Week after week, I sit in the closet where I keep my computer, chewing on erasers, hoping against hope that it'll happen. But it never does. I've tried everything from deep breathing to staying sober to plagiarism, but nothing works--I just can't manage to write a single insightful, interesting theater review.

You think I'm kidding? Check this out, from my review of Far Away: "Like a tender story by Raymond Carver with freaky flourishes à la Vonnegut, [the play] keeps both feet on the ground while whispering secrets about the deep weirdness of life." What the fuck is that? Even I don't know what the hell I'm talking about.

Furthermore, I'm a slave to weary clichés and lifeless adjectives. If I think a play is good, it's "brilliant." If I don't like it, I can't seem to resist a fecal turn of phrase:

"Whoo, daddy--what a well-polished turd."

"C'est crappy, no?"

And this hideous, meaningless metaphor: "[This show] is a big piece of crap. Steaming. With a plastic cherry on top."

When I first started writing for The Stranger, I daydreamed of being a benevolent, tastemaking dictator. I'd hold court in fashionably shabby bars, wearing a cool scarf, lecturing to an ad hoc class of transfixed artists who'd marvel at my scintillating combination of erudition, wit, and sexual magnetism. "Steven Dietz has élan but lacks éclat," I'd droll. "And I always prefer my élan sans éclat." Wild applause.

It only took a few weeks of seeing myself in print to disabuse me of my relatively humble ambitions. By now, I'm ashamed to say my name too loudly in theaters or at parties where there might be an actor or two. I'm afraid a beautiful artiste will march right up, ash her cigarette on my sweater, and say: "You are a stupid pig. You know nothing about art. Mr. Kiley, you are a fraud."

I invite the beautiful artistes out there to try it--I'll blush and admit that you're right. But don't give me any guff for giving you a bad review unless you're sure you didn't deserve it.

Just because I'm a bad critic doesn't mean you're a good artist.