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Review Roundup: The Public Theater's THE LINE Starring Santino Fontana, Alison Pill & More

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Review Roundup: The Public Theater's THE LINE Starring Santino Fontana, Alison Pill & More

The Public Theater's The Line, written by Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen and directed by Blank, debuted on Wednesday, July 8 at 7:30 p.m. ET. The live-streamed play, bringing first-person stories of New York City's first responders during the COVID-19 pandemic to the digital stage, is available to watch for free via both YouTube and The Public's website. Commissioned by The Public Theater and written specifically for the digital sphere, this new play will remain available on demand until August 4 at 11:59 p.m. ET.

The company of THE LINE features Santino Fontana (David), Arjun Gupta (Vikram), John Ortiz (Oscar), Alison Pill (Jennifer), Nicholas Pinnock (Dwight), Jamey Sheridan (Ed), and Lorraine Toussaint (Sharon). THE LINE features original music composition by Aimee Mann, and Janelle Caso will serve as production stage manager.

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

Jesse Green, The New York Times: Even terrific acting cannot turn a virus into a scene partner; the best performances are therefore the ones that look elsewhere for their drama. Toussaint, with her faux-tough shell, and Pill, with her raccoon-like mask marks, are especially affecting; in suppressing emotion they reveal it. Eventually, the play does too, as it latches on to a larger theme and a human, or at least a man-made, villain. When Ed says that "the federal government abandoned New York, and they have American blood on their hands," you wish he were speaking to Congress.

Alexis Soloski, The Guardian: I watched The Line from my Brooklyn apartment, which sits six blocks from a major hospital. There were weeks this spring when the sirens never stopped. The Line lets me put names and faces (admittedly the wrong names and faces) to the people riding in the back of those ambulances or receiving the patients they disgorged. So The Line, I would like to think, is for all of us who lived through the pandemic this spring and thanks to luck and privilege and the dedication of first responders are still living through it now.

Gordon Cox, Variety: A lot of people will watch - should watch - "The Line" online. Will it change things? Hey, it's an election year.

Jesssica Goldman, Houston Press: A show comprised of real-life interviews with COVID first responders while we're still in the middle of a global pandemic. Sounds like theatrical redundancy. After all, aren't we already taken into the belly of the emergency response beast via the embedded journalists, personal essays, and social media videos that document the daily horrors our healthcare workers face? In lesser hands, the answer would be yes. But give the task to verbatim theater experts, Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen in their new online show, The Line, commissioned by The Public Theater, and you get not simply tragedy regurgitation, but something deeper. Something more nuanced, fragile, and affecting than we've been consuming in our alarming and urgent news feeds.

Jacquinn Sinclair, WBUR: The one-hour, superbly acted play has a seasoned cast who brings these gripping recollections to the digital screen with skill and respect. The cadence of their monologues feels so natural and embodied that a nearly 15-second silence half-way through the play still didn't take away from it.

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