Inform and Opine
The main purpose of any review is to provide the reader with sufficient information so she can decide for herself whether to buy the book or attend the play or dine at the restaurant. Your opinion is also important or the reader would be seeking out a newspaper or magazine article instead of a review, but your opinion will only be valued if it is supported by facts and information.
It is imperative that you write objectively when presenting the subject and do not allow your opinion to impact the portion of the review that must be a dispassionate discourse. For example, if you are writing a review of an art exhibit but are deeply offended by two of the works, which you consider pornography, you cannot allow this to influence your discussion of the other objects of art on display.
Your opinion should be discernible in two ways in the review. First, feel free to state your opinion outright, but this should be done only once or twice. Second, your point of view can be more subtly suggested as you write the piece by using side remarks while presenting objective information about the subject.
Balancing Objectivity and Subjectivity
The best way to maintain a balance of objectivity and subjectivity is to be aware that there is no such thing as a “right” or “true” or “correct” opinion. An opinion is just that — an opinion and not a statement of fact. The thing about opinions is that there will be other opinions in opposition to the one you hold and none of them are true. Consequently, as a reviewer, be respectful when presenting your viewpoint.
An example of several reviews of the same play should help you maintain your humility as a reviewer. In a recent review of Monster appearing in the Philadelphia Inquirer, the critic Toby Zinman mercilessly panned the play while at the same time Lesley Valdes wholeheartedly praised it in Broad Street Review. Suggesting that both critics missed the point of the play, in a third review also appearing in Broad Street Review, Jim Rutter wrote: “But Valdes's thorough endorsement should have paid more attention to what Zinman rightfully criticized about the production values; and Zinman, for her part, failed to see that in an age when most people admit that they would rather die than live in broken bodies, Bell's play not only updated the Frankenstein themes, but provides the perfect metaphor for our vitality obsessed times.”
Three reviews of the same production by three different critics with three different opinions. What is important is that all of the reviewers supported their argument with facts and logic, which makes it worthy of consideration for the reader, with whom lies the final decision whether or not to see the play.