It’s not unusual for readers to question our selection of stories or the opinions expressed by our writers. But it is unusual to encounter such questioning on two totally different stories in the same issue.
In an anonymous letter mailed the day after our January 17 issue was distributed, a reader asked how we came across the “glowing article” on Advaxis, the firm hoping to develop a cancer vaccine, and its new CEO, Tom Moore.
“How did this article come about? Did you find Mr. Moore and Advaxis, or did someone pitch the story to you?” asked the writer.
Fair question. Advaxis has been on our radar since 2004, when it showed up in shared space at the Carnegie Center and then again in 2006 when it moved to the Technology Center of New Jersey, the state’s business incubator on Route 1 in North Brunswick. The company did not return several calls from our reporters. When we finally made contact, last October, the company was in the midst of replacing its CEO with Tom Moore. Moore’s appointment, announced December 15, further piqued our interest since Moore had been in the news for his work in preserving the open space land around his 18th century Princeton Township mansion, Tusculum.
Our anonymous letter writer, pointing out that Moore had left his previous company, Biopure, after a period of lackluster performance and the filing of an SEC complaint against both him and the firm, seemed to suggest that our story was part of an orchestrated PR campaign to “sell” Advaxis to the investment community. The letter writer also referred to SEC documents showing that Moore’s employment with Advaxis is contingent upon meeting certain goals for raising capital.
PR people did pitch the story (and provided the photo of the Listeria bacteria that appeared on the cover), but only after we had expressed our interest in the company’s story. And we suspect that Moore, who had to face some questions about his personal life as part of our story, may have preferred to stay under the radar. But we will keep an eye on the company, and take another look at its progress in six months or so.
In that same January 17 issue we ran a review of McCarter’s “Lookingglass Alice” written by our veteran Broadway reviewer, Simon Saltzman, who is also the president of the Outer Critics Circle Association. Since the play is moving from McCarter to New York’s New Victory Theater, February 9 through 25, and then to Philadelphia’s Arden Theater Company from May 10 to June 10, Saltzman — who has seen most everything and everyone on Broadway in his half century of reviewing — seemed the perfect choice to review it.
He didn’t like it all that much.
That’s a slight understatement. Simultaneously the general public, at least the part that we know, all seemed to love it. Two theater-goers were moved to write their own rebuttals to Saltzman’s review. We thank them (and the reader of the Advaxis article) for their opinions. And since the “Alice” correspondents have included their names with their letters, we are happy to print them in this space:
To the Editor: Visionary ‘Alice’
Lookingglass Alice was one of the best shows if not THE best show I have ever seen at McCarter. I have E-mailed all of my friends and told them not to miss it. I was totally engaged with the performance on opening night, and I could tell from the buzz after the show that I was not alone. In an age where it is easier to get thousands of people to a football stadium than a few hundred people to the theater, it is sad that one reviewer might have a negative impact on the show.
Additionally, in an age of high-tech where the art of listening has been replaced by an ever-increasing need for spectacle, this production provides both experiences for the audience. Contemporary audiences want to interact rather than “just watch” and in that respect this production is truly visionary.
In an age where talent can be simulated via computers, it is thrilling to see actors using all of their emotional and physical resources live! If the object of a performance is merely to re-create the experience of reading a book, rather than to express a unique interpretation of the story, the creative process would go right down the rabbit hole.
The reviewer certainly has a right to his opinion, but know that the word of mouth from the majority of the other 1,000 or so people who were there on the opening night of “Lookingglass Alice” will most surely be very favorable. Perhaps U.S. 1 might also like to print Anita Donovan’s excellent review (Bucks County Herald, January 18), in contrast.
By the way, I played the Red Queen at Bucks County Playhouse about 20 years ago, and am familiar with the role. Mr. Hernandez (with or without stilts) was fabulous! All I can say about this particular review is…Off-With-His-Head!!! Nancy Nicholson
The writer is community events manager at Barnes & Noble MarketFair.
Regarding the negative review by Simon Saltzman of McCarter’s “Lookingglass Alice:” I attended the Thursday, January 11, performance with my son, 25, and we both enjoyed it very much. The play had its share of laughs, surprises, and action but certainly no “dead spots” anywhere.
In the review Saltzman refers several times to Alice’s (Lauren Hirte’s) stunts in a negative manner, although he does admit she has impressive agility. I saw the “stunts” as the director’s way of simulating different parts of the story, such as Alice’s fall into the rabbit hole; by watching her perform her twists and turns on the hoop, one could totally see that this was a perfect way on a stage to show the action that was taking place — a falling action. My son and I both felt that the circus stunts that were performed were delightful and so much fun to watch. The entrance of new characters off the central stage, almost unnoticed due to center stage action, was a wonderful idea that worked well with the performance of this play.
I do not agree with Simon Saltzman’s review of this production.
The writer is assistant to the director of the Mamdouha S. Bobst Center for Peace and Justice at Princeton University.