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  Topdog/Underdog at Lillian Theatre

Topdog/Underdog

Lillian Theatre
1076 Lillian Way Hollywood

Topdog/Underdog, a darkly comic fable of brotherly love and family identity, tells the story of two brothers, Lincoln and Booth, names given to them as a joke by their father. Haunted by the past and their obsession with the street con game, three-card monte, the brothers come to learn the true nature of their history as they cope with women, work, poverty, gambling, racism, and their troubled upbringings.

Thru - Sep 12, 2010



Price: $15-$25

Show Type: Comedy/Drama

Box Office: 323-962-0046



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  Topdog/Underdog Reviews
  • Highly Recommended
  • Recommended
  • Somewhat Recommended
  • Not Recommended

Los Angeles Times - Somewhat Recommended

"...Director Martin Papazian’s production offers plenty of texture, from Peter Wooley’s shabby apartment set, littered with porn magazines and milk crates, to Cricket S. Myers’ superb sound design, a jittery collage of jazz and rap. Yet despite strong performances, the storytelling feels muddy. Scenes feel impassioned but lack urgency, especially as the brothers turn on each other to survive. Were Lincoln and Booth dealt bad hands, or do they doom themselves? Parks keeps her cards to herself and lets the audience decide."
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Charlotte Stoudt


LA Weekly - Highly Recommended

"...Life isn't unbearably wretched for him; he has a "real" job as an arcade attraction playing the Great Emancipator -- complete with whiteface, fake beard, stovepipe and trashy overcoat -- while patrons shoot him for recreation. Once a master of the three-card monte street hustle, he now salves what's left of his dignity with false hopes and Jack Daniels. His pistol-packing brother, however, dreams of being the ultimate monte player, seeing the game as his ticket out of poverty and an affirmation of his manhood. Parks sketches an ugly portrait of thwarted urban life, sibling rivalry and crippling self-delusion. Though not much happens in this two-hour comedy, the writing is thoroughly engaging. Yet it's Walton and Murtadha's rugged, emotionally charged performances that work the magic."
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Lovell Estell III


Backstage - Highly Recommended

"...Papazian has put together a satisfying package to frame this tale. The gritty picture painted by scenic designer Peter Wooley, together with lighting by Heather & Rich Designs, is striking, and Cricket S. Myers' powerful sound design adds a plaintive edge. But it's as it should be that the evening belongs to the actors: Walton's puppylike, baby-faced firecracker is a fantastic counterpart to Murtadha's complex, defeated "philosophizer." Together they are funny and touching and terrifying. And even if there are a few missteps—and it's definitely a stretch for the actors to sustain the enormous burden of this material for the duration—the evening has more than its fair share of high points. In the end, this "Topdog/Underdog" delivers."
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Jennie Webb


LA Theatre Review - Recommended

"...Friends. Work. Family. No matter the social dynamic, everybody somehow plays a role in the perpetual grab for power at some time or another. We either defend it, fight to get it or merely try to steer clear of it. The play, Topdog/Underdog, by Suzan Lori-Parks, tells the story of two brothers, Lincoln and Booth, who struggle to top the other as they desperately try to establish their individual identities amidst the ruins of their shared past."
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Freddy Puza


Stage Scene LA - Not Recommended

"...if Renee Zellweger had Tom Cruise at hello in Jerry McGuire, Topdog/Underdog lost me pretty much from its opening monolog—African American would-be con artist/“Underdog” Booth practicing his three-card monte routine—a monolog which seemed to go on forever. The arrival of his “Topdog” sibling Lincoln dressed improbably in whiteface and wearing an Abe Lincoln stovepipe hat and Amish beard didn’t help matters."
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Steven Stanley


ArtsBeatLA - Recommended

"...For more than two and a half hours in a one-room, hellish flat, a brutal battle rages between two brothers (M.D. Walton and A.K. Murtadha) betrayed by their own and their country's history. As it turns out, writer Suzan-Lori Parks has something more elusive in mind. It is the Lillian Theatre's new production of "Topdog/Underdog," Parks' Pulitzer Prize-winning play which struggles to make articulate and perhaps universal a kind of terrifying self-hatred and anger that ultimately remains uniquely personal and tragically devoid of resolution."
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Laurence Vittes


   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 opening night judges of The Joseph Jefferson Awards Committee. The entire production is then eligible for nomination for awards at the end of the season.


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