Jack in the Box; Or, How To Goddamn Direct

Farrar. Nov. 2022. 272p. ISBN 9780374603823. $28. THEATER
O’Brien, who has been directing plays and musicals since 1969 and has earned three Tony Awards and five Drama Desk Awards, looks back on his career to offer directing advice. O’Brien’s legacy as an award-winning theater director was captured well in his 2014 memoir Jack Be Nimble. Here, O’Brien attempts to do something arguably more challenging: to explain the practical knack of directing, or at least the view from the director’s chair. The result is less a handbook than series of lively stories to take readers “behind the curtain” of past productions both famous and infamous. Names of theater legends—“Neil” (Simon), “Andrew” (Lloyd Webber), “Tom” (Stoppard)—are ubiquitous across the book’s 13 chapters, helping entertain as well as give stakes to the decisions, successes, and failures that drive O’Brien’s candid directing advice. “Theater is no province for doing favors…. Friends are for the off-hours,” he writes. O’Brien’s lessons glitter brightly in their history and wisdom, but it is his warm, chatty writing that inevitably steals the show.
VERDICT A delightful window into the art of directing in all its ups and downs. Recommended for anyone interested in the theater, and certainly aspiring directors.
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