I was going to put this in the "what makes it funny" thread, but thought it might stand better on its own.
Once upon a time, after I'd seen one of my first productions of Les Miserables, a friend asked for a review. I remember responding, "Well you have to figure, the source material that the show is working with is just so good, that any review is going to start at about a 7 out of 10, and is going to have to work pretty hard to get below that." The same is true for something like a Jesus Christ Superstar. In my own little world, when you're working from great literature, you're starting with a leg up on the competition. Alan may already tell me I'm an idiot, who knows.
Anyway, just now a coworker asked me for a review of the Boston As You Like It, which as my readers will know I gave a "meh" review. When it came to the question of whether I would recommend somebody else see it, I found myself giving a similar answer: "You have to realize that you're talking to someone who already loves this stuff so much that I'm going, either way. I don't think I've ever seen a Shakespeare show that was so bad that I regretted it."
Which gets me back to the "funny" thing, which is basically the same general idea - where does the quality lie, in the printed word, or the performance? We all know that you can have a line that is funny on the page that just dies in performance, or vice versa - something that looks stale on the page that comes to life when delivered. Is it possible to explain the balancing act that goes on between the two? Can you ever really have a "bad" Shakespeare show, or is it a completely different review if you say "The acting and directing were bad, but the source material is good."