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Great Lengths: Seven Works of Marathon Theater Hardcover – October 6, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


Winner of the George Freedley Memorial Award from the Theatre Library Association

(Theatre Library Association 2012-07-19)

Winner of the George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism
(George Jean Nathan Award 2012-12-07)

George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism
(George Jean Nathan Award 2012-12-07)

"Like Kushner's lasagna of a good play, Great Lengths is stuffed, packed in this case with rich journalistic descriptions of landmark productions and earnest meditations on the value and necessity of theatre. For these reasons, it will be read and enjoyed for a very long time indeed."
—John H. Muse, Modern Drama
(Modern Drama 2013-02-21)

Great Lengths is a major achievement in theatre history and criticism… Balancing rigorous scholarship with vivid first-person accounts that transport the reader to each show, this absorbing book will engage theatre aficionados as well as students and scholars.”
—John H. Muse, Modern Drama
(Modern Drama 2013-02-21)

"...Kalb's fine-tuned prose, his dryly witty but earnest voice and his ability to make deep connections across centuries and continents make Great Lengths a steady and exciting read. It also functions as a marvelous history of Western drama that summarizes a number of theorretical constructs from Aristotle's prescriptive Poetics to Lehman's concept of 'post-dramatic' theater."
American Theatre

(David Cote American Theatre 2012-03-08)

About the Author

Jonathan Kalb is a theater critic and scholar whose work has appeared in Village Voice and New York Press. He is Professor in the Department of Theater at Hunter College, City University of New York, and author of Beckett in Performance and The Theater of Heiner Müller.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: University of Michigan Press (October 6, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0472117955
  • ISBN-13: 978-0472117956
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,365,787 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Virginia Pye on March 16, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I came to this book of scholarship knowing nothing, or at least very little, about marathon theater. Kalb's easy and intelligent style brought me into this particular, and perhaps most refined, corner of the theater world. But, I did not feel that either the subject or his writing were too erudite for me to enjoy the beauty and intelligence of long theater works.

Kalb weaves his impressive historical knowledge of theather into detailed descriptions of marathon productions he has seen and studied. The opinions of other critics are likewise woven into the immediate descriptions of the works. For example, while sharing the swirl of criticsm that surrounded the Mahabharata at the time of its showing in New York, Kalb also gives us a keen visceral sense of being there in the theater with him to see the show. The politics behind Angels in America, both in the theater world and in the country at large, is woven into eloquent descriptions of the show, each actor and their performance. The energy, the rise and fall within each production, and the success of each work are all carefully shown.

This makes for fascinating reading. I felt privileged to "see" these masterworks through Kalb's eyes, and it made me more interested than ever to witness marathon theater myself in the future. This is criticism at its best--when thater history, politics and aesthetic debate all inform carefully wrought descriptions of the plays as performed.

Kalb's love of the theater, his respect and occasional awe for the playwrights, directors and actors is what propels this book. He is passionate about great theater and shares that passion through dynamic scholarship.
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Pros: When I began reading this, the only book I could find that detailed a performance of Goethe's Faust I and II (which is seldom performed, let alone written about), I was under the false impression that this critic was only going to cover the highlights of these long performances. I was pleasantly surprised by the depth of analysis provided in this book. I can't say I've seen all the performances covered here, as each is a sort of marathon of theater, but this book left me with an appreciation of the place and intent of Einstein on the Beach and Nicholas Nickleby, which I had actively avoided, and broader critical perspective on The Ramayana and my beloved Faust, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Even seeing all of these performances is a noteworthy feat, but the discussion here goes far beyond simply conveying their immensity, artistry, and flaws.

Cons: I cannot fault the author for taking an academic stance at times, and when he does, he does a good job of making obtuse cultural concepts accessible to anyone with a basic appreciation of culture and theory. However, I found the analysis of Angels in America more difficult than the others. Perhaps this is in tandem with the complexity of the work; perhaps it is because of my own background in queer theory. There is a lot written about this play and for good reason because it isn't easy to navigate. I have sought an analysis that I could really get into for some time, and the treatment here approaches a good combination of thoroughness and theory, but I still felt unresolved at the end, like there was more to say but it was maybe not polite or savvy to do so.
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Great Lengths: Seven Works of Marathon Theater
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