Curtain Call: ‘No one likes a critic’ unless they’re the beloved theater critic David Rosenberg

Theater critic David Rosenberg died on July 15.

Theater critic David Rosenberg died on July 15.

Contributed photo

It was a gentle rain that fell on a Sunday afternoon. It was almost as if the sky shed some tears it just couldn’t hold back. However, it didn’t stop people from saying their final goodbyes to theater critic David Rosenberg, who died on July 15. The tribute was also available on Zoom, so the solemn occasion was shared by many including actors, directors, fans and playwrights. Attendance belied the statement that “No one likes a critic,” because it was quite apparent from the tributes made in David’s honor that he was especially well liked.

This was my first virtual funeral and surprisingly I felt it deeply moving. Perhaps it was because of the quality of the streamed piece that I felt I was there. Perhaps it was because David was properly represented. Held outdoors at St. Philip’s Church in Norwalk, a large photo of David was prominently displayed on an easel beneath a large canopy. The photo featured David’s ever-ready smile. We had been good friends and shared many theater outings, as well as conversations about theater, family, friends and dinners at each other’s homes. Attending the tribute were also many theater critics, teachers as well as friends, neighbors and his husband Ed Spires with whom he shared 62 years. There was something appropriately somber about the occasion, but I know David was somewhere in the universe appraising this well-orchestrated production of which I am sure his husband and two talented friends, theater radio host and general manager of Square One Theater Company Richard Phenegar and theater director and critic Tom Holehan of Stratford’s Square One, managed to put this all together so beautifully.

A vocalist and keyboardist sang a favorite song of David’s and three readers, former teachers who taught with David, read lines that had been submitted in many individual letters, all tributes to David’s many talents. David was born in New York and went to Broadway shows as a kid. Even though he moved to Connecticut, the New Yorker in him never left. I remember driving into the city with him to catch a Broadway opening. The traffic had been horrible, and when we got close to the theater district, we had about 15 minutes to park, run and make the curtain. That’s when I discovered how much of the New Yorker mentality David held onto. “David, we just passed two parking lots and a parking garage. What are you doing? I told you earlier, I’m paying for parking.”

“No real New Yorker pays for parking,” he said driving around the block yet again.” Just as I thought it was hopeless for making that curtain, he found a space and miraculously squeezed into it. He smiled from ear to ear and felt quite proud of this accomplishment. Then we ran and made the opening in the nick of time.

David, whose obituary appeared in The New York Times, was a theater critic for the Norwalk Hour as well as of Hearst Connecticut Media publications. He also wrote for Back Stage. He is best known as one of the original co-founders of the Connecticut Critics Circle (CCC). He was passionate about theater and covered plays and opera in Connecticut, Broadway, off-Broadway and London. Not only was he the co-founder of the CCC, but throughout his career he was an active member in the American Theatre Critics Association, the Drama Desk and the Outer Critics Circle.

Educated at Syracuse, Yale, New York University and SUNY/Purchase, David’s professional work also included television production at CBS in New York and teaching English and drama at Fairfield University as well as several Fairfield County high schools.

Throughout his career, he directed and/or guided productions of plays, musicals and staged readings including the Theatre Artists Workshop, Wilton Playshop and Square One Theatre in Stratford, among others. The theater world has lost an insightful, experienced, honest and outstanding critic and I have lost a most dear friend. He is missed.

Joanne Greco Rochman is a founding member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and an active member in the American Theatre Critics Association.