How to Critique a Play

Writing a Good Critique

Unfortunately, the golden age of the theater has passed away. Today, this art is largely underestimated. Fewer visitors are capable of appreciating a theater performance duly. More and more people choose computer games, parties, or movies instead of live shows. Some even believe that such performances are old-fashioned and boring. Nevertheless, you should know how to prepare a good critique since it is a common academic assignment.

If you want to know how to critique a play, remember a simple rule – you need to understand the assignment and the play first. A good article critique looks at the heart of the whole performance and views it from numerous perspectives. A critique is a three-to-five-paragraph essay that strives to evaluate a play. It is both a formal and creative piece of writing.

Therefore, to get a good grade, you need to assess (instead of simply retelling the plot) a play in a creative (as opposed to boring) manner. The task is not easy, but this article will give you some valuable tips on how to succeed.

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How to Write a Critique of a Play in just Five Paragraphs

Remember, brevity is the soul of wit. Therefore, five paragraphs will be more than enough for you to prepare a quality critique of any play.

Paragraph 1

  • An Introduction: Provide the Basic Information about the Play

In this stage, you will need to gather some background information. Spend some time studying the biography of the author. Each author has a peculiar style and worldview that define the range of topics and theses, in which they are interested. Information on their achievements, prizes, and awards will help you understand the attitude of the general audience to this particular author.

Paragraph 2

  • Retelling the Plot

Of course, in a critique, you are supposed to analyze and not retell the plot. However, a very brief but clear description of the script is still needed to bring readers that have not seen the play yet up to speed. Do not go into details but write about the main events only. Next, discuss the tone and describe the major conflict and problems covered in the play. Focus on the milestones and twists in the plot. In other words, tell your reader where the play started and where it took you. Explain.

  • Interpreting the Plot

Now, it is time to discuss what the writer wanted to tell the audience. What is the main message? Did the writer succeed in communicating it to viewers? It is time to rely on your feelings and perception. There is hardly the right answer in this regard; your task is to prove your choice. As a rule, a play discusses a specific psychological or a pressing societal issue, for example, love, hate, fidelity, jealousy, duty, depression, moral choice, or values. The author may discuss either one or a few problems. Some plays might be multidimensional to simulate real life and make the audience interested in the story and believe the actors.

Paragraph 3

  • Introducing the Characters

First, name actors and the characters they played. Discuss whether the roles were cast appropriately or not. If you believe some actors did not match their characters, explain why. Which actors did their work brilliantly and which failed? Describe gestures, facial mobility, and movements of actors. Were they helpful or not? Define positive and negative characters; again, follow your feelings but try to stay objective and impartial.

Second, assess the direction. Share your understanding of the production concept. Did the writer provide some clues to understand his message or not? Was the story holistic? Did the elements fit together? Be specific and clear. What fails (if any) have you noticed?

Paragraph 4

  • Discussing the Design

To understand how to critique a play in the right manner, you should remember to describe each element of the performance and plot carefully.

Scenery: Did the author manage to create the right mood? Was the era for the play chosen right? What can you tell about the scenery? Did it help the audience understand the play? Without scenery, will the message still be understandable?

Light and illumination: Was the lightning used properly? Did it help in unraveling the plot and communicating the message? Did the director use any special lighting effects? If yes, was it well-executed? Did it contribute to the production of the plat as s whole?

Sound and Music: Sound is extremely important for not only musicals but also all plays, in general. Good music and sound effects can set the right mood and make the performance holistic. What do you think about the songs used and the orchestra’s performance? Share your impressions.

Makeup and Costumes: Were the costumes relevant to the chosen epoch? Was the makeup right? Did they help understand the characters and/ or the plot better?

Paragraph 5

  • Sharing Your Thoughts

If you want to know how to critique a play worth a good grade, remember that being sincere and objective is key. Do not be afraid of your thoughts and feelings. If you have found some flaws in the performance, describe them. It is crucial to justify your claims and explain your attitude. Was the plot clear and logical? Did the author provide the background of the characters? Was it easy to follow the events?

When you finish the critique, take a while to proofread and edit the paper. Go through it a few times to ensure that you have managed to create a worthy piece of writing that digs dip into the play to understand the author’s message.

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Theater Critique for Shakespeare’s « Hamlet» Wooden O Theatre Essay Sample

Theatre is an important part of enculturation, and staged performances often conform to the cultural aspects of the area where it takes place. That is why staging of Shakespearian classics, such as “Hamlet”, in Seattle took such an iconoclastic, non-conformist twist that was demonstrated in everything from the venue to the actors’ costumes. The city’s famous atmosphere of freedom is celebrated in the performances staged by Wooden O, especially when one is speaking about classics of drama. In this paper, the performance is viewed in the light of acting in an open-air venue which often proves to be challenging and analyzing the production team’s efforts to convey their vision of “Hamlet” to the viewers. The play’s directing, space, acting, costumes, and lighting seemed unstarched and not always perfect which serves as interesting study material for dramatic criticism. This unconstrained nature of the performance could be mistaken for little effort behind it; however, many details pointed out that it was a product of tremendous teamwork that was dedicated to shedding new light on Shakespeare’s legendary creation. 

The performance has taken place on August 7th, 2016 in Luther Burbank Amphitheater that is located on Mercer Island. The stage on which “Hamlet” was performed is slightly elevated over the ground and creates an ample area around it to be occupied by viewers. The green grass created a natural framing for the stage and drew attention to the casually clad actors. The natural landscape of the Amphitheatre is such that people wishing to see the play can install on the sloping hills around the stage or the artificially made stairs to the right from the stage. The stage’s space is not limited rigidly which gave a special air of dynamics to the whole performance. The back of the stage is also separated by uneven, roughly cut panels that are asymmetrical and serve as an entertaining backdrop. 

The play itself was certainly breathtaking, although this version was shortened by the director George Mount to fit the context of the play. However, all the important dialogues were kept intact. The plot was much more dynamic if compare it to the original and some of the long and dramatic pauses were omitted. Changes happened faster on the stage; the actors moved impeccably, fast enough to change the scenes and to take their new spots, but it did not feel rushed overall. George Mount is the director of the theatre, and his attitude towards the play is evident through his actions. When the actor who played Laertes fell sick one night Mount had stepped in for him and performed his role impeccably. He says that “the mind needs to be incredibly active to unravel the thoughts and the complexities of the characters and the subtleties of the words and the meaning” (qtd. Ficker, 2014). He is speaking about constantly revolving around the dialogue and re-assessing how the actors ought to live through their lines. He insists that Shakespearian’s dialogues are always on his mind, perhaps, that was why he stepped in for the ill actor so easily. 

However, the linguistic component of the dialogues sometimes fell short of the high expectations reserved for this performance. While the concept of having casually dressed characters speaking in Shakespearian language sounded more than exciting, many actors did not manage to make the words their own. Some had troubles with breathing techniques, diction, connecting their words and gestures. Dialogues and monologues are the heart and soul of his plays and acting is assessed entirely by the quality of the two. However, the protagonist, who was played by Conner Nedderson, certainly has conveyed the spirit of the language play. He mesmerized the audience with brilliant monologues that sounded like his own. Even children stopped their prattle for those few minutes and gaped at his magnificent acting. The actor mastered his role to perfection, exactly how the demanding director would expect of him: words, gestures, glances were all coherent and organic. The acting of the rest showed passion, greatness and superlative dedication, although not always the talent for the linguistic part of the play. The scene that was the most impressive was the one of fencing of Hamlet and Laertes. It was in the best tradition of the contemporary theater that was not loaded by too boisterous decorations but was purely built on motion, emotion, and interaction of actors with one another and hooking the audience in a thrill. 

Lighting was surely a unique feature of this staging of “Hamlet”. Because the performance took place in the middle of a park, the lights and shades that accompanied the performance were dictated by the time of the day. A bright clear afternoon sky did not eliminate the gloominess of Hamlet’s tragic destiny; his monologues did not get interrupted by the presence of the sunshine. On the contrary, the viewer had a great chance to plunge into the atmosphere wholly and experiencing this strange contrast. However, the bloody colors of the sunset that accompanied the scene of fencing added a dramatic touch over yet another death in the play. The pink tinge of the setting sun made all the actors’ faces aesthetical to the point of impossible. This was a great part of the performance. 

Costumes were designed in a minimalistic palette and according to the theater’s website, the designer is Jocelyne Fowler. It is necessary to note that the main color palette of the play was black, red and white. This harmony of colors could suggest many associations viewers had with them. For example, the royal red for the King and the Queen; yet, blood on their hands; tragic and reserved black worn by Hamlet himself, the white uniform of the fencer ready to be stained in blood, and so on. The only downright odd decision of the designer was to clad Queen Gertrude (played by Amy Fleetwood) into a very short dress that seemed to be too much out of place, even when the play was not meant to be conventional.   

Finally, the performance was not perfect because Shakespearian plays’ quality depends all too much on the right actions and dialogues. Maybe the idea of stripping the theatre of the walls and making the costume design very simple could have even amplified the greatness of the dialogues and would have underlined the efforts of the production team who have worked really hard to bring such performance to the spectators. However, it was exactly because of problems with the correct presentation of the dialogues and linguistically challenging monologues that did not make the right impression. Yet, the fusion of lighting, spacing, positioning of actors, minimalistic design has left an overall good impression and this product of experimental nature could still be called a success. All in all, George Mount and his production team did great work with staging such a complex performance in a challenging environment of the open-air stage with all its unpredictable elements.

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