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What main points should be focused on when criticizing or analyzing a play?How to write...
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High School Teacher
There are several aspects of a theatrical performance that must be included in a review.
First, make sure to state what you saw, where you saw it, and when you saw it. You should give a brief synopsis and discuss the theme of the play.
The rest of the critique should focus on three major elements: Acting, Directing, Production Values.
You should describe the principal actors in detail - what they did well and what was wanting. You might also mention a chorus or smaller role if they were noteworthy in some way (either good or bad). Make sure to not confuse the actors and the characters.
Directing is a little more difficult to see, especially if it's good. You should discuss the blocking (movement of the actors), the pace, and the overall vision of the piece. This last bit is the hard part to see. Consider whether the production is unified -- all of the pieces working together to communicate the playwright's theme.
Production Values is a large umbrella term for all of the technical aspects of a performance: set design, lighting, props, costumes, lighting, sound, special effects, etc. There may be separate designers to credit, so be careful who you are blaming or praising.
You want to tie your piece together by discussing the message that was sent, either purposefully or by accident, by the various constituencies involved. Was the performance effective communicating a message? Did it move you?
Posted by playsthething on September 21, 2011 at 10:30 AM (Answer #1)
High School Teacher
Your answer depends on whether you are critiquing a play as literature, meaning a play on the page, or a play as performance. If it is the former, your approach is similar to critiquing any piece of literature. Think in terms of theme, dialogue, character and plot. What is the play about (theme)? Is the theme relevant to the universal human experience? Is the playwright tackling issues that matter or are they just going for laughs. What type of play is it? Comedy, tragedy, or is it somewhere on the spectrum in between those two opposites? What style is the play? Is it an example of natural ism or theatricalism, with naturalism being more realistic and theatricalism being more abstract and overtly theatrical. Is the dialogue organic? Do the characters speak in a way that is believable? Are the characters believable? More important, are they compelling? Who is the main character and what is their goal? What or who is the obstacle to that goal? Is the resolution satisfying? Rather than offering a complete summary of the plot, reveal the plot through your analysis of the previous elements.
However, if you are critiquing a performance of the play, a brief summary of the plot is standard practice. You would be wise to analyze the theme, dialogue and characters as in a literary critique, but you must relate the same to the effectiveness of the actors and the production itself. You need to introduce your critiques with details about where and when the production was staged. You also need to critique technical aspects of the production, including set, lighting and costume design. And you should discuss the director’s contributions, or lack thereof. Did the director serve the play well? Was there an apparent vision in his approach? In terms of the acting, was there a performance that really stood out? In the end, no matter how sophisticated the endeavor, the play is a show, and it must entertain. The New York Times presents dozens of play reviews every week, and their archive would be a great place to look for models.
Posted by brucepost on October 23, 2011 at 4:09 AM (Answer #2)
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