Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Review: TOPDOG/UNDERDOG at Princeton Summer Theater brings Pulitzer-prize winning drama to town!

Review: TOPDOG/UNDERDOG at Princeton Summer Theater brings Pulitzer-prize winning drama to town! Actors Travis Raeburn and Nathaniel J. Ryan are fascinating to watch in the roles of Booth and Lincoln, brothers in TOPDOG/UNDERDOG, the Pulitzer-prize winning play by Suzan-Lori Parks now running at Princeton Summer Theater.

The actors are well-matched and well-cast, drawing the audience deeply into an emotionally charged 150 minutes of theater. Princeton residents should take note of the incubator of talent residing in Hamilton Murray Theater each summer under the auspices of Princeton Summer Theater. This production is yet another example of the remarkable talent and resources PST assembles to offer a season with scope and variety.

When it comes to play's plot and greater meaning, the title and character names are clues. But as director Lori Elizabeth Parquet says in her director's note, not every question will be answered in this story about two brothers, the game of life and 3-card monte, their past, and hope for the future. Parquet poses a fundamental question: how well do you know the black men in your life?

If we are willing to listen to this story, "-with your body, mind, and spirit-to what is presented, perhaps you will be moved to seek the answers for yourself," she writes. We are, indeed, given the chance to contemplate how well we know the black men in our lives as we try to understand the two occupying this play.

Technical director Jeff Van Velsor mentors a crew of local high school interns, and Rakesh Potluri of Skillman, a recent Princeton Day School graduate and incoming Princeton University freshman, designed the set.

Topdog/Underdog, by Suzan-Lori Parks. Directed by Lori Elizabeth Parquet. Hamilton Murray Theater. August 8 - 18; Curtain time 8 pm Thursdays-Saturdays, 2 pm Saturdays - Sundays. General Admission $29.50, Students and Matinees $24.50. Call (732) 997-0205 or visit for tickets.

Photo: Travis Raeburn (left) and Nathaniel J. Ryan (right) in PST's Topdog/Underdog. Photo by Kirsten Traudt.

From This Author - Sarah Vander Schaaff

Sarah Maraniss Vander Schaaff is a freelance writer and playwright. As a journalist, her work appears in many national outlets including The Washington Post, The New York Times, HuffPost, and others.... (read more about this author)

BWW Interview: FULLY COMMITTED Starring Maulik Pancholy is Perfection at George Street Playhouse
March 23, 2021

Grab take-out and stream this delightful comedy starring Maulik Pancholy, best known for playing Alec Baldwin's assistant in 30 Rock, his hit debut novel, and his advocacy with ActToChange, an anti-bullying organization including the AAIP community.

BWW Review: GOODNIGHT NOBODY at McCarter Theatre-A New Play Featuring Dana Delany
January 31, 2020

GOODNIGHT NOBODY, a new play by Rachel Bonds, now running at McCarter, is set in a farmhouse in upstate New York. The house belongs to Mara, played by Emmy-Award winner Dana Delany. Much of the plot revolves around her adult son and his friends, whose lives and yearnings are woven into her own; to one she is a mother, but to the others she is their lover, or potential mentor in art or parenting.