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Written by Suzan-Lori Parks
Date premiered July 26, 2001 (2001-07-26)
Place premiered The Public Theater
Original language English

Topdog/Underdog is a play by Suzan-Lori Parks. Parks received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2002 for the work.


The play chronicles the adult lives of two African American brothers, Lincoln and Booth, as they cope with women, work, poverty, gambling, racism, and their troubled upbringings.

Production history[edit]

Topdog/Underdog had a successful run off-Broadway in 2001 with Don Cheadle and Jeffrey Wright in the lead roles. The play had an extended run on Broadway at the Ambassador Theatre from April 7 - August 11, 2002, in which Cheadle was replaced by Mos Def.

In September 2012, Topdog/Underdog was revived by the Two River Theater Company in Red Bank, New Jersey.[1]

A 2011 production at the Shaw Festival in Canada starred Kevin Hanchard as Booth and Nigel Shawn Williams as Lincoln.[2] This production had a second run at The Theatre Centre in Toronto later in the same year through Obsidian Theatre Company.[3] Hanchard and Williams were both nominated for Outstanding Performance by a Male in a Principal Role – Play at the 2012 Dora Mavor Moore Awards; Williams won the award.[4] Director Philip Akin also won the Dora for Outstanding Direction of a Play/Musical.


in The New York Times, critic Ben Brantley wrote, "The play, first produced downtown at the Joseph Papp Public Theater last year, vibrates with the clamor of big ideas, audaciously and exuberantly expressed. Like Invisible Man Ralph Ellison's landmark novel of 1952, 'Topdog/Underdog' considers nothing less than the existential traps of being African-American and male in the United States, the masks that wear the men as well as vice versa. But don't think for a second that Ms. Parks is delivering a lecture or reciting a ponderous poem. Under the bravura direction of George C. Wolfe, a man who understands that showmanship and intellectual substance are not mutually exclusive, 'Topdog/Underdog' is a deeply theatrical experience."[5]



  1. ^ Gates, Anita. Deception and Betrayal, "All in the Family." New York Times. September 23, 2012.[1]
  2. ^ "Topdog/Underdog: Shaw scores with an intriguing, edgy drama". The Globe and Mail, August 8, 2011.
  3. ^ "Theatre Review: Topdog/Underdog". NOW, December 1, 2011.
  4. ^ "33rd Annual Dora Mavor Moore Awards". Theatromania, June 25, 2012.
  5. ^ Brantley, Ben. "Not to Worry, Mr. Lincoln, It's Just A Con Game." The New York Times. April 8, 2002.[2]

External links[edit]