OK, if I had it to do over again, I might not have made that crack about Whiney McKnuck (my secret nickname for my Critics Camp nemesis). It's just that she was fawning all over a certain Big Name Critic from a New York paper. "I just looooove your work," she said, popping the bulging joints on her tiny white fists. "Your reviews are sooooo dramaturgically insightful!"
"Look at her," I muttered to a fellow critic, perhaps a mite too loudly, "performing another act of journalingus."
For that and probably for rolling my eyes once too often at the gassy pronouncements by the ego-bloated East Coast critics serving as "mentors" to us lesser mortals here at Theater Critics Camp in New England, I have just been notified that I am on "personality probation."
"Does that mean I have to clap erasers or wash dishes?" I ask the elderly mentor-in-charge. He peers at me over the tops of his Coke-bottle lenses.
"We'd like you to tone down some of your opinions," he says. "Your personality is just too big. The way you carry yourself...too confident, too flamboyant. Just do...less."
At Theater Critics Camp I am too theatrical and too opinionated. Oh, boy. That's like, what, being told you eat too much at the Gluttony Workshop. Opinions are what we do, who we are. But apparently, I have too many of them. And I express them too extravagantly.
I see young Biff, the hot college senior and budding critic about whom everyone at camp—critics, actors, actresses, playwrights, wardens, trusties and cooks—has been spinning untoward fantasies during long hot nights in the spartan dormitory. I tell him that I've been awarded demerits for spouting sarcasm in public. He asks if I'd like to go AWOL at lunchtime (I've incurred more wrath from cult elders by renting a car instead of riding in the prison van). I drive Biff over to the marina, and we eat buttery lobster rolls and watch carefree tourists board ferries to Martha's Vineyard. If I were writing it, I'd be Biff's Mrs. Robinson, but in reality I'm playing the role of "fun mom" because I have a car and he's hungry for something other than the Theater Farm's fill-swill of potatoes, sausage and noodles.
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Biff's bored by Critics Camp, too. He misses his girlfriend back in the Midwest. And what he'd really like to be doing is Professional Actors Camp. He looks soap actor-y, all chiseled cheekbones and bulging pecs.
Remember: fun mom, act like fun mom.
Being on personality probation so far is merely a misdemeanor. Wouldn't want to push it.
Tomorrow: Long day's journey into light... --Elaine Liner