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Review Roundup: LEOPOLDSTADT Opens on Broadway

Review Roundup: LEOPOLDSTADT Opens on Broadway

Leopoldstadt is running on Broadway at the Longacre Theatre.

Leopoldstadt, Tom Stoppard's Olivier Award-winning Best New Play, directed by two-time Tony Award nominee Patrick Marber, and produced by Sonia Friedman Productions, Roy Furman, and Lorne Michaels opened on Broadway, Sunday, October 2 at the Longacre Theatre.

Set in Vienna, Leopoldstadt takes its title from the Jewish quarter. This passionate drama of love and endurance begins in the last days of 1899 and follows one extended family deep into the heart of the 20th Century. Full of his customary wit and beauty, Tom Stoppard's late work spans fifty years of time over two hours. The Financial Times said, "This is a momentous new play. Tom Stoppard has reached back into his own family history to craft a work that is both epic and intimate; that is profoundly personal, but which concerns us all." With a cast of 38 and direction by Patrick Marber, Leopoldstadt is a "magnificent masterpiece" (The Independent) that must not be missed.

Let's see what the critics had to say...


Jesse Green, New York Times: But "Leopoldstadt" is not quite as tightly constructed as "Arcadia," say, or "Jumpers" or "Travesties"; it has too many themes to wrangle, and some dense historical exposition is unconvincingly disguised as small talk. As such, the play leans more than usual on a handsome, foreboding, smartly calibrated production. The acting is excellent across the board, with too many standouts to name. The director Patrick Marber's deep-focus staging keeps all the stories going at once on a set by Richard Hudson that fairly gleams with honeyed smugness under Neil Austin's lights. And Brigitte Reiffenstuel's costumes make you long for the elegance of prewar fashions until you are brought up short by remembering what happened to those who wore them.

Matt Windham, AM NY: "Leopoldstadt" is not without its issues. Much of it is expository, slow, and muddled (including a farcical circumcision sequence that somehow got included). It is very challenging to remember who each of the less prominent characters is without consulting a character list or family tree. Still, it is a powerful work which is receiving a lavish production under the meticulous direction of Patrick Marber. Given its size and scale, the fact that "Leopoldstadt" is being produced on Broadway - and commercially, no less - is unbelievable.

Jonathan Mandell, New York Theater: As in his previous work, Stoppard's nineteenth play on Broadway offers dialogue that doubles as intellectual and political discourse. The usual effect of his approach is to make his scripts as rewarding to read on the page as to see acted out on the stage (if not more so.) But "Leopoldstadt" has little of Stoppard's trademark cleverness in wordplay and none of his playfulness in structure. It is a straightforward if sprawling epic about a dark history that also winds up both intimate and ultimately moving. It's hard not to see it as the 85-year-old playwright's attempt at a personal reckoning.

Steven Suskin, New York Stage Review: The performers are uniformly excellent. Uranowitz stands out from beginning (as mathematician Ludwig) to end (as his equally mathematical great-nephew Nathan). Krumholtz is equally adept as the conflicted family breadwinner, while Castelow impresses as the out-of-place trophy wife who models for Klimt and nearly disrupts the household. Uranowitz, Augen, and Froushan do stunning work in the play's shattering final scene. (Augen and Froushan, along with Castelow and Neil, played these roles in London.) That said, the stage is filled with too many worthy performances to individually cite.

David Finkle, New York Stage Review: Director Patrick Marber - a reliable Stoppard collaborator these years - works wonders with his 30-plus cast members (some original London cast players, some new to the piece) as he does with costumer Brigitte Reiffenstuel, lighting designer Neal Austin, sound and clever original music designer Adam Cork, projection designer Isaac Madge, and certainly the Campbell Young Associates wig, hair and makeup designers.

Juan A. Ramirez, Theatrely: It is, unfortunately, not a very good play. Though intelligently directed by Patrick Marber as a drawing room drama perpetually intruded upon by antisemitism, it manages to say very little during its 2-hour-without-intermission runtime. Stoppard apparently had not realized his own connection to Judaism until the 1990s, and the suddenness of his engagement with these themes is evident. His characters, the males one at least, spend the better part of the first hour explaining antisemitism to each other in increasingly dull ways. As such, it is a "now more than ever" / "til it happens to you" hit parade that extinguishes not only dramatic tension but any sort of dynamic engagement with what little plot there is, aside from a love triangle early on that coalesces into absolutely nothing.

Brian Scott Lipman, CitiTour: When seeing a Tom Stoppard play, one expects to be intellectually dazzled, if not emotionally devastated. That changes with "Leopoldstadt," now getting its U.S. premiere at Broadway's Longacre Theatre, which magnificently succeeds at both challenging the brain and piercing the heart. (So yes, it's worth the sometimes-painful effort to sit for two-plus hours without intermission.)

Tim Teeman, The Daily Beast: Leopoldstadt is a generous play, and it is mischievous too-willing to interrogate totems of history and identity, as well as poke fun at them. A piece of comic familial ingenuity forms one of the play's twists.

Charles Isherwood, Wall Street Journal: The theater season is just aborning, but it is virtually inconceivable that it will produce anything superior to Tom Stoppard's "Leopoldstadt." An intimate, multigenerational drama about a Jewish family in Vienna, set against the tumultuous first half of the 20th century, the play-inexpressibly moving, unavoidably devastating-ranks among Mr. Stoppard's greatest works, which is a considerable achievement given his status as one of our pre-eminent living playwrights.

Chris Jones, New York Daily News: Marber's production has enough energy and forward motion to ensure that the emphasis on character does not impede its dramatic intensity. And he helps make it easier to follow (it's not always easy to recall who is related to whom, as the years spin on to 1955). But the unfussy direction also lets everyone talk, emote, kvetch and, of course, go on with their lives as best as they can.

Johnny Oleksinski, New York Post: All that cramming leads to a drama that is, for the most part, cold and clammy until it gains some heat near the end. The writer has jammed politics, innovative devices and the passage of time together before, in plays such as "Arcadia" and "Rock n Roll," that were far more satisfying because there were fewer stories and names to keep track of.

Naveen Kumar, Vulture: Leopoldstadt is the sort of dizzying intellectual panorama for which Stoppard is revered - a chronicle of social movements, theoretical frameworks, and geopolitical catastrophes. (Drink every time someone speaks passionately about the state of the world, and you'll have to crawl home.) The play, directed by Patrick Marber in a production that premiered in the West End, proceeds through 50-plus years in just over two hours, introducing more than two dozen characters that it seems to understand we won't be able to keep straight. Those details don't matter in the larger sweep of history, and the family's fate is evident from the start.

Greg Evans, Deadline: The great playwright Tom Stoppard and his simpatico director Patrick Marber make a lasting gift of remembrance in the brilliant, gorgeous and devastating new play Leopoldstadt, opening tonight at Broadway's Longacre Theatre. But it's a gift that comes with strings, ropes even, the author seems to be warning us: There's burden attached to memory, and pain, and, above all, responsibility - duty, even - that accompanies every yellowed snapshot in an old family album and every fading face that once seemed fixed with such clarity.

Marilyn Stasio, Variety: The set (Richard Hudson, with a shout-out to the props team), costumes (Brigitte Reiffenstuel) and especially the lighting design (Neil Austin) bathe the first scene in an aura of domestic harmony. It's 1899 and almost Christmas in Vienna. Everyone in the tastefully furnished Merz household appears to be approaching the 20th century with glad hearts. The family trade is prospering, the men are successful businessmen and academics, the women are smart and articulate and the children are well-behaved.

Robert Hofler, The Wrap: Krumholtz and Uranowitz succeed in making Herman and Ludwig's debate in Act 1 absolutely riveting. Stoppard, however, has written Jacob as a one-person screed, and Numrich's over-the-top "Give me a Tony Award nomination" performance nearly sabotages the act. No help are Jacob's relatives of his generation whom Stoppard has conceived as Jazz Age heathens whose biggest concerns are what America will come up with next after giving them that wonderful dance called the Charleston. Patrick Marber's direction, so nuanced in Act 1, suddenly turns blunt. But then, so does Stoppard's writing.

Peter Marks, The Washington Post: I also know from long experience that every Holocaust work ends, spiritually or physically or philosophically, at Auschwitz. But that knowledge - and Stoppard's immersing an audience in a story whose every plot point essentially has been documented before - did not prevent me from erupting in heaving sobs after 2 hours and 10 minutes in the Longacre Theatre, where the play marked its official opening Sunday night.

Gillian Russo, New York Theatre Guide: Smartly, Stoppard did not write Leopoldstadt as a Holocaust play. Impending doom lurks in Adam Cork's chilling score, but otherwise, the show is a lively, rich family drama. We're invited into the Merz-Jacobowitzes' commonplace gatherings, debates, trysts, squabbles, and playtimes as though we, too, are kin. There's a healthy helping of intellectual talk - Stoppard's specialty - but it's not esoteric, and in the hands of a superb Brandon Uranowitz, who gets to philosophize the most as the mathematician Ludwig, it's endlessly captivating.

A.R. Hoffman, New York Sun: To be a Jew in "Leopoldstadt" is unmitigated bad news, an identity to shed in good times and shun in bad ones. Mr. Stoppard's play delivers little of the joy of Jewish life, and plenty of its travails. It is a serious and old-fashioned play, admirable in its refusal to universalize, in its adamantine insistence that Jewish pain of 1942 matters in 2022. In telling his own tale, Mr. Stoppard, a lion in winter, proves that he still can create work that bites.

Howard Miller, Talkin' Broadway: If playwright Tom Stoppard stays true to his word and Leopoldstadt turns out to be the last play he writes, it would be a fitting and worthy way to bookend a long and illustrious career dating back to the middle of the last century. As it happens, it is also an equally fitting tribute to Stoppard's Jewish roots, a personal history he only had a vague knowledge of until he was in his fifties and a cousin filled him in on what his mother barely ever spoke to him about, including the fact that all four of his grandparents and other family members had perished in Nazi concentration camps. Herein lies the impetus, if not the biographical specificity, for the play that opened tonight at the Longacre Theatre.

Joe Westerfield, Newsweek: To call this his masterwork may be a bit misleading, it is certainly among his best work, but then he has about 20 best works, including Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Travesties, The Coast of Utopia and The Real Thing to name a few. Those are pretty fine hairs to split at that level of excellence.

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