2. How Personal? How personal should reviews be? I'm thinking for a moment about Top Chef and about Chuck Klosterman (bear with me here). There's this judge on Top Chef named Toby Young. Toby Young is extremely witty, he's funny, clever a bit charming. He's the villain of the show-- the Tough Minded Critic Who Tells It Like It Is! The problem is, nothing he has to say tells you anything about the food, or about food in general, or in anyway makes your understanding deeper of his subject beyond that he liked it or didn't. Tom Colicchio, on the other hand, is not clever. He's not funny. He's not witty. Instead, he is both opinionated and informative. Listening to him talk, you learn about food, about what works and what doesn't and why. What he has to say is actually of value.
Chuck Klosterman's writing is all about Chuck Klosterman. Because of this, despite the fact that he is quite a good writer, his reviews are largely worthless if you measure the worth of a review as having something of value to say about the art at hand. If you view reviews as entertaining essays in their own right regardless, than Klosterman's work has some value as entertaining fanboy essays. Klosterman's review of the Beatles box set for the Onion was largely a bunch of jokes about how famous the Beatles are. Mock Pitchfork all you want, but their series of reviews on the same boxed set was a contemplative narrative look on the arc or their careers, and discussed in ways you don't see very often how Brian Epstein's death affected the band's sound and interpersonal politics.
On the complete other end of the spectrum, you get what makes up a large amount of theatre reviewing-- the Dispassionate Adjudicator who delivers maxims about what theatre should or shouldn't be and how this or that play measures up to Platonic Ideals. This isolates the reviewer and protects their opinions to some extent... It's not them opining! It's the gods! They are merely measuring this play scientifically against certain criteria! But the problem is... this is horseshit. It's a symptom of our old fashioned art form that we remain mired in old fashioned ideas of art being objectively good or bad. The experience of a play is intensely personal. Ideally, reviewers should strive to acknowledge that. They aren't an audience surrogate. They don't speak for anyone but themselves. But they are highly seasoned experts (most theater reviewers I know easily go to 3-5 times the number of plays of theatre artists I know) and thus their opinion is worth reckoning with.