What makes an actor great? Why is English theater better than American-or is it? How good is David Mamet, anyway?
John Heilpern, theater critic for "The New York Observer," has spent a career watching the plays and the players, the geniuses and the also-rans, the great and the not so great on both sides of the Atlantic, and writes about them with lightness and passion.
"How Good is David Mamet, Anyway?" is the best of John Heilpern's theater writings. The players are many: Vanessa Redgrave and Ralph Fiennes, Helen Mirren and George C. Wolfe, Fiona Shaw and Savion Glover, Karen Finley and David Mamet, and dozens of others. There's also an important essay on the differences between the British and American theater scenes, profiles of such legends as Noel Coward, Alec Guinness, and Michael Bennett, engaging pieces on such figures as Peter Brook and Robert Brustein, review-essays on dozens of great, good, and awful plays, as well as contrary opinions on some of our most widely admired playwrights. There are comic turns, too: "The Year of the Penis" and "The Art of Falling Asleep at the Theatre." Serious or witty, John Heilpern's criticism persuades us that theater matters, after all.
For anyone who loves the stage and its timeless mystery and fun, "How Good is David Mamet, Anyway?" is a chocolate box of a book.
"A new collection of [John Heilpern's] essays and reviews showcases the wit, intelligence, compassion, and range of one of theatre's premier critics. Whether he's being a fly-on-the-wall during an amusing luncheon with Sir Ralph Richardson and Sir John Gielgud or praising or damning the acting of Ralph Fiennes and Diana Rigg, Heilpern's prose always suggests a man who is passionately in love with the theatre... In a brilliant opening essay, Heilpern analyzes the differences between American and British theatre and each country's actors... This is a book you can read in small doses if you like-most of the reviews and essays are relatively short-but more likely you'll have a hard time putting it down."
"Lively... It's a nicely varied collection of the theater criticism and essays that the British-bred, New York-based writer has contributed to publications such as Vanity Fair and the New York Observer. The pieces--marked by a seemingly effortless, unpretentious and entertaining style that is full of passion, wit and erudition--range from a comparison of the British and American theater tradition, and profiles of Noel Coward, Alec Guinness and Michael Bennett, to reviews of the work of Samuel Beckett, Tony Kushner and Tennessee Williams, and of Kevin Spacey in "The Iceman Cometh" and Brian Dennehy in "Death of a Salesman.."
-"Chicago Sun Times
"When you come right down to it, reading Heilpern is as much fun as a trip to New York--and that's really saying something."
..."an absolutely marvelous, seriously hilarious compilation of his [Heilpern's] old reviews, along with his essays on the theater and why it matters...a sensational book fortheater lovers everywhere."
-"Time Out New York, December 2, 1999
"Those eager to take a breezy backward glance at the British and American theater of the past 30 years or so might happily page through John Heilpern's lively book...Marked by a seemingly effortless, unpretentious and entertaining style that is full of passion, wit and erudition."
-"Chicago Sun-Times, December 5, 1999