Great Lengths: Seven Works of Marathon Theater Hardcover – Oct 6 2011
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Winner of the George Freedley Memorial Award from the Theatre Library Association
(Theatre Library Association 2012-07-19)
—John H. Muse, Modern Drama
—John H. Muse, Modern Drama
"...Kalb's fine-tuned prose, his dryly witty but earnest voice and his ability to make deep connections across centuries and continents make Great Lengths a steady and exciting read. It also functions as a marvelous history of Western drama that summarizes a number of theorretical constructs from Aristotle's prescriptive Poetics to Lehman's concept of 'post-dramatic' theater."
(David Cote American Theatre 2012-03-08)
About the Author
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Kalb weaves his impressive historical knowledge of theather into detailed descriptions of marathon productions he has seen and studied. The opinions of other critics are likewise woven into the immediate descriptions of the works. For example, while sharing the swirl of criticsm that surrounded the Mahabharata at the time of its showing in New York, Kalb also gives us a keen visceral sense of being there in the theater with him to see the show. The politics behind Angels in America, both in the theater world and in the country at large, is woven into eloquent descriptions of the show, each actor and their performance. The energy, the rise and fall within each production, and the success of each work are all carefully shown.
This makes for fascinating reading. I felt privileged to "see" these masterworks through Kalb's eyes, and it made me more interested than ever to witness marathon theater myself in the future. This is criticism at its best--when thater history, politics and aesthetic debate all inform carefully wrought descriptions of the plays as performed.
Kalb's love of the theater, his respect and occasional awe for the playwrights, directors and actors is what propels this book. He is passionate about great theater and shares that passion through dynamic scholarship.
Cons: I cannot fault the author for taking an academic stance at times, and when he does, he does a good job of making obtuse cultural concepts accessible to anyone with a basic appreciation of culture and theory. However, I found the analysis of Angels in America more difficult than the others. Perhaps this is in tandem with the complexity of the work; perhaps it is because of my own background in queer theory. There is a lot written about this play and for good reason because it isn't easy to navigate. I have sought an analysis that I could really get into for some time, and the treatment here approaches a good combination of thoroughness and theory, but I still felt unresolved at the end, like there was more to say but it was maybe not polite or savvy to do so.
Summary: I challenge you to find another book on this subject that isn't the subject of a dissertation, as this book examines some of the most ambitious works ever performed. More-over, it is written with a conscious and penetrating style, to offer depth where once I saw none, and complexity where once I generalized. It is an *enjoyable* work of criticism, which I seldom encounter. 4.5 stars.