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Letters From the Issue of Thursday, May 17, 2007

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Giving vegans a bad name: I agree with your comment in "Diet From Hell" (Ray Stern, May 10) that, maybe, a worse problem in the United States than starving your children is feeding them nearly to death.

You see a lot more odiously fat kids at the mall than you do painfully skinny ones.

Obviously, Blair and Kimu Parker went too far with their veganism — thus, giving that kind of diet a bad name — but there's nothing wrong with sane people cutting out meat and milk products from their and their children's diets. Any doctor will tell you that those who avoid such food are healthier. The problem with the Parkers was that they limited the quantities of food their children consumed, right?

The reason I mention this is that I can already hear the "supersize me" crowd bellowing: "See, I knew all along that it was better to eat like we do than to eat like those sissy veg-heads! Large fries all around!"
Liz Dawson, Phoenix

MORE DIET!-TRIBES

Acting like children: I am offended by the responses ("Critic's Critics," Letters, May 3) to a valid review by Robrt L. Pela ("Crashed Diet!, April 26), and feel I must write in defense of critical opinion.

Having known a few theater critics in my time, I have found that, by and large, they are a rather self-important group and hardly need my help in pointing out the usefulness of their chosen vocation. That being said, as one of the poor schmucks who actually paid for her ticket to see Diet! The Musical, I feel that my ticket price entitles me to give an opinion, and give it I will.

I completely agree with Mr. Pela: Diet! The Musical is, well, crap! That is my opinion, not a value-judgment on the people involved in the production as human beings.

To those at North Valley Playhouse and to "professionals" everywhere, I say: Not everyone will love your work. Not everyone will think your child is exceptional. And, yes, sometimes those pants do make your butt look big.

One of the qualities that marks a professional is the ability to take criticism, and take it with good grace. If you cannot do this, you are in the wrong business. Ladies and gentlemen, the theater is a school of hard knocks; it is not a school that subscribes to the Montessori method. You don't get a gold star for just showing up.

Now, what truly offends me about Diet! The Musical is not the two-dimensional stereotypes or even the derivative score (that stuff just bores me), it is the childish reaction of its authors and cast to a bad review.

Admittedly, Pela can be a bit more harsh on performers and directors who are not in his "five." Consider his standing love affair with Stray Cat Theatre (whose work I find self-conscious and contrived) or his slobbering over Ron May's directing skills (which I consider mediocre, at best). But, kids, that is the nature of the beast. Take your lumps like big boys and girls and move on!

Diet! The Musical husband-and-wife team Susan Simpson and Kenneth LeFave decided to take a different approach. They took the low road and fired off a couple of petulant volleys, which amounted to nothing more than a tantrum. And, though the LaFaves may or may not have raised valid points, their argument was destroyed by taking a cheap shots at Pela: The wife's poisonous and juvenile attack on Pela's private life and the husband's launching into slanderous hearsay.

And one of them is an ex-critic!

The LaFaves should be ashamed of themselves, and I am embarrassed for them.
Claire Henderson, Scottsdale

Mincing words: I want to thank everyone for their support, and I would like to thank Robrt Pela for what I consider high praise. He could have said my character, Freddie, in Diet! The Musical, was the same old, tired, flaming queen done on Will & Grace, Saturday Night Live and MADtv, and in The Producers. But he didn't.

With all that competition out there, Mr. Pela deemed my character "so odious, so repulsively hateful in its depiction of homosexuals . . . the most repulsive gay stereotype to mince across a stage in decades . . . a profoundly vile impersonation of what people used to think of as a typical homosexual, all limp wrists and lispy, eye-rolling huffiness. It was a display [that] set the gay rights movement back 50 years."

Wow, to be able to stir that kind of passion and fervor in less than four minutes of stage time!

Mr. Pela, it is evident that you were deeply and passionately moved by my performance as Freddie. And although you did not mean it as such, I choose to accept your words as praise, and I am highly honored.
Mark Shannon, Phoenix

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