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Review Roundup: JUDGMENT DAY at Park Avenue Armory - Read the Reviews!

Judgment Day

Park Avenue Armory presents Judgment Day-the world premiere of Christopher Shinn's new adaptation of Ödön von Horváth's 1937 play.

The cast of sixteen stars Luke Kirby in the central role of Thomas Hudetz, a meticulous and respected stationmaster who struggles between guilt and self-protection after a train crash that occurs under his watch results in eighteen casualties. Kirby, who won an Emmy Award for his performance as Lenny Bruce on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, also had recurring roles on The Deuce and Slings & Arrows.

Kirby is joined by: Susannah Perkins (Network; The Wolves) as Anna, Alyssa Bresnahan (Network; 27 Dresses) as Mrs. Hudetz, and Henry Stram (Junk; The Elephant Man) as Alfons; Alex Breaux (Hustlers; Red Speedo), Charles Brice (Homeland; The Punisher), Cricket Brown, Gina Daniels (Network; Orange is the New Black), Harriet Harris (Thoroughly Modern Millie - Tony Award; Desperate Housewives), Maurice Jones (Lifespan of a Fact; 30 Rock), Andy Murray (The Seafarer; The Emperor Jones), Tom McGowan (La Bête - Tony Award; Wicked), George Merrick (Beetlejuice; South Pacific), Jason O'Connell (Happy Birthday Wanda June; Pride and Prejudice), Joe Wagner (Tales of the City), and Jeena Yi (Network; Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt).

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

Jesse Green, The New York Times: If only the play would come to life too. But Horvath's brand of social critique and political allegory - now enjoying a revival in Europe - feels overwhelmed here by the physical production. In magnifying the impression of fate as an almost geological reality, it takes the pressure of moral choice off individuals. Worse, it makes those individuals less interesting to us.

Robert Hofler, The Wrap: "Expressionistic" can be just another word for "overacting," and there's plenty of that in this production. Amid several big performances, Kirby and Perkins come off a little wan in their opening scene at the railway station. As they become victims of their own guilt, however, both performances take on a spectral quality. They're already dead even while they're still walking around. Equally desiccated in appearance and manner is the wonderful Henry Stram, who plays Thomas's brother-in-law, without a doubt the most ambivalently drawn character in the play. From his entrance, he appears to have stepped out of a painting by George Groz.

Elysa Gardner, New York Stage Review: It would be unjust to not also mention, straight away, the contributions of this production's design team, who have turned the vast space at the Armory's Wade Thompson Drill Hall into a glorious (and essentially minimalist) landscape, with facsimiles of towering trees surrounding a set, by Paul Steinberg, that looms over 25 feet high. Two enormous pieces continually shift and rotate to suggest an inn, a viaduct, an apartment over a shop and a railway station, the scene of the tragedy that sets a chain of equally devastating events in motion. It's here that Thomas Hudetz, the respected, dedicated Stationmaster-portrayed, in a deftly shaded and ultimately blistering performance, by Luke Kirby, best known for playing Lenny Bruce on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel-is distracted by the innkeeper's beautiful young daughter, Anna (a mischievous but later haunting Susannah Perkins) and fails to send the signal that will keep a train on its safe course.

David Finkler, New York Stage Review: To some extent, the drama is as efficient, yet as narrow, as an arrow hitting a target's center. Likely, Judgment Day has and would reach its mark in any arena, but Jones' staging gives it an enormous size and scope. He asks his players to give over-the-top performances, which is no problem for Harris, who's made a wonderful career of that acting idiom. All those gladly complying include the players with smaller assignments as, outfitted in Antony McDonald's 1930s costumes, they sometimes run wildly, sometimes parade slowly, sometimes stand still while wielding aimed rifles.

David Cote, Observer: The cast is solid; Jones's direction is clean and forceful; the design is impressive and engaging; and Horváth's cautionary message comes through clearly in Shinn's lean script. But Judgment Day is, finally, a small play in an oversize production that dilutes any ripple effect the fable might have in 2019. One could imagine it being just as effective at Classic Stage Company or the BAM Harvey without the pretentious gigantism that is the unfortunate byproduct of Armory presentations. If you sprechen sie Deutsch, you can watch a 1961 TV movie version on YouTube. I applaud producers dusting off neglected European and American classics. But a deluxe museum treatment (more embalming than revival) at a steep ticket price isn't going to increase Horváth's stock. Much as I respect his work, that train has left the station.

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