Let me make what I'm going to assume is a somewhat controversial assertion about non-experimental theatre: The way we think about the plays we see and do is too writer/text focused.
Now, before you get all "power grab! power grab!" on me, let me explain what I mean.
When you read a review of a new play-- or an older play that doesn't have a pedigree-- what you get in general is a review of the script of that play without much recognition that the reviewer is seeing that script mediated through production choices. (Older plays with pedigrees, or plays the reviewer has seen multiple productions of, make production choices easier to spot and frequently those reviews can be too director-focused.)
Similarly, our long new play development process that everyone gets so frustrated about is partially predicated on the notion that it is up to the script to fix everything. There's no assumption that a competent group of artists working with a playwright could shape and collaborate with the material in such a way that good art comes out of it, even if on the page it doesn't always look perfect. I participated in a Lincoln Center Directors Lab project about new play development in which a working writer (anonymous even to me, I wasn't at the roundtable conversation where this was said), "You make your work actor-proof. And then it becomes unactable". That seems a pretty good example of the sort of thing I'm talking about here.
Which leads me to blog posts like this one by Chloe Veltman that I find, frankly, frustrating from someone who sees and writes about theatre professionally (and I believe teaches others to do so as well). I don't know the play in question, but this sentiment:
Every so often I go to the theatre and get tricked into thinking the play I'm seeing is good.Beautiful performances, slick staging and strong visual imagery can sometimes make me believe that a drama is really profound when it isn't. It's only after the fact -- sometimes several days or even weeks after the curtain has come down -- that I realize that I had been duped.
Is bizarre. First, the language choice-- that Veltman had been"tricked" and later on "duped"-- makes it seem as if directors, actors and designers are con artists trying to pull a fast one on an unsuspecting public, as opposed to simply artists doing their job and trying to make a production as good as it possibly can be. This is a blog post from Veltman, and I don't want to do too much close reading of blog posts (As someone who writes his own quickly) but I think the verb choice here is indicative.
Second, I think if someone saw a play and was taken with it and a few days later felt the actual script in that production wasn't great, they haven't been fooled, they've instead seen a top-notch production of a script that, ultimately, they weren't taken with. This has happened to me before... I fell in love with Portland's Third Rail after seeing a production of Craig Wright's Grace. I didn't like the script itself (and I've come to realize that I'm just not a big Craig Wright fan in general) but the production was skillfully executed and the performers acted the shit out of it. Was I "fooled"? No. Third Rail did an excellent job with a script that they liked and I didn't. There's still plenty to be celebrated there (along with problems to highlight), but put in the framework of trickery, not only is the reviewer ignoring that a play is more than its script, they're being actively hostile and dismissive to artists for the crime of doing their jobs well.