Author: Amnon   Kabatchnik

Publisher: The Scarecrow Press Inc.

ISBN: 978-0-8108-8354-3

“The first stage crime was committed in ancient Greece.”  With those auspicious words, Amnon Kabatchnik begins his excellent 37 page Introduction to the third volume of his monumental survey of plays of crime and mystery written in English largely for the American stage during the Twentieth Century; however, his Introduction is really a concise and readable history of crime stage drama on both sides of the Atlantic, and should serve students of the theatre well as an entertaining refresher of this particular genre.

Born in Tel Aviv, Israel, Amon Kabatchnik received his BS degree in theatre and journalism from Boston University; he also holds an MFA degree in directing from Yale School of Drama. He served as Professor of Theatre at several universities including Stanford University and Ohio State University. He has also directed numerous dramas, comedies, thrillers and musicals. Blood on the Stage 1975-2000, continues the study which began with three previous volumes in this series covering the years 1900-1975. Mr. Kabatchnik is also the author of Sherlock Holmes on the Stage.

The author refers to his series as an ‘Annotated Repertoire’, which it certainly is, providing extensive information about 82 plays. For example,  the entry on M Butterfly (1988) by David Henry Hwang covers seven pages.  Following its opening paragraph which gives the factual background to the narrative, there follows a detailed scene by scene description of the play. Then its stage history is given, followed by a three page biographical note on the author, David Hwang. The publisher of the acting edition is listed next, followed by the Awards and Honours received by the play; the entry is concluded with a list of its textual notes. This format is followed fairly closely for each of the 82 listed plays although in many of the summaries a section is added giving critics‘ assessments.

An additional feature of this excellent reference work is a series of five Appendices. Appendix A, titled Deadly Poison surveys in essay form the use of poison in stage drama since Euripides presented Medea in 431 BC; Appendix B, Twentieth -Century Courtroom Dramas lists plays since 1900 that unfold in a courtroom; Appendix C presentsTwentieth-Century Death-Row Plays; Appendix D deals with ‘Children in Peril’; and Appendix E lists by author ‘Notable One-Acts of Mayhem, Mischief, and Murder.

At $125.00, and one can only assume that the other volumes in the series are similarly priced, this excellent reference book is beyond most individual budgets; however, I must recommend that Public Libraries, School, College and University Libraries, invest in Mr. Kabatchnik’s three volume opus. I would further suggest that professional and amateur theatre groups invest similarly.

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