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  topdog/underdog at American Theater Company


American Theater Company
1909 W Byron Chicago

Suzan-Lori Parks’ Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece explores two brothers: Lincoln, ex-“3-card” player turned legitimate entertainer, and Booth, a petty thief who wants to learn his brother’s game. Lincoln and Booth struggle to make a new life that will finally lead them out of poverty.

Thru - Mar 8, 2009

Price: $35-$40

Show Type: Drama

Box Office: 773-409-4125

Running Time: 2hrs; one intermission

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  topdog/underdog Reviews
  • Highly Recommended
  • Recommended
  • Somewhat Recommended
  • Not Recommended

Chicago Tribune - Highly Recommended

"...This is, of course, a superb play, wherein two brothers probe the void between self-ameliorating cultural respectability and being masters of their own con game. Because the legacy of Abraham Lincoln is one of its main preoccupations, it has arrived in Chicago for an apt anniversary and political moment."
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Chris Jones

Chicago Reader - Somewhat Recommended

"...Capitalizing on the jazzy, syncopated rhythm of the dialogue, director Derrick Sanders turns this American Theater Company-Congo Square Theatre co-production--running in repertory with Sam Shepard's True West, another Cain and Abel story (see separate listing)--into one long, flaying war of words. The flaw is that Daniel Bryant's ill-defined Booth is outmatched by the mesmerizing vocal dexterity of Anthony Irons as Lincoln."
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Zac Thompson

Windy City Times - Recommended

"...If Parks' dialogue comes at you like jazz ( Irons especially has the riffs down to a virtuosic patter ) , Brumlow and Grush deliver escalating explosions. Listen, for instance, to Grush's crescendoing frustration with crickets—by the time he absolutely loses it over the benign but uncontrollable insects, ( about the time of day when “coyotes … kill peoples' cocker spaniels” ) you'd swear his head was about to blow halfway to kingdom come."

Catey Sullivan

Chicago Free Press - Recommended

"...Parks’ vivid vision of poverty and the anger of abandonment leaps over pigment and stunningly connects as an unfortunate universal condition. Lincoln, a former hustler, is crashing in his brother’s rundown transit residence. While Lincoln daily enacts the death of the former president for others’ itchy pleasure, Booth stumblingly tries to enact the card moves that made his brother the talk of the streets. Lincoln, stunned by a former partner’s death, refuses to help his eager brother iron out his clunky skills despite his needy bribery and stinging manipulation."
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Brian Kirst

Time Out Chicago - Recommended

"...Parks’s 2001 Pulitzer winner is more overt in its intentions. Lincoln (Irons) spends his days in whiteface playing President Lincoln at a shooting gallery; given that his no-account shoplifting brother’s name is Booth (Bryant), there’s little doubt how the evening will end, but the beauty of Parks’s language and the sharpness of her observations make for a bracing in-between."
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Kris Vire

ChicagoCritic - Highly Recommended

"...The bottom line on this show is simple: great play, great direction, great acting. Topdog/underdog is must see on its own and in the context of the repertory offering at ATC even more inviting."
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Randy Hardwick

   This show has been Jeff Recommended*

*The designation of "Jeff Recommended" is given to a production when at least ONE ELEMENT of the show was deemed outstanding by the Joseph Jefferson Awards Committee.

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