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Is He Dead?: A Comedy in Three Acts (Jumping Frogs: Undiscovered, Rediscovered, and Celebrated Writings of Mark Twain) Paperback – 27 Jun 2006

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Product Description


"This master of the novel proves also to be a master at play construction. Is He Dead? has all the craftsmanship of a far more seasoned playwright's efforts, and the targets Twain establishes--mendacity and greed--are the twin evils he exposed throughout his distinguished career." --Tony Lewis, "Providence Journal-Bulletin"

From the Inside Flap

"This is another gold nugget in the treasure house of Mark Twain. That he could have spun out such a rollicking satire on the hypocrisy of the art world, delivered in the spirit of 'Charley's Aunt, ' while his own spirit battled the ghosts of personal loss, is another beacon to the wild and surprising genius of Mark Twain. Shelley Fisher Fishkin has done it again, giving us the fruits of eye-opening, double-fathom research, pursuing nearly virgin byways of Mark Twain's literary and social life and showing us how that colorful world affected the temper of his mind. I learned things I never knew while racing through this book."Hal Holbrook"

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x92a008d0) out of 5 stars 6 reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x927137c8) out of 5 stars Delightful bit of Fun from Mark Twain! 13 Oct. 2004
By Gwen Geisinger - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I must preface my review with the truth that I am totally and hopelessly Twain obsessed. I won't say that only a Twain lover will "get" this play but it certainly wouldn't hurt! I enjoyed it immensely and laughed out loud many times. Theatre was one of Twain's passions and he struggled all his life to write a successful play with variable results. This effort is delightful!

I found the interactions between the two couples sweet and touching and the comeraderie between the group of artists was good natured and engaging. But the best part was the gender reversal which was the funniest part of the play. It is amazing that Twain wrote this upbeat and optimistic piece as he was clawing his way out of a deep depression after his daughters death. The introduction and afterward are fascinating, both produced by the excellent and much appreciated Bancroft Library Mark Twain Project. I can't wait to see what they publish next!!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9271939c) out of 5 stars absolutely hysterical 20 Feb. 2008
By Fashion Girl - Published on
Format: Paperback
this is one of the greatest plays i have ever read/seen. i laughed so hard during act II that i almost could not continue. mark twain really hit something brilliant here and it is a shame it is not more well known. i am also a fan of humerous plays such as "the importance of being ernest" so if you like satire such as that, you will absolutely love this. also i greatly recommend seeing this at a playhouse if at all possible, it is spectactular on the stage!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x931da15c) out of 5 stars Close but no cigar...see the play 9 Mar. 2010
By 216Bruce - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I purchased this after seeing the play "Is He Dead?" done live in stage at The Beck Center in Lakewood. Well, I usually enjoy the book more than the movie/play and expected the same here. Wrong. While enjoyable for Twain-ites (myself), the play onstage is much more entertaining and funny as it is substantially edited content-wise and shorter. So, if you are a Twain collector- buy this, read it and treasure another piece of Twainia. If you are a casual fan...see the play. It's a night well spent.
HASH(0x92a060a8) out of 5 stars A Variation of CHARLIE'S AUNT 19 Mar. 2016
By Gary F. Taylor - Published on
Mark Twain apparently made several attempts at playwriting. None of his efforts were published or performed and they remained buried in his papers until 2003, when Twain scholar Shelley Fisher Fishkin dredged out the 1898 IS HE DEAD? The material was subsequently adapted by David Ives and opened on Broadway in 2007. Although it received positive reviews, the show ran only 105 performances.

It would be interesting to compare what Twain himself wrote to the Ives adaptation, and I suspect the playscript as it exists for performance is more Ives than Twain. Be that as it may, this review is very specifically of the Ives performance adaptation, which is essentially a riff on the 1892 CHARLIE’S AUNT by Brandon Thomas. In that very famous and very popular play, circumstances force the very unwilling Lord Fancourt “Babbs” Babberley to impersonate Charles Wykeham’s aunt throughout much of the play to comic effect. In IS HE DEAD?, Paris artist Jean-Francois Millet reluctantly fakes his own death in order to promote his paintings—and then even more reluctantly masquerades as his own twin sister Daisy Tillou.

Although CHARLIE’S AUNT is somewhat more sedate than IS HE DEAD?, the comic complications are much the same, with the man struggling with women’s attire, receiving attentions from male suitors, and starving for female embraces. Farces tend to rely on a very specific set of conventions, so there are plenty of pratfalls, numerous misunderstandings, and the occasional slammed door. IS HE DEAD? has all of this plus a deliberately “mellerdramer” style that includes a mustache-twisting villain and brazen asides to the audience, but it differs from the norm in its satirical edge, which makes cutting comment on the nature of art and the fact that society often values art on the basis of the artist’s name instead of on the quality of the art.

It is always worth pointing out that playscripts are blueprints for a performance, and readers who have the skillset necessary to interpret a playscript are a little rare. This seems especially true of farces, where the majority of the script’s success depends on the skill of the performers who play it out. This is no less true of IS HE DEAD? than it is of any other farce, and while the script tries to make fun of its own clichés, it is not always successful in the attempt. If you’re a Twain fan or a farce fan, the play will certainly be worth reading. Otherwise … wait for a good local performance.

GFT, Amazon Reviewer
In Memory of Molly Cox, a treasured friend
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x928a34e0) out of 5 stars TWAIN on stage 27 Jun. 2009
By T. G. Harpster - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'll be stage managing IS HE DEAD in November, and I needed to read the
script now. Although it is slightly different from the Acting Editon used on Broadway, I got the essence of what the story is about, and the number of characters on stage. Thanks! TERI
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