Clive Barnes, 81


The former Times dance and theatre critic Clive Barnes has passed from complications of liver cancer at age 81. Barnes filed dance reviews at the New York Post till shortly before the end, but it was his heyday at the Times, where he reviewed both theatre and dance between 1965 and 1977, by which he will be best remembered locally.

Like any Times critic — especially in the more centralized, pre-internet media age — Barnes excited envy from his colleagues and sometimes attributions of bad faith from his subjects. But he could turn a line, and make a theatrical point vivid. Here he is on James Earl Jones in The Iceman Cometh: “James Earl Jones as Hickey was all right but all wrong. He is a thoughtful actor rather than an impassioned one. He teases climaxes rather than rides them… He looks and sounds as if he is selling insurance rather than dreams.” If you know the play and Jones, this is at least a believable assessment as well as a trenchant one. In general he strove for readability and could be almost humorously down-to-earth when describing ballets to Post readers, which effort may have been wasted on many but was probably appreciated by those on whom it was not.

Terry Teachout has a sweet reminiscence here.