When your father is Bob Feinberg, Montclair Film Festival Chairman of the Board and founder, and your grandfather is Hal Drucker, a noted theater critic and voting member of The Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle, you’re born to love the arts. James Feinberg, a Freshman at Montclair High School, really does—so much so that the 15 year old often goes into NYC after school to see the latest Broadway play or a new exhibit at an art museum. If he’s staying local, you’ll find him at Paper Mill Playhouse or catching a movie at one of the theaters in town.
James posts his theater, film, and museum reviews on his personal blog called Truthiness, in which in his “About” section he states “It is my duty to tell you what is what, and by what, I mean what I think.”
If I didn’t know that James was in fact 15 years old, I wouldn’t believe it. His mature, knowledgeable, and witty style of writing goes far beyond his years.
Of Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, James writes:
In a true sign of the times, the producers, directors, creative types, and even (from beyond the grave) Tennessee Williams himself seem to have ceded the rights to Cat on a Hot Tin Roof to Scarlett Johansson. Ms. Johansson plays what can be called the title role in name only, and billboards, advertisements, and marquees are splattered with her voluptuous visage draped in a barely-there slip that is far skimpier than the one she wears on stage—for those of you out there whose reasons for seeing this production don’t extend to the languorous fluidity of Williams’ prose. The issue with this decision is that, regardless of academic raves on the historical value of this no doubt pivotal play, Maggie the Cat is not exactly the main character. Therefore, the hype that this play revolves around Ms. Johansson is slightly misplaced. That is, unless I give Broadway more credit than it deserves, and they are simply taking advantage of the rare Ashkenazi bombshell that is Scarlett Johansson and her rabid, or rather drooling, fans. Most likely it is the latter.
On Glengarry Glen Ross at the Schoenfeld Theater starring Al Pacino and Bobby Cannavale, James writes, “Glengarry is an adventure, if a limited one, but a memorable one. Each line is perfectly formed, as a Shakespeare couplet had he known a few more four-letter words.”
Speaking of Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, James says:
So as you settle in this holiday season, why not choose White Christmas to keep you warm? It’s just as large, encompassing, and cozy as your draped blanket, and just as delicious and pleasant as your hot cocoa. On Christmas Eve this year, there’s no better journey than back to 1954 to enjoy the beauty and the pure sagacity behind this show. It’ll knock your Yuletide stockings off.
Not typical words from a freshman in high school.
I sat down with the cultured teen critic to learn more about him and his reviews:
Barista Kids: How did you grow to love theater?
James: Mostly through exposure. There’s a significant amount of emphasis on it in my family, and my grandfather would often take me to shows when I was very young. In theater I found a culmination of artistic expression that any other medium fails to even imitate. There’s a lot to love.
BK: Are you involved in theater/drama classes at school?
J: I’m not involved with theater or drama at school, mainly because I can’t sing or dance.
BK: What is your favorite play/musical?
J: Tough question. I’ll probably kick myself for saying this later, but I’d have to say Mel Brooks’ The Producers, which is really the ultimate ode to the Golden Age musical, so it’s the easiest to pick offhand. Other favorites would have to include The Music Man, Camelot, and basically the complete works of Cole Porter.
BK: Favorite movie?
J: A tie between two of Wes Anderson’s works, The Royal Tenenbaums and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. Anderson’s visual brilliance is unmatched, and the way he uses humor (solely to his advantage, never overboard) is admirable. On quite a different note, it’s difficult to drag me away from anything the Marx Brothers have been anywhere near.
BK: Favorite actor/actress?
J: Favorite actor always goes to Groucho. Tina Fey would be my actress, but maybe that’s because I’m still a little weepy off the 30 Rock finale.
BK: You also review art exhibits. Tell me more about your interest in fine arts. Are you artistic?
J: I’m interested in fine art by dint of the fact that it has the potential to go in so many different directions. Any genre that can be shared by Picasso and Pollock is good enough for me. Characteristically of a critic, I am artistically inept, to say the least. However, I once doodled an impressive chicken jumping through a ring of fire on a motorcycle.
BK: Favorite artist?
J: My favorite artist is Frederic Edwin Church. I am particularly fond of his photorealistic contemporaries of the Hudson River School and other such groups.
BK: Favorite place in Montclair?
J: Watchung Booksellers.
BK: So tell me James, what are your plans after high school? What do you see yourself doing as an adult?
J: It’s been said that things never turn out how you’ve planned, so I’ve resolved to cheat life by never planning anything at all. That way, I’ll get everything I’ve ever dreamed of.
You can read more of James Feinberg’s reviews over on Truthiness