When We’ll Recommend a Play, but Not Name It

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Last week, our Theater section ran a review headlined “A Play With a Crude Name and a Powerfully Dark View.” The play, by the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks, is a Critic’s Pick.

The name of the play does not appear within the review, in the information box at the bottom of the page or in the article’s URL.


Joaquina Kalukango and Christine Lahti are women who take their fates into their own hands in Suzan-Lori Parks’s dark fable, at the Signature Theater.

Richard Termine for The New York Times

In the sixth paragraph, the co-chief theater critic Ben Brantley writes:

I suppose this is the place to note that, since I am not a character in this work but an employee of The New York Times, I shall be referring to this play only as “A.” (The full title places an Anglo-Saxon adjective before the “A,” one commonly used on cable television but not considered fit for print here.)

Readers whose imaginations were running wild — what could the name be? — could confirm or debunk their suspicions by clicking the link to the Signature Theater in the fourth paragraph, or by clicking the “Find Tickets” button. (For clarity, another link to the play was later added to “the full title,” as seen in the excerpt directly above.)

The majority of the comments on the review have been critical of our decision not to name the play; none praised us for our decision (though the prolific commenter Freddie’s ditty could be seen as sympathetic). A sampling:

Given the rather grisly subject matter, I’m wondering if the people who might attend the play would get the vapors if they were to see the name in print. We’re all adults here. And given recent events, I suppose if Anthony Scaramucci had written the review we’d have gotten the name, along with a few other Anglo-Saxon epithets to boot. — gemli, Boston

I’m all in favor of The Times avoiding the gratuitous use of expletives. But it’s insulting and distracting to the reader that the paper is afraid to use at least once a word that’s so essential to the article. And frankly, it’s bad journalism. The Times needs to reconsider this archaic policy. — Eric, Connecticut

It was silly and distracting for Mr. Brantley to…

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