Just think what goes into a show: script, acting, direction, set, costume and sound design, lighting — and in some cases lyrics, music, singing and choreography. A typical theater event has so many elements, it’s unlikely they’ll all turn out positive or negative. So it’s not at all unusual for a critic like myself to see a second-rate play featuring a mix of brilliant and merely adequate acting, sharply directed on a beautiful set, but weakened by thoughtless costuming and primitive lighting.
Then it’s my job to provide a rating that somehow will communicate to the reader the overall quality of this farrago. If the text of the play is worthy of three-and-a-half stars, the acting four stars and the design two, does that mean I should average it all out in order to come up with a rating? What if the script is so excellent that it speaks its truth stunningly in spite of the acting? What if the acting is so inspired, it dazzles and dizzies in spite of the text?