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Review Roundup: CORSICANA at Playwrights Horizons; What Did the Critics Think?

Read all of the critics' reviews for Corsicana!


Playwrights Horizons officially opened Will Arbery's Corsicana, directed by Sam Gold, which runs June 2-July 10 in the Mainstage Theater.

In Corsicana, a small city in Texas, a woman with Down syndrome named Ginny and her half-brother Christopher are unmoored in the wake of their mother's death. Their close family friend, Justice, introduces them to a local artist named Lot, a recluse and outsider, hoping that he and Ginny can make a song together. In this restless quartet about care-taking and care-giving, in which the very fabric of reality is up for debate, Will Arbery charts the quiet, particular contracts of the heart that forge a new family.

Let's see what the critics are saying...

Jesse Green, The New York Times: Will Arbery's "Corsicana," which opened on Wednesday at Playwrights Horizons, is that second kind of play; if its story began any earlier than it does, it would be an emotional blood bath. Instead, without ignoring the bone-deep sadness of characters confused and stymied by loss, it lets us watch them climb their way out of it - heading toward joy and sharing some in the process.

Rober Hofler, The Wrap: Surratt has the advantage of playing a character who has difficulty expressing his emotions. If only Arbery's other characters suffered such a problem. They yammer on about their dreams and their nightmares, with the latter far outnumbering the former. Arbery ends these shaggy-dog speeches with one of the other characters - usually Lot or Ginny, because they are the play's BS detectors - making a wisecrack. This way Arbery gets to have it both ways: He tells us about the respective character's life without having to dramatize that character's life, and the wisecrack then inoculates him from any charge that what we've just heard for the past several minutes is sentimental or emotionally fraudulent. Here's one such funny put-down delivered by Lot to one of Justice's longer digressions.

Jonathan Mandell, New York Theater: I think I get Arbery's point. But I wish I had as much patience for the 150 minutes (including intermission) of "Corsciana" - with its long monologues and discursive two-character scenes (in which the characters are as likely to disburse on the purpose of art, the nature of grief, and the importance of community as they are to tell a suspect ghost story.) - as I had for his 2019 play, "Heroes of the Fourth Turning."

Frank Scheck, New York Stage Review: The problem is that the delivery system in Corsicana isn't particularly efficient, squandering the overall impact with its discursive dialogue, excessive length and unwillingness to articulate its themes. Directly Sam Gold, fresh off massacring Macbeth on Broadway, doesn't help matters with his lethargic staging. He resorts to his familiar device of frequently having the actors onstage even when they're not in the scene, standing in the corners like they're being punished in detention. The jarring scene shifts are confusing, the pacing is deadly slow, and the actors are frequently inaudible. The ugly, bland set, representing the siblings' and Lot's homes, is glaringly lit in visually unappealing fashion. And despite the fact that the scenery consists of little more than a smattering of furniture, the stage features a revolving turntable that gets more of a workout than the one in Les Miz.

Melissa Rose Bernardo, New York Stage Review: Not surprisingly, director Sam Gold, who loves a pregnant pause, leans into Corsicana's many quiet moments, causing more than a few...pacing...problems. A bizarrely clunky rotating set also slows things down unnecessarily, disrupting the mood at each (literal) turn. The actors eventually bring us back in, but it's a detriment to a play that relies so much on aura and feeling.

David Cote, 4Columns: The play's a bit of a slow cooker into which Arbery dumped several obsessions: his relationship to a real-life sister with Down syndrome, how a failed utopia is like a family, gift economies versus monetary transactions, and his habitual fascination with ghosts and topography. The ending (a bit too drawn out) comes with a group sing-along, each character warbling their woes away. The finale a song of redemption. Nothing very weird about that.

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