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Topdog/Underdog

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  3,864 Ratings  ·  108 Reviews
A darkly comic fable of brotherly love and family identity is Suzan-Lori Parks latest riff on the way we are defined by history. The play tells the story of Lincoln and Booth, two brothers whose names were given to them as a joke, foretelling a lifetime of sibling rivalry and resentment. Haunted by the past, the brothers are forced to confront the shattering reality of the ...more
Paperback, 112 pages
Published June 1st 2001 by Theatre Communications Group
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Alex Cunningham
May 27, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: underdogs, also topdogs
Pulitzer Prize? Who cares. MacArthur "Genius" grant? No big deal. The literary establishment rightly has buried this play with praise, none of it able to bear weight once you've read or seen this play. The words are electric. The subtext is playfully obvious and rife with tension. The requisite "bucking of literary conventions" turns out to be a miraculous way to depict rhythm on the page. Lori-Parks knocks this one right out of the stadium and into your lap.

ps: Don Cheadle premiered the role of
...more
Francisco Cardona
Sep 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I saw this play some years ago when the A.C.T. performed it in San Francisco. I remember enjoying the rhythm of the language that carried the play. But recently, I wanted to start searching for literature that was focused on how generations inform one another. Especially after Ferguson, where there arose two types of discourse about what happened. On the one hand, the events were being described as an isolated incident where someone broke the law that led to tragic consequences. On the other han ...more
Jeremy
Feb 21, 2008 rated it it was ok
One of the most over-rated plays I've ever seen or read.
Nicole
May 02, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: plays
I didn't love it as much as I loved Father Comes Home From the Wars, but it had that play's opposite problem. Where that soared in the middle, this one dragged a bit, before lurching to an electric conclusion. I feel like onstage I would enjoy the ritual repetition of the card game spiel, but it got to be a drag to read.
Jessica Barkl
This is the summary I found in goodreads:
"A darkly comic fable of brotherly love and family identity is Suzan-Lori Parks latest riff on the way we are defined by history. The play tells the story of Lincoln and Booth, two brothers whose names were given to them as a joke, foretelling a lifetime of sibling rivalry and resentment. Haunted by the past, the brothers are forced to confront the shattering reality of their future."

I chose this play because many of my students at SUNY Sullivan are Afric
...more
MacK
Dec 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This year I put a little more focus on teaching dramatic literature, stuff that comes in script form. It's a lot easier for students to immerse themselves in a world where actions and words are all that matter (and descriptions and imagery are minimal).

First came Susan Lori-Parks' Top Dog/Underdog, a rather daring piece of theatre from 2001. I first read it when my brother Matt showed me just how powerful modern plays could be in comparison with the classics. How honest and raw was this relation
...more
Tung
Jan 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: drama
The 2002 Pulitzer winner for drama. This two-person play focuses on two African-American brothers and their struggle with their past (their childhood and their abandonment by both parents) and their present (both are down-on-their-luck). Lincoln is the older brother whose internal conflict weighs security and responsibility against respectability and success and the chance to make money illegally. Booth is the younger brother who dreams big dreams about himself, who wants to live bigger than he ...more
Mickey
Jan 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
As a playwright I really appreciate this play. The characters are well rounded and incredible to watch. There's a wonderful musical rhythm to Parks' writing that shines in this piece. The set up of two brothers named Booth and Lincoln with Lincoln dressing up part time as Honest Abe at an arcade pretty much tells you how it's going to end but watching them get there is a incredible journey. Booth's desperate desire to be like his brother when he was a hustler and Lincoln's desire to avoid becomi ...more
Shanae
Apr 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I recommend everything written by Suzan-Lori Parks and Topdog/Underdog is no exception. Parks is a very down-to-earth sister. Her love of American history is so pervasive throughout her work. I'm a really big fan of hers. Topdog/Underdog has been one of the most fascinating literary works, I've read this year. This play is only a about 120 pages and can easily be read in one day, but it's the themes and ideas at work in the play that keep you thinking for about a week. It's worth it, though.
Nicki
May 28, 2011 rated it liked it
2002 Pulitzer: one of the most disturbing and forceful plays I've ever read. I just kept thanking my lucky stars that I was reading it and not watching it be performed, I just don't know how my psyche would digest everything in this play. Powerful.
Graph
Jul 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing
love this play,great story, and amazing to see it live again and again, a story that is illuminated even brighter by interpretation of director and actors in each production, it's like a story that's never the same whenever you see it!
Ana Rînceanu
The symbolism in this play was great and I need to see this play performed. What kind of a father names his sons Lincoln and Booth?
Sidik Fofana
Aug 27, 2010 rated it liked it
(SIX WORD REVIEW): The Ghetto Cain and Abel...meh.
Colin Cox
Sep 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Suzan-Lori Parks' Topdog/Underdog explores the complicated and occasionally violent relationships between male siblings. By peppering the play with questions and conversations about sex, power, work, race, and inequality, Park presents a rich tapestry of ideas that are simultaneously contemporary and timeless.

The play's conclusion is jarring, potentially sensational but ultimately predictable since Parks' attention to power and power dynamics permeates so much of the play. Throughout the play, B
...more
Gabie (OwlEyesReviews)
I did not expect to enjoy this one as much as I did! I really enjoyed watching these characters and their journey throughout this play. I would REALLY love to see this one live. I would love to see what happens when this play comes to life. Hopefully I'll get to watch it live in my future!
Connor
Sep 12, 2017 rated it it was ok
The dialogue is pretty bad, the characters alternate between painfully transparent and going on "deep rants about childhood".
Michael Meeuwis
Nov 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Here's something I would say about plays only rarely: this is a genuinely gripping read, start to finish.
Alyssa Rubin
Aug 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Rhythmic, fraught, and heart-stopping, even on the page.
Paul LaFontaine
Jul 09, 2017 rated it it was ok
Dark and depressing. Two brothers trying to keep it together. In the end their conflict spirals out of control. In the end I was wondering why I had read it.
Elizabeth
Mar 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this play. There are a lot of things left to the interpretation of the reader/viewer, and I love when plays allow that.
There is a lot here to digest, but there are also things which are less ambiguous, such as the race issue vaguely addressed but heavily symbolized.
It's also just a generally good play. If you want to delve deeper you definitely can, but you dont have to in order to enjoy it.
Rui Carlos da Cunha
Learning about the Three-Card Monte routine from a play is brilliant.

Now I have a slight understanding into what might take place in cities where tourists are plenty and some are gullible enough to fall for a street hustler like Link/Lincoln. That the end of the play is tragic is hardly news when Booth/3-Card always has a gun on him.

Perhaps I have a more vivid imagination than others for envisioning this play on the stage just by reading the text. I wish others could have enjoyed the writing st
...more
Jessica
Dec 27, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
My Amazon review: Suzan-Lori Parks' Pulitzer Prize winning play, Topdog Underdog, shows the strength of Parks' ability to write convincing dialogue, to develop memorable characters and in the process to create something of a meaningful nature. Certainly this two-man play contains black male stereotypes that are uncomfortable to deal with, however this seems to be the point. While the reader hopes that Lincoln and Booth are caricatures, or at the very least are only representative of an extinct p ...more
Daniel
Sep 24, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: plays, theatre
Generally I've been surprisingly impressed with the Pulitzer Prize winning dramas. Often I find major award winning writing to be over-hype crap. The Pulizter's for drama that I have read have been pleasant gems. Until now.

This 2002 award winner, is the story of two African-American brothers (Lincoln and Booth), sorting out their lives. They hustle, steal, con, and try to work legitimate-but-low-paying jobs. Their past is nearly as amorphous as their future.

One of the ways in which I rate plays
...more
Ari
I have no idea why I put this book on my reading list in 2010, I forgot all about it until I was looking through my 'to-read' Goodreads section and saw this title. I had to read the book for my African American Literary Drama class during the spring 2013 semester. I am so so glad I had the opportunity to read this book. My only regret is that I did not see it live with Don Cheadle and Jeffrey Wright or Mos Def and Jeffery Wright.

The rhythmic nature of the story and the dialogue, the large shado
...more
Joshua Novalis
Oct 31, 2011 rated it liked it
Topdog/Underdog is an intriguing post-modernish play documenting the strained, yet loving relationship between two card-hustling brothers, aptly named Lincoln and Booth. Suzan-Lori Parks definitely shows her ability to shoot energy to her audience through the electric dialogue between Lincoln and Booth, making the play feel truly alive. Lincoln and Booth are both strongly realized characters, displaying strengths, weaknesses, desires, passions, and struggles. I truly enjoyed their conversations ...more
Lianne
Oct 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
I have also read Suzan-Lori Parks' novel Getting Mother's Body, and her play Venus and I am continuously impressed with her. I love the way she writes language the way it would be spoken: sometimes difficult to understand, not always with proper grammar, and different for each person.

Topdog/Underdog tells the story of two brothers: Lincoln, the topdog, and Booth (aka 3-card), the underdog, who are obsessed with the street con game three-card monte. Lincoln describes why they were given their nam
...more
Isabella
Aug 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Lovers of tragedy and broken characters
Actual Rating: 4.6 Stars
Soundtrack: The Hand Is Quicker by Aloe Blacc

“You're only yourself when no one's watching!”

Raw and riveting, Topdog/Underdog is a play worth remembering.

Being required reading for my Intro to Theatre class, I had no idea what to expect from this play. I was surprised from the first page, and as I continued to read, the quick, brutal beat to it really captured me. It is a tragic tale of brothers and the turbulent relationship between them; so tense and rough like sandpap
...more
Peter Orvetti
Feb 03, 2016 rated it liked it
I was not sure what to make of this play. It deals with two adult brothers living in shared quarters, some years after being abandoned first by their mother and later by their father. Lincoln was a master Three-Card Monte hustler who retired after one of his crew was the victim of violence; his brother Booth now wants to take up his brother's mantle but lacks his talent. Lincoln now has a strange job dressing up as his historical namesake in a seedy arcade gallery and letting people shoot him wi ...more
Peter
Dec 05, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction
I am a casual reader of drama and a casual theater-goer; so take my opinion here for what it is worth. I picked up Topdog/Underdog because it had won a Pulitzer Prize. I was very disappointed. 109 pages of largely inane dialog that ends with tragedy -- tragedy that I as a reader did not feel a bit. There is a certain cleverness here: characaters named Booth and Lincoln; Lincoln works as Abe Lincoln at an arcade where he is shot throughout the day. This play obviously did something for other read ...more
Alexander Davidson
Aug 07, 2015 rated it it was ok
Brothers Booth and Lincoln seemed destined for failure, but they continue to keep working to improve their lives. Lincoln's wife has just kicked him out of the house so he is sleeping in his brother's apartment on the La-Z-Boy. Booth is without a job but gets by lifting items and relying on Lincoln's paycheck. Lincoln is... a Lincoln impersonator (a black Lincoln in white-face). He sits at an arcade and people get to come up and shoot him. (Weird.) Lincoln gave up his life in the three-card-mont ...more
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Suzan-Lori Parks is an award-winning American playwright and screenwriter. She was a recipient of the MacArthur Foundation "Genius" Grant in 2001, and received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2002. She is married to blues musician Paul Oscher.

More about Suzan-Lori Parks...
“you're only yourself when no ones watching!” 32 likes
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