If a critic reads a first novel published by a small press and finds it lacking, the unwritten rule of decency states he or she not publish a review. You don’t pick on people who don’t warrant picking on. Yet the Brooklyn Paper enlisted “the nation’s foremost critic of puppetry”—Thurston Dooley III, editor emeritus at Modern Marionette and a member of the Puppet Critics Circle (neither organization has a web presence)—to write 600 scathing words on the Wizard of Oz production now playing at Park Slope’s Puppetworks, a neighborhood group that occupies a modest corner space on mostly residential Sixth Avenue.
Tossing around variations on words like “disaster,” “inelegant,” and “disappointment,” Dooley goes on to complain that the production does not feature any of his favorite songs from MGM’s film. “Instead,” he writes, “these [songs] and others are replaced by tawdry knock-offs.”
Dooley anticipates criticism of his tone, and preemptively defends himself:
As the nation’s foremost critic of puppetry and mime, I feel unto a marionette on a string myself, forced (sometimes against my will) to play the same role in every review: “It’s puppetry, Dooley,” the editor will say. “Give it a rave and let’s move on. The kids won’t notice anyway.”
But I cannot remain silent when the proud, ancient art form to which I have dedicated my life is treated like a Medicaid mill.
Similarly, I cannot remain silent when bullies use platforms like a widely read local paper to pick on a children’s puppet theater in unmerited flourishes of caviling prose. Reached for comment, Brooklyn Paper editor Gersh Kuntzman responded thusly:
Comment? The story speaks for itself. Dooley is a columnist with a valid opinion. He has been to many many shows at Puppetworks and has written many raves, mild criticism, and attacks.
He is a valued member of our staff. We are, I believe, the only newspaper with a dedicated puppetry, mime and kids music reviewer. That is something to be praised, not attacked.