“For the Page as well as the Stage, #3”

A review by Joey Madia

There’s nothing like a pandemic to adjust one’s perspective and beckon new ways of being.

Since April, I’ve added a few select, exquisitely written and constructed plays to my review list. All have been solicitations from the playwrights. Having a theatre company that is indefinitely mothballed as far as presenting plays for live audiences and being a playwright myself, I have great sympathy for these works without a home, without a mechanism to reach an audience, as well as for their creators.

So I am doing what I can to make a case that certain plays can offer almost as much to a reader as they can to an audience. After all, that is how good plays get produced… they are read by a dramaturg, director, or producer and, if the strength of their vision, the weight of their words, the complexity and authenticity of their characters, and the energy of their narrative are sufficiently compelling, the playwright’s work is lifted off of the page and onto the stage.

A reader can do this work of engaged, discerning reading just as well as most directors or producers because all you need is inherently already there. Continue reading

The Blood of Squirrels

“For the Page as well as the Stage”

A Review by Joey Media

Some days, it is splendid to be a reviewer.

Most days, honestly. But the days when a little gift is delivered to my email in-box in the form of a book—or a play—that is in need of some attention, some publicity… those are the best for me.

Of the nearly 200 reviews I have written, roughly 180 of them are of fiction and nonfiction books. I have also reviewed music and videos. And also some plays.

Plays are interesting to review. An argument is often made that teaching Shakespeare as literature instead of theatre is detrimental. Well, of course you are missing the performance element, which is what the plays were expressly written for… but more people have probably read those plays than seen them, so overall it’s been helpful.

And here we are, five months into the pandemic, with Broadway shut down until at least 2021 and regional and small theatres struggling and closing. As a result, (millions of) people are watching plays on cable: Hamilton comes to mind, as well as the Danny Boyle–directed Frankenstein from the National Theatre starring Jonny Lee Miller and Benedict Cumberbatch that was available on YouTube several months ago. Continue reading

The Jewel in the Manuscript

Review of a Stage Play by Joey Madia

Fyodor Dostoevsky is recognized by many as one of history’s greatest novelists (myself included). Crime and Punishment is ubiquitous in high school and college literature classes, and Notes From Underground, the Brothers Karamasov, and The Idiot beg numerous readings over the course of one’s life.

His novels dig deeply into the human psyche, tackle complex moral issues, and are rich in both characterization and imagery.

That said, I knew little about the personal life of the man whose novels were part of the reason why I became a writer. And so it was, with no hesitation and great interest, that I accepted the request to read and review this play, which, as the playwright tells us, “was inspired by events in Dostoevsky’s life.” “Inspired by” is a phrase I much prefer in place of “based on a true story.” It gives the writer ample room for interpretation, as “inspiration” indicates the writer’s role clearer than “based on.” Because of “inspired by,” I did not fact check the play beyond the playwright’s own notes to the reader at the end of the script. Continue reading

Young Shakespeare’s Young Hamlet: Print, Piracy, and Performance

review by Paige Ambroziak

Not too long ago I came across “Shakespeare’s Badass Quarto” in the Chronicle of Higher Education, which details the latest controversy about the first edition of Hamlet. Though I have worked on Hamlet and am inclined to linger over its narrative aspects, debates about the historicity of the text are riveting, nonetheless. For anyone who doesn’t know, there are three printed versions of the tragedy, the First Quarto (1603), the Second Quarto (1604), and the First Folio edition of 1623. The First Quarto has always been suspect and a bit of a bastard child, if it is even considered the master’s offspring. I happen to love that edition best. It is shorter, tighter, and less about a hesitant and incapable prince than a young heir facing a suspect stepfather. The differences between the editions have been widely examined and discussed, as well as prove viable as evidence for both sides, which brings me to my point. After reading Ron Rosenbaum’s article in the Chronicle, I picked up Terri Bourus’s Young Shakespeare’s Young Hamlet, which he had discussed in depth since it convincingly heralds a much needed change to our perception of Shakespeare’s most famous tragedy. Bourus claims the 1603 Hamlet is the playwright’s original version, first performed on the Elizabethan stage in 1589. Continue reading

The Plays of Jon Lipsky, Volume Two

“Of Dreams and Dogs and Jazz”

Review by Joey Madia

If the plays in Volume One of this collection are like a sprout bursting through the soil from a carefully cultivated seed, the four plays in Volume Two are the unfolding of a complex, beautiful patch of flowers, quite unlike each other, or any other, yet recognizable all the same.

I consider it a privilege to have the opportunity to share my thoughts on what is now the third book containing the works and ideas of Jon Lipsky. His Dreaming Together: Explore Your Dreams by Acting Them Out (Larson Publications), has had a considerable impact on my theatre education and play-making career, and two of the four plays in Volume Two are directly related to Lipsky’s ground-breaking dreamwork. Continue reading