THE RISK THEATRE MODEL OF TRAGEDY: Gambling, Drama, and the Unexpected by Edwin Wong provides a new and enthralling theory of tragedy. Wong immediately captivates readers by discussing the troika model of theater, or a play in three parts. He discusses the rule of three as a universal theme, including examples such as the Christian trinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. From there Wong dives into the risk element of tragic theater, using both classic examples such as Macbeth, Doctor Faustus, and Oedipus Rex and his own models of risk theater including “standalone”, “parallel-motion,” “backloaded” and “gradual” tragedy among others.
Wong’s risk theory model applies to tragedies from virtually every era of human history. The protagonist always casts his or her die at some point in tragedy, such as Macbeth’s murder of the king in the Shakespearean tale, to achieve glory in whatever form. Yet since tragedies are just that, these risks, while sometimes heroic and sometimes self-serving, do not beget happy endings. The risks form what Wong refers to as the “myth of the price the price you pay.”
The many types of risk theater Wong outlines throughout this outstanding book speak to the human condition. People make the best decisions they can based on what they know and what is presented to them, which in risk theater always creates tragic results. Tragic plays showcase the raw brutality of life, emphasizing the idea that there is “there is no free lunch.” So while the characters in tragic plays take risks, even if the gambles have good intentions, they always include consequences.
THE RISK THEATRE MODEL OF TRAGEDY will undoubtedly appeal to actors on every level, especially those who have performed in tragedies. Tragic plays are mirrors of the human condition, showing the best and absolute worst of humanity. Wong’s tragedy models and dissection of how risk theater works will inspire actors to reach deeper into the human psyche, prompting them to make their characters richer and more sympathetic, despite their flaws or bad intentions.
Wong also provides valuable information for those interested in writing tragic plays, noting how some models arguably work better than others. His most surprising example of a tragedy lacking “dramatic crispness” is Othello, noting that Iago’s motivation for destroying the moor remains muddled. Yet Iago is the representation of the id, the part of human consciousness that tells people they are unworthy, that their family and friends do not really love them. In this way the green-eyed monster that is Iago is as relevant and “crisp” as ever.
THE RISK THEATRE MODEL OF TRAGEDY is a fascinating dissection of tragic theater, focusing on both universal themes and specific tragedy models and is a must-read for any “theater geek.”
~Kent Page McGroarty for IndieReader