It happened again yesterday: a standing ovation which I believe was undeserved. The play Impressionism is still in its preview phase so there’s been no critical appraisal yet. Perhaps the New York theatre critics will agree with yesterday’s audience and give the highest praise to the playwright Michael Jacobs and to the actors, especially Jeremy Irons and Joan Allen. In my opinion, however, the standing ovation was undeserved.
I’m not the first to notice the prevalence of standing ovations. It’s been a growing trend over the past few years. Given too freely, they diminish the standards of the work and of the performances. They also diminish the audience who show they will reward a mediocre or even a very good performance with highest praise.
Where’s the discrimination? Though I recognize tastes differ and it’s difficult to quantify a performance, it stands to reason that just because a play has ended is no reason for a standing ovation. Or because well known actors head the cast. Usually, one or two people rise in the front section of the orchestra. Then a few more, until finally the entire audience is on its feet.
I think the best standing ovations are those that arise spontaneously, when the whole audience shows its unified agreement with an immediate outburst of applause.An example is the current August: Osage County. The audience roared its approval and deservedly so.
I wonder if you remember the last time you stood up to applaud an exceptional performance.