Jason Clark
April 06, 2007 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Margo Channing and Eve Harrington have nothing on 19th-century Shakespearean thesps Edwin Forrest and William Charles Macready. The stage stars from America and England, respectively, ushered in a period of intolerance and tension that culminated in New York’s Astor Place Riots of 1849, a mob scene that killed more than two dozen people. Former London Times critic Nigel Cliff’s The Shakespeare Riots is exhaustively researched (and frankly exhausting), working best in its examination of the personalities of the two men and their approach to performance. But by the time you get to the riot of the title, the event may feel as remote as the era itself. B-

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