To that end, Wong takes on Aristotle and the concept of a hero’s tragic flaw, which suggests that tragedy can be avoided. Risk Theatre, by contrast, posits that the tragic hero is brought down by chance, not error, an argument he backs up with evidence from classic tragedies (Shakespeare, Euripides, Aeschylus, Arthur Miller, even Thomas Hardy) and with contemporary life, including Covid-19 and the crash of 2008. “By simulating risk and uncertainty, tragedy is our Muse in times of crisis,” he writes; elsewhere, he notes that “the art that dramatizes downside risk may be a source of wisdom.”
Wong writes with persuasive power, wide-ranging interests, a playful wit, and the zeal of a convert. The included plays, all finalists or winners of the Risk competition, illuminate, reinforce, and occasionally challenge his conception. Wrenching yet sensitive, Gabriel Jason Dean’s In Bloom finds an American documentarian in Afghanistan, where he becomes obsessed with a bacha bi reesh, a “beardless boy” who, like many others, performs sensual dances for local warlords. Nicholas Dunn’s provocative, often comic The Value finds art thieves holed up after a score, confronting their worth, while Emily McClain’s Children of Combs and Watch Chains offers a bracingly dark and inspired update of “The Gift of the Magi.”
Takeaway: Wong backs up his stimulating theory of tragedy as risk with striking essays and plays.
Great for fans of: Robert J. Andreach’s Tragedy in the Contemporary American Theatre, Raymond Williams’s Modern Tragedy.
Design and typography: A-
Marketing copy: A
"The plays are compelling...a fascinating discussion of drama."
"Independent and provocative."