Review Roundup: Paul Bettany & Jeremy Pope Star In THE COLLABORATION On Broadway

The Collaboration is written by Anthony McCarten and directed by Kwame Kwei-Armah, and features Paul Bettany, Jeremy Pope, Krysta Rodriguez and Erik Jensen.

By: Dec. 20, 2022
Review Roundup: Paul Bettany & Jeremy Pope Star In THE COLLABORATION On Broadway

Manhattan Theatre Club is presenting the Broadway premiere of The Collaboration, by special arrangement with Eleanor Lloyd Productions, Anthology Theatre, Stanley Buchthal, and Denis O'Sullivan. The production opens tonight at MTC's Samuel J. Friedman Theatre! Read the reviews!

The Collaboration is written by Anthony McCarten and directed by Kwame Kwei-Armah, and features Paul Bettany, Jeremy Pope, Krysta Rodriguez and Erik Jensen.

Warhol. Basquiat. Electric, eccentric, polar opposites... together, for the first time in the most unlikely partnership the art world has ever seen. Paul Bettany (The Avengers, "WandaVision," "A Very British Scandal") and Jeremy Pope (Choir Boy, Ain't Too Proud, The Inspection) star in the thrilling American premiere of the London sensation.

In the summer of 1984, longtime international superstar Andy Warhol and the art scene's newest wunderkind, Jean-Michel Basquiat, agree to work together on what may be the most talked about exhibition in the history of modern art. But can these two creative giants co-exist, or even thrive? The stage is their canvas in this sizzling tour-de-force by Anthony McCarten (four-time Oscar®-nominated writer of The Two Popes and Bohemian Rhapsody), directed by the acclaimed Kwame Kwei-Armah (Artistic Director of London's Young Vic).

The Collaboration's creative team includes Anna Fleischle (Set & Costume Design), Ben Stanton (Lighting Design), Emma Laxton (Sound Design), Duncan McLean (Projection Design), Karicean "Karen" Dick & Carol Robinson (Wig Design), Ayanna Witter-Johnson (Original Music), Deborah Hecht (Dialect & Vocal Coach), Caparelliotis Casting & Kelly Gillespie (U.S. Casting), James Latus (Production Stage Manager).

The world premiere of The Collaboration was originally produced by the Young Vic Theatre London in January-March 2022 in partnership with Eleanor Lloyd, Anthology Theatre, Stanley Buchthal and Eilene Davidson in association with Denis O'Sullivan.

Thumbs DownLaura Collins-Hughes, The New York Times: Onstage, though, “The Collaboration” feels emptily formulaic — less like an insider’s view of its famous subjects’ lives than a kind of biographical tourism that gets into serious gawking in its second half. It doesn’t bring us any insight into whatever closeness Warhol and Basquiat had.

Thumbs DownGreg Evans, Deadline: Directed by Kwame Kwei-Armah and inspired by the real life 1984 painting collaboration of the aging (at least in terms of artistic relevance) Warhol and the soaring Basquiat – a project presented so much more convincingly and movingly in the 1996 film Basquiat, starring Jeffrey Wright and, in the definitive performance of Warhol, David Bowie, who haunts this play like a shadow – The Collaboration is an oddly lifeless endeavor, a failure in capturing even a moment of simple artistic inspiration much less the ignition of of collaborative genius.

Thumbs Sideways Marilyn Stasio, Variety: It’s hard to call this gushing fountain of clever talk a play. There’s no dramatic shape to it: No plot, no event, no conflict, no danger. But there are two richly drawn characters on stage with plenty to say for themselves.

Thumbs Sideways Tim Teeman, The Daily Beast: The urgency of the second act, and the energetic peaks in the men’s performances—particularly Pope’s—give The Collaboration some much-needed electricity, but the stilted staging of the play leaks power and focus from a show which determinedly keeps its protagonists a mystery.

Thumbs DownJackson McHenry, Vulture: The Collaboration abruptly turns plot heavy in the second act — early on, Krysta Rodriguez, playing a ex-girlfriend of Basquiat’s, storms in, announces “I need the money to make rent and have an abortion,” and throws a purse for emphasis, a choice I just have to respect. But eventually it makes its way toward the idea that being reduced to a salable art brand is crushing both these men. That’s something Warhol embraced in his own art-making, but as theater, it’s as two-dimensional as a silk screen. As much as it gestures toward depth, the play’s selling the audience these same flattened versions of Warhol and Basquiat. Looking at the faux Marilyn Monroe prints behind the actors, you start to ponder if the performances themselves are achieving anything much different. Buy a ticket and you can get the contours of something familiar and the most basic coloring of the details.

Thumbs Sideways Jonathan Mandell, New York Theater: But did the playwright need to make the characters spell out their differences so explicitly? Is that the way these two visual artists would actually speak to one another? Why do so many of the supposed aperçus about art in this play sound canned, at best the kind of practiced lines that art stars say to journalists to sound outrageous? These are the sort of questions that arise here and there during “The Collaboration,” which has a script that can feel surprisingly clunky, in both moments of exposition and in the overall plot, which is largely predictable, even as the actors somehow redeem it.

Thumbs Sideways Frank Scheck, New York Stage Review: Though the writing is a letdown, The Collaboration nonetheless proves entertaining, thanks to the colorful figures at its center and the superb acting. Bettany had the harder assignment of not caricaturing Warhol, even though by that point Warhol had already become a caricature of himself. He handles the task beautifully, avoiding excessively overt imitation and somehow managing to convey Warhol’s underlying Andrew Warhola. Pope ­— as much a star on the rise as the character he’s portraying, thanks to his Tony-nominated work in Choir Boy and Ain’t Too Proud and his acclaimed starring role in the film The Inspection — delivers a rivetingly physical, live-wire turn, exuding restless energy and speaking in a high-pitched voice that sounds like Michael Jackson. The two actors’ mesmerizing turns, soon to be repeated in a film adaptation of the play, are, as the old saying goes, worth the price of admission alone.

Thumbs DownJuan A. Ramirez, Theatrely: Though apparently more knowledgeable about Warhol—aren’t we all?—McCarten attempts to make the Basquiat character a vessel for his bogus rants against commercialism and the soullessness of modern art, having the younger artist press against his elder’s silkscreens and logo-ridden works. Each character is as thin as a Campbell’s soup label, but the insistence to ask these rote questions, then cop out of answering any when they turn to why the street artist himself is so comfortable with his funds is frustrating. And poor Pope, a multitalented actor here strangled under insufferable characterization, heightened by Kwame Kwei-Armah’s juvenile direction. Despite Pope’s impressive voicework, the writer and director’s Basquiat is conceived in the tired Cool Young Artist mold, ashing his joint in Warhol’s coffee cup before going Artist As Tweaker On The Spectrum when freaking out to jazz records, and staring, slack-jawed, into space—his otherworldly artistic visions ostensibly taking him out of this realm.

Thumbs DownBrian Scott Lipton, Cititour: Sadly, the most interesting person on the Friedman stage is the energetic DJ who spins a Studio 54-worthy 1980s playlist before each act. I’m not sure I’ve ever recommended this plan before, but if you can, “second act” the intermission and leave before the play resumes. It’s the only way you’ll leave the theater satisfied.

Thumbs Up Michael Musto, Chelsea Community News : With accurate-looking tufts of dreaded hair, Jeremy Pope (a two-time Tony nominee who’s currently scoring in the gritty film The Inspection) is an aptly moody and haunted Basquiat, full of attitude and drive. As Warhol, Bettany (WandaVision) seems too energetic to me and sometimes comes off more like a handsome surfer dude than a wry visionary, but his interpretation is interesting and he really nails Andy’s constant sense of unease. Erik Jensen delivers as the manipulative Bruno and Krysta Rodriguez is excellent as Maya, an ex-girlfriend of Basquiat’s who sweeps in to demand money for rent and an abortion, while her limo waits outside.

Average Rating: 48.0%


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2023 Regional Awards


THE COLLABORATION Plays Final Broadway Performance Photo
THE COLLABORATION Plays Final Broadway Performance

Following three extensions, the Broadway premiere of The Collaboration at MTC's Samuel J. Friedman Theatre plays its final performance February 11, 2023, following 20 previews and 56 regular performances.

THE COLLABORATION Extends for a Final Time at MTC Photo
THE COLLABORATION Extends for a Final Time at MTC

A final extension has been announced for the Broadway premiere of The Collaboration at MTC’s Samuel J. Friedman Theatre. See performance dates, how to purchase tickets and more.

THE COLLABORATION Extends Through Early February Photo
THE COLLABORATION Extends Through Early February

Manhattan Theatre Club has announced a final extension for the Broadway premiere of The Collaboration at MTC’s Samuel J. Friedman Theatre. See how to purchase tickets!

VIDEO: Jeremy Pope Talks Painting Onstage In THE COLLABORATION Photo
VIDEO: Jeremy Pope Talks Painting Onstage In THE COLLABORATION

Jeremy Pope appeared on Good Morning America to speak on starring on Broadway in The Collaboration. Pope discussed recreating Jean-Michel Basquiat's paintings every night onstage. Pope also discussed doing the play on the West End and in a film, his new movie The Inspection, and more. Watch the new interview video now!



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