"Titanically bad!' "The worst play I've ever seen!" "Abysmally imbecile!" Such were the reviews for Moose Murders, 1983's legendary Broadway flop, revisited in today's Times by Campbell Robertson in a piece about the show's afterlife as performance art in
a bowling alley an arts center* in Rochester. Reading Robertson's discussion of the show's epically awful notices — and reading Frank Rich's vicious Times review, which has helpfully been linked to the piece — made us nostalgic for a time when reviewers would trash a show without worrying about hurting anyone's feelings. The show made such an impression on Rich that he trashed it again a month later, even though the play closed on opening night!
Today's piece made us wonder: If Frank Rich was this mean, what on earth did New York's John Simon think of the play? So we dug up his review to find out.
It's a keeper, all right; our favorite part might be where he openly mocked the Texas rubes he'd heard funded the show, and vividly described the "enormous, pear-shaped individual" who stumbled into the preview late and covered in vomit. "Moose Murders," Simon wrote, "is the only stage play I ever saw presented in stereo-odoriferous Smellovision."
But what's that we smell? We hope it's … a revival! Surely we'll be seeing this new, ironic production of Moose Murders at the Fringe next summer, right? We can only hope so.
John Simon's original review of Moose Murders [NYM, March 7, 1983]
*Note! Someone affiliated with this show called us to tell us that the after-party was in a bowling alley. The show itself took place at the Rochester Contemporary Art Center.