Baldwin likens the Times' Ben Brantley to an "odd, shriveled, bitter Dickensian clerk"
Alec Baldwin isn't happy about the early closing of his Broadway production of "Orphans" — and he's unloading on New York Times theater critic Ben Brantley, along with the modern state of Broadway, in retaliation.
Famously quick-tempered former "30 Rock" star Baldwin blasted Brantley in a blog post published on Huffington Post on Tuesday, and also lamented that tabloid journalism has had an effect on Broadway in recent years.
Brantley was fairy critical of the "Orphans" production — which will now wrap on May 19, far ahead of its original close date of June 30 — in his Times review in April, deeming it "limp" and complaining that it "somehow plays like a sentimental sitcom, perhaps a low-rent 'Modern Family.'"
He also devoted substantial space in the review to the very public difficulties with cast member Shia LaBeouf and the company, who departed the production due to "creative differences." (He was replaced by "3:10 to Yuma" actor Ben Foster.)
In his Huffington Post piece, Baldwin compares Brantley — quite unfavorably — to former New York Times theater critic Frank Rich, and opines that Brantley has let down the Times' legacy "as a necessary guide for people who do not have limitless resources to buy tickets, or are traveling to New York to enjoy the theatre and need a reliable opinion as to where to invest their time and money."
Characterizing Brantley as "not a good writer," Baldwin writes, "Whereas Rich's keen sense of what worked or did not work on stage helped to elevate the position of his desk, Brantley is viewed as some odd, shriveled, bitter Dickensian clerk who has sought to assemble a compendium of essays on theatre, the gist of which often have no relationship to the events onstage themselves."
Overall, Baldwin complains, Brantley took a "why bother" approach to his "Orphans" review — as Baldwin sees it, a grave insult to those involved with the production.
"In the case of Orphans, Brantley wrote 'Why bother?'" Baldwin writes. "And that is to spit in the face of the playwright, the producers and all of their investors, the cast and director, the designers and the Schuberts, all of whom have had some success in the theatre. Brantley says we were wrong-headed to have even tried. Where would the theatre be if that was the prevalent thinking?"
Baldwin does address LaBeouf's departure, depicting it as an unpleasant but not unheard of reality — and one that was unnecessarily played up in coverage of "Orphans."
"Our show involved the firing of an actor. Those things do happen. I've been fired before and I can tell you it's not pleasant," Baldwin offers. "But the tabloid culture that dominates the media today, with its jettisoning of nearly all journalistic tenets, rushes to paint the most sensational and, at times, least fact-based presentation of a story. Whatever information that is the most damning/salacious/judgmental is posted as quickly as possible and replaced by the next 'event' even more quickly."
Ticket sales for "Orphans" were disappointing, according to BroadwayWorld.com, with the production earning $522,036 — less than 50 percent of its potential take — during the last week of April.
However, the play did earn two Tony nominations, one for Best Revival of a Play and another for Best Actor in a Play, for Tom Sturridge.