Review Roundup: PRIMA FACIE Starring Jodie Comer Opens on Broadway

Prima Facie is currently running at the Golden Theater.

By: Apr. 23, 2023
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Review Roundup: PRIMA FACIE Starring Jodie Comer Opens on Broadway
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Jodie Comer (Emmy Award winner for 'Killing Eve') makes her Broadway debut in Prima Facie by Suzie Miller under the direction of Justin Martin (The Jungle), opening at the Golden Theater tonight, Sunday, April 23. Read the reviews below!

For her performance in Prima Facie, which marked her West End debut, Comer won the Olivier Award for Best Actress, the Evening Standard Award for Best Actress, the WhatsOnStage Award for Best Performer in a Play, the West End Debut Award from The Stage, and the BroadwayWorld UK/West End Award for Best Newcomer.

Playwright Suzie Miller also won the Olivier Award for Best Play and the WhatsOnStage Award for Best New Play.

Tessa (Comer) is a thoroughbred. A young, brilliant barrister. She has worked her way up from working class origins to be at the top of her game; defending; cross examining and winning, until an unexpected event forces her to confront the lines where the patriarchal power of the law, burden of proof and morals diverge.

Review Roundup: PRIMA FACIE Starring Jodie Comer Opens on Broadway Jesse Green, New York Times: The dashing is not just Tessa’s M.O. but the production’s. With its expressionistic sound (lots of pumped-up heartbeats by Ben and Max Ringham) and sudden slashes of harsh light (by Natasha Chivers), Martin’s busy staging is at pains to help Comer fill the vast space alone. She doesn’t need it; she solves the one-actor problem with her own resourcefulness, handily playing all sides of conversations that sometimes involve several people. And when she must be both a third-person reporter of a remembered event and a first-person participant in it, she makes the echo meaningful by using it to specify the content. The laugh she lets out after saying “We laugh” is a very particular and complicated kind.

Review Roundup: PRIMA FACIE Starring Jodie Comer Opens on Broadway Peter Marks, The Washington Post: I was captivated the first time I saw Comer perform this piece last year, in London’s West End. I was even more mesmerized the second time. The act is prodigious in every respect. Framed by set and costume designer Miriam Buether’s wall of case-filled binders — illuminated from time to time by Natasha Chivers as if they’re sacred manuscripts — Comer unspools Tessa’s nightmare at breakneck pace. A manic energy is apparent, a compulsion to relate the character’s experience with the precision of a member of London’s Inns of Court.

Review Roundup: PRIMA FACIE Starring Jodie Comer Opens on Broadway Charles Isherwood, Wall Street Journal: Ms. Miller’s drama—the title is Latin legalese for “on the face of it”—arrives in New York trailing accolades, including Olivier Awards for best play and best actress, for its London run. High expectations can occasionally lead to disappointment, particularly as “Prima Facie” is opening in the fray of a busy Broadway spring season. Not so here. This urgent drama about the legal and emotional brutalities women often endure when they file charges of rape, particularly against a friend, lover or even husband, strikes home with scalding power.

Review Roundup: PRIMA FACIE Starring Jodie Comer Opens on Broadway Lester Fabian Brathwaite, Entertainment Weekly: Jodie Comer is just plain f---ing remarkable. For an hour and 40 minutes, she's absolutely transfixing. At first haughty and self-possessed as the young lawyer with a brilliant future, and then defeated but defiant as a victim determined to retain her faith in the system to which she had dedicated her life.

Review Roundup: PRIMA FACIE Starring Jodie Comer Opens on Broadway Jackson McHenry, Vulture: Miller’s play provides Comer with straightforward but potent material. Trained as a lawyer herself, she structures the play like an argument. At the top, there’s the case for the law as it is. Tessa, eager to prove herself as a criminal-defense barrister in London, has taken on a series of cases related to sexual assault and developed a knack for getting her male clients off the hook. She believes firmly in the system, and rationalizes that it’s the prosecution’s failing, not hers, if a guilty man isn’t punished. She has a way of picking apart the testimony on the stand—Comer shows us how by pacing the room, a microphone close to her mouth, being poisonously sweet to an unseen witness. Then those rationalizations turn against Tessa, when she spends a night drinking with another barrister and he rapes her. Miller arranges a situation that’s grimly and believably difficult for Tessa to argue around in court: they were drunk; the two of them had sex consensually in the past; witnesses would have seen them flirting earlier. But Tessa pursues her case anyway, driven to exact whatever justice she can.

Review Roundup: PRIMA FACIE Starring Jodie Comer Opens on Broadway Adam Feldman, Time Out: I leave it to the jury of theatergoers to determine whether the larger legal argument that Miller makes in Prima Facie follows necessarily from Tessa’s specific experience. But about Comer’s performance there can be no doubt: This is a powerful and moving star turn. It has a very different energy from the Broadway season’s other great dramatic performance by a woman. Whereas Jessica Chastain spends A Doll’s House nearly immobile, Comer is a whirlwind: moving furniture, changing costumes, standing on tables, switching into the voices and accents of more than a dozen minor characters as Tessa narrates her story. Her virtuosity is not just a game—it’s emotional. Miller builds a respectable case, but Comer argues it brilliantly.

Review Roundup: PRIMA FACIE Starring Jodie Comer Opens on Broadway Johnny Oleksinski, New York Post: Most astonishing throughout are Comer’s quick shifts in posture, voice, pace and body language that instantly and impactfully reveal Tessa’s state of mind. The actress shoves heavy tables and chairs around the stage in director Justin Martin’s production, and looks drastically different by the end. I was in awe that I’d been in the room with the same person for an uninterrupted 100 minutes.

Review Roundup: PRIMA FACIE Starring Jodie Comer Opens on Broadway Chris Jones, New York Daily News: “Prima Facie” manages to be both political and commercially viable theater, a rare feat these days, and one achieved here through the quality of this gifted actor, the talent and craft of the writer and the rich layering of experiential tension in the direction.

Review Roundup: PRIMA FACIE Starring Jodie Comer Opens on Broadway David Cote, Observer: The clipped, verse-like script buffets us with waves of vivid detail and quick cuts, mostly delivered at top speed by Comer. After twenty minutes of Tessa’s motor-mouthed triumphalism and lawyer-splaining one longs for strategic pauses to texture the tale, but perhaps fatigue is part of the tactic. We must tire of Tessa’s blustery assurance, so her reversal carries greater weight and complexity. Even so, Miller’s play seems padded at the top and overly preachy at the bottom, pressing home a case it has already won with metaphorical italics and boldface. Nevertheless, Comer’s astoundingly fluid, musical and passionate performance wins the day. She leaves nothing on the field.

Review Roundup: PRIMA FACIE Starring Jodie Comer Opens on Broadway Tim Teeman, The Daily Beast: Bar one pause in the intermission-less 100 minutes, Killing Eve star Comer is on stage throughout, inhabiting Tessa and a gallery of other characters—including her mother, best friend, and rapist. But most stunning is her presentation of Tessa who both goes through so much, and seems so much. The play is a blunt polemic against a patriarchal legal system weighted against female victims of sexual violence; Comer’s performance and Martin’s staging deepens the text into a one of the most electrifying pieces of theater on Broadway this season.

Review Roundup: PRIMA FACIE Starring Jodie Comer Opens on Broadway Robert Hofler, The Wrap: Comer is a superb athlete. “Prima Facie” runs 90 minutes, and in its first 15 minutes, it appears that this actor never takes a breath as she races at breakneck speed through her character’s background as a defense barrister for persons accused of sexual abuse. The extreme alacrity and force of Comer’s delivery is part aggression; she plays a very truculent defense lawyer named Tessa Ensler. It is also part compensation for the character being a woman born in the working-class. At Cambridge University, she had been surrounded by students, most of them male, to the manor born. She defends her fierce grilling of the plaintiff because that is her role as a defense lawyer. Tessa is a real professional.

Review Roundup: PRIMA FACIE Starring Jodie Comer Opens on Broadway Dan Rubins, Slant: If the play’s teachings get hammered home a bit redundantly in those final minutes, though, that hardly undercuts the harrowing journey that Prima Facie takes the audience on to arrive there. Martin’s production ably creates the high-tension world through Ben and Max Ringham’s sound design intensifying Rebecca Lucy Taylor’s choral and percussive score, Natasha Chivers’s intimidating flashes of light, and stage designer Miriam Buether’s untouchably towering walls of legal files. But it’s Comer’s Tessa, tough and raw, blisteringly believable as she begs to be believed, who wins the case for this play as urgent, necessary theater.

Review Roundup: PRIMA FACIE Starring Jodie Comer Opens on Broadway Greg Evans, Deadline: When the play (100 minutes, no intermission) enters its latter half and Tessa’s long-in-coming court date arrives, Prima Facie rarely lets us raise our hopes or even, really, challenges our expectations – most of us have been prepared by too many Law & Order: SVUs. The drama is in how Tessa deals with the crumbling of her ideals and the smashing of her self-delusions, and in how Comer can so vividly, indelibly display both.

Review Roundup: PRIMA FACIE Starring Jodie Comer Opens on Broadway Juan A. Ramirez, Theatrely: In a bravura stage debut (!), Comer plays Tessa, an intelligent young criminal defense barrister in London whose workload has somehow come to focus on sexual assault cases. She looks forward to cross-examination, if not so much returning home to her somewhat distant mother. Tessa is not a shark, but her mentality is sharp as one’s teeth. “There is no real truth, only legal truth,” she says, explaining the rational logistics of her work. The brilliance of Miller’s creation, brought exquisitely to life by Comer, is that Tessa does not seek to justify her career. She’s not bending over backwards to absolve herself, and her trust in the legal system is soberly convincing. And she is also the kind of woman we’d all like to befriend: successful, fun, level-headed, understanding.

Review Roundup: PRIMA FACIE Starring Jodie Comer Opens on Broadway Frank Scheck, New York Stage Review: You would never know that Jodie Comer is making her stage debut in Suzie Miller’s harrowing one-person play Prima Facie. The thirty-year-old British actress has rocketed to fame in recent years, thanks in large part to her award-winning turn as a ruthless assassin in the international hit television series Killing Eve. But while many film and television stars prove underwhelming on stage, Comer instantly affirms herself as a top-rank theater performer with this dynamic star turn in which she absolutely commands attention for 100 uninterrupted minutes. Already the recipient of the Olivier Award for the play’s London run, she should repeat that success when the Tonys are handed out in June.

Review Roundup: PRIMA FACIE Starring Jodie Comer Opens on Broadway Elysa Gardner, New York Stage Review: It’s a compelling argument, and Comer, under Justin Martin’s vigorous but sensitive direction, makes it soar and sting. Best known for her witty, searing portrayal of a sociopathic Russian assassin on the television series “Killing Eve,” the actress captures both Tessa’s manic energy—which dominates the first half of the play, as the character documents her whirlwind rise from a working-class upbringing to law school at Cambridge and a bright career, with a breakneck pace that she clearly relishes—and the vulnerability and self-doubt that consume her after the incident.

Review Roundup: PRIMA FACIE Starring Jodie Comer Opens on Broadway Jonathan Mandell, New York Theater: Tessa presses charges anyway in “Prima Facie,” a solo play opening tonight on Broadway. The best explanation for her decision is that the playwright, Suzie Miller, who was once a human rights lawyer in Australia, wants to show us that no woman – even an experienced trial lawyer – can get justice when it comes to sexual assault. (It’s no coincidence that Miller gives her heroine the same last name as Eve Ensler, the feminist playwright of “The Vagina Monologues.”) But if “Prima Facie” (a legal term meaning “on the face of it”) is a polemical play, what unfolds on the stage of the Golden Theater is an effectively directed, sleekly designed production that is, above all, a golden vehicle for the actress Jodie Comer.

Review Roundup: PRIMA FACIE Starring Jodie Comer Opens on Broadway Brian Scott Lipton, Cititour: It’s hard to decide whether to give Jodie Comer a Tony Award or an Olympic Gold Medal (or both) for her emotionally and physically exhausting solo turn in Suzie Miller’s award-winning drama “Prima Facie,” now making its American debut at the Golden Theatre under the excellent direction of Justin Martin. Either way, she delivers the most remarkable performance in a season of exceptional acting work.

Review Roundup: PRIMA FACIE Starring Jodie Comer Opens on Broadway
Average Rating: 85.6%


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