HumanaFest in Six Words

Our colleague Lou Harry is one heckuva wordsmith — and he’s always up for a creative challenge.  In that spirit, I asked him to write six-word reviews for each show in the festival.  Here’s what he came up with:

         O Guru Guru Guru…
         Twisted life straightened via pillow talk

         Cry Old Kingdom
         Cries out for a larger canvas

         Peer Gynt comedy has no peer

         The Delling Shore
         Paging rewrite for brittle book battle

         Pump up the ‘Osage County’ volume

         Sleep Rock Thy Brain
         Fly-by-night show worth staying up for

Bravo, Mr. Harry.

Feel inspired? Post your six-word reviews below.


  1. Six word review of this article: Being so reductive is worthless journalism.

    I expected much more from Engine31: in-depth interviews (not the waste-of-time chats with Eno and Augustin), dramaturgical insight, script excerpts, design sketches, behind-the-scenes features — hell, is too much to ask for a review longer than five or six paragraphs? How much service are we doing a work as formally inventive and emotionally complex as O GURU GURU GURU… with such facile write-ups? Why is there nary a mention for Russell H. Champa & Dani Clifford’s masterly lighting design for CRY OLD KINGDOM? Are we really delving into the glorious mess of APPROPRIATE with a bit about iPhones and a lame review? Is there no room for an article on this site to discuss the conversation Eno’s brilliant GNIT shares with PEER GYNT?

    The content of these plays is staggering — even Sam Marks’s turkey. Why aren’t we exploring it, exploding it, swimming in it, wallowing in it? I guarantee a look into a scene from Hnath’s NIGHTNIGHT is ten times more interesting than a look into pre-show speeches. I promise writing about the ending of APPROPRIATE — its direction, its design, its writing — is more of a “creative challenge” than six-word reviews.

    Isherwood does a better job covering the Festival in two pages than E31 does in sixty or more.

    Instead of engaging reportage, we get bland capsule reviews, pointless recaps of artist conversations, a vague article about “truth in movement” (did a BFA2 write this an hour before it was due for her class?), cutesy prop lists, blogs about ticket envelopes, and this.

    We can get “Who Got You Hooked On Theatre?” anywhere. Make it Humana-specific. The most fascinating bit of this site is the tiny APPROPRIATE-to-GNIT-changeover GIF in the upper-right corner. We get a bit of a rise out Kramer’s “Local Impact” feature, too.

    I understand the impulse to loosen up and be irreverent with “six word reviews” and prop lists, but this is a major festival that demands major coverage — not fluff. I anticipated a comprehensive look into the Humana Festival, not an aggregation of fluff.

    My feelings for E31 mirror my feelings for a good number of Humana plays (DELLING SHORE floats to mind): love the idea, lament the execution.

    Rethink the model for next year — maybe you’ll build an engine that roars instead of whimpers.

    • Well Done Jay! I was also very disappointed by the reviews E31. I’m not sure if calling the show Inappropriate was a joke or a typo. (Mistake=fix it, Joke=Not very Funny) Also, sorry to be a stickler for details but Cry Old Kingdom does NOT take place in Port-Au-Prince. It was stated several times during the production that they had left Port-Au-Prince. Lou’s point about an underpopulated Port-Au-Prince is just plain inaccurate. Being clever is great, however you also have to make sure that you provide your readers with the most thorough and accurate information.

      • Don,
        You are correct. Cry Old Kingdom is largely set “a few hours from Port-au-Prince. I’ve made that correction in the review.
        My point, though, wasn’t that the city was underpopulated but that the play was–that it might benefit from a larger lens.
        Thanks for reading and engaging,

  2. Douglas McLennan says:

    Jay: Thanks for the ideas. I like the idea of sketches and script excerpts and the lighting designs. But I think you’re being a bit harsh on what is actually on the site. Steven Leigh Morris’s piece putting Humana in national context is one of the most thoughtful pieces I’ve seen pondering the festival’s role in where theatre is right now. Anthony Byrne’s big deliciously gloopy piece tying together this year’s plays as a rather negative view of artists is not something you’ll find anywhere else. Steven’s response to an engaging panel of directors talking about directing makes interesting connections in their response to critical response. Elsewhere there are pieces about Humana’s impact in the local Louisville community, a good piece about the life of an apprentice member, and lots of voices from the festival. There are silly things too – small observations meant to help give the flavor of the place.

    Okay – reviews? To be honest, that’s not what we were there for. We assumed that there would be lots of press there, lots of reviews (there were about 50 press people). We assumed they would all mostly be reviewing. We were guided by the idea of not repeating what everyone else was doing; instead, we would aggregate the best stuff and, when it was all over, create a guide to the best critical responses (which we are in the process of doing). Thus you’ll see a link and excerpt of the Isherwood review. We don’t need to write the Isherwood review if Isherwood is writing it.

    Frankly, I was disappointed so far not to have seen more and better reviews out there. I’m sure more will be coming. Engine31 didn’t set out to do reviews, even though most of our team saw most of the plays. Should we do this again, we will definitely reconsider the reviewing issue.

    The idea behind Engine31 was to create a critical mass of focus on the festival. Our feeling was that coverage of the festival and the plays is diffuse and usually disappears once the festival is gone. We attempted to document what happened and aggregate what people were saying about what they saw. We all came from different parts of the country, and most of us had never been to the festival. This was the first time we had done something like this, and we learned a lot about how to do it. If it happens again, I’m sure we’ll do a lot of things differently.

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