Culture News

L.A. Theater Website Bitter Lemons Responds to Robrt Pela's Criticism of The Stranger's Christopher Frizzelle

Los Angeles theater website Bitter Lemons published a piece by Jason Rohrer on October 23 in which Rohrer takes issue with New Times' Robrt Pela, in particular his October 9 essay, It's Not Okay to Review Plays After One Act, Christopher Frizzelle

Pela argued in that piece that it is unethical as a critic to review a play that said critic has not seen in its entirety. It was a response to The Stranger's editor-in-chief, Frizzelle, penning a review of the first half of a production of What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. Frizzelle's article panned the show and opened with the line,"First of all: I walk out of plays at intermission all the time, so save your outrage."

In his New Times article, Pela explained why he does not split mid-show, "I stay because it’s not possible to fairly review a play or musical that one has not seen through to its end. Pretending you gave the production you’re reviewing every possible chance is not ethical; it’s not fair-minded; it’s not journalism."

Rohrer caught wind of Pela's article, and proceeded to write a takedown of a takedown of a takedown. He described Pela's work as an "effete, languidly angry essay," and posits that "what Robrt Pela gets wrong here is only everything."

Which leads us to the inevitable question: What do Rohrer's journalistic ethics involve? Turns out, Bitter Lemons is an outlet that has advocated for theater companies to pay critics to review their shows. So, there's that.

"I admire Jason Rohrer’s talent for writing, and stand up for his right to bash me with his opinion," Pela says when asked for comment on the Bitter Lemons article. "I have made my living doing as much for three decades, as most who know me will tell you, and despite Rohrer’s assertion that I have 'no particular reputation,' I do worry that my complaints about his unethical practice of charging theater companies for reviews will be misconstrued as sour grapes on my part, and so I’ll decline any further comments on Rohrer’s nicely written piece defending his antithetical practices."

Editor's note: This article has been updated.
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Becky Bartkowski is an award-winning journalist and the arts and music editor at New Times, where she writes about art, fashion, and pop culture.
Contact: Becky Bartkowski