Howl: A Review That Doesn’t Review?

Agatha Christie’s famous whodunit “The Mousetrap” is currently running up rave reviews at Walnut Street Theatre but readers hoping to get an idea about the quality of the performance from Toby Zinman’s “review” in The Philadelphia Inquirer from January 25 will be disappointed.

Zinman sets the scene ably enough, laying out the characters, which actors and actresses are involved and the basic plot, as well as a note about the play’s epic sixty-year run in London.

Then she sets the scene some more, and some more. And then the review ends.

Well, not exactly. Zinman manages to include two sentences at the end of the piece praising the set design and Malcolm Black’s direction. Beyond that, though, readers are left in the lurch.

Zinman enjoyed the play – that much is clear. And while one could maybe forgive her for not wanting to give away the precious plot turns of a mystery play, she easily could have given the reader something else. Were the actors’ and actresses’ performances any good? Did any performance stand out? Did the play feel long or short? Is Walnut Street the best venue for a play like this, or would another playhouse in the city have been better suited for the performance?

Though 300 words is not a lot to work with, Zinman’s “review” is still more of a preview than anything, and readers hoping to get a better sense of what aspects of the performance are done well will need to turn elsewhere or see the play themselves.

Text by Dan Wisniewski. Image from the Walnut Street Theater.


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