Vindicator theater reviewer will go backstage next season

Vindicator theater critic Milan Paurich will direct “Speed the Plow” at the Oakland Center for the Arts in October. In doing so, he’ll temporarily become part of the group that he usually covers.

It’s an unusual move and a bold one for Paurich, who is an authoritative and respected voice in the Valley’s theater community.

Paurich’s reviews carry weight. A good one can spell success for a production, and a negative one can hurt it.

And a review that’s sharply critical can draw a backlash if the theater feels it is overly harsh.

That’s exactly what happened about three years ago — at the Oakland, of all places. In fact, the Downtown Youngstown theater actually banned Paurich for a while, with the position that his reviews crossed the line.

The relationship between the reviewer and the theater has improved over the years. But the fact that Paurich will now make his directorial debut at the Oakland is an irony not lost on anyone in the theater community.

Directing is something that Paurich has always wanted to try, although he says it will most likely be a one-time affair. If his foray into directing is positive, Paurich said he would definitely keep the door open for any future directing opportunities.

He expects he’ll learn a lot about what a director (and cast) goes through, and will surely gain some invaluable insights. It’s an experience that can only broaden his skill as a reviewer.

Incidentally, Paurich will continue as a Vindicator reviewer next season but will not critique any shows at the Oakland for ethical purposes.

A series of events led to his being tapped by the Oakland.

The theater had originally scheduled “Souvenirs” for the October slot but had to make a change when it realized that it couldn’t meet casting and stage requirements for that play.

Talk turned to a replacement, and some members of the play-selection committee tossed Paurich’s name into the ring. They had heard he was interested in trying his hand at the helm.

“Speed the Plow,” a dialog-heavy David Mamet play that satirizes the Hollywood film industry, only has three actors and a fairly spartan stage design. That will provide fewer things for Paurich to worry about, although he expects it will be challenging to communicate Mamet’s vision.


Tuesday’s news that the Youngstown Playhouse re- ceived a $20,500 grant for a roof repair project from the Youngstown Foundation was just the latest in the impressive turnaround at the South Side theater.

The tidal wave of debt — about $200,000 worth — that almost swamped the Playhouse two years ago is but a distant memory, as the theater is now back in the black. The company paid off the last of its debt earlier this year, according to Mary Ruth Lynn, executive director. It has even opened a savings account.

A lot of credit goes to board president Rand Becker, an unsung hero who led the Playhouse through its amazing — and quick — recovery.


Deborah Benton has trotted out what she’s calling “the big guns” to help her win a contest.

Benton is the host of “The Deborah Show,” a syndicated satellite TV show that originates from her studio in the PNC Bank Building in Downtown Youngstown. She has entered Oprah Winfrey’s “Your Own Show” online contest. The winner will get their own show on Oprah’s new network.

In order to give her a boost, the R&B group The Whispers — who are friends of Benton and occasional guests on her show — have made a video urging their fans to go to Oprah’s website and vote for Benton. The YouTube video, which has been posted on The Whispers website (, directs people to Benton’s site (, where they can link up to Oprah’s contest page.

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