and you're not. Are you old enough to be here by yourself?"

I can relate to thinking "Why can't I have what he has?" while watching Beers About Songs, but I'm referring to Wells' musical talent, not his props. It would be just as valid to complain that Wells had a guitar on stage, so he should've mounted the show in a guitar store where the audience could play guitars, or in a barber shop where the audience could have beards.

A review shouldn't just tell you whether the reviewer liked something, it should also tell you why. That's pretty much the whole job. And the reasons should be more substantive than "I was thirsty" or "I read the poster for the wrong show."

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