Review Roundup: What Did Critics Think of HEROES OF THE FOURTH TURNING?

By: Oct. 08, 2019
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Heroes of the Fourth Turning

Playwrights Horizons continues its 2019/20 season of works from groundbreaking playwrights pushing their singular styles to new heights with Heroes of the Fourth Turning, written by Will Arbery (Plano, Evanston Salt Costs Climbing) and directed by Danya Taymor ("Daddy," Pass Over).

In Heroes of the Fourth Turning, four young conservatives have gathered at a backyard after-party in rural Wyoming. One week following the Charlottesville riot, and two days before the 2017 solar eclipse, they've returned home to toast their mentor Gina, newly inducted as the first female president of a tiny Catholic college. But as their reunion spirals into spiritual chaos and clashing generational politics, it becomes less a celebration than a vicious fight to be understood.

Will Arbery's haunting play offers disarming clarity, speaking to the heart of a country at war with itself. The play makes its world premiere at the Mainstage Theater at Playwrights Horizons (416 W 42nd St), September 13.

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

Jesse Green, The New York Times: And though the play is peppered with theatrical interruptions - a song, a story, some ominous sounds, fits of aggression and feints of emotion - you will not find "Heroes of the Fourth Turning" very entertaining if you don't believe in the dramatic potential of debate. Ms. Taymor's uncompromising production makes the strongest possible case for that potential. As the play takes place at night on the edge of the Wyoming wilderness, most of Laura Jellinek's set is forbidding empty space; the lighting (by Isabella Byrd) is unrelievedly dark. Justin Ellington's sensational sound design is almost another haunted voice in the fugue. In this ominous environment, Ms. Taymor moves the actors around like chess pieces, always threatening or defending.

Sara Holdren, Vulture: Will Arbery's Heroes of the Fourth Turning is so frighteningly well written, it's hard to write about. It's the rare play where standing and picking up your shit and shuffling down steps and going outside-especially onto 42nd Street-immediately after feels like a kind of violence. You're not ready for it yet. You're still in Arbery's world - murky yet lit by lightning, lyrical and scary, brave and terribly gentle. Coming out of the whole thing is like waking to a bucket of water thrown in your face. But even that jolt feels right in its way, because Heroes is a kind of nightmare.

Robert Hofler, The Wrap: Her choosing to direct "Heroes" is the fourth thing, after the house and Justin and Kevin's puking, that kept me riveted. I had to wonder what compelled such a gifted director to direct such a play and then allow or compel such scenery-chomping performances from some of her actors. Did she not trust the material? Or was she letting us know the whole exercise is a wild farce?

Naveen Kumar, Towleroad: Even as talk turns to contemporary politics, the black void surrounding director Danya Taymor's production feels eerily out of time. Arbery's characters imagine themselves in a world where the word of God overshadows, and at times blinds them to, the facts of history and what lies beyond the dark. "They're using that original sin to take over," says the firebrand afraid to be a mom (that sin being slavery). The left, she says, wants to "create a new America... which oppresses us in the same ways our ancestors oppressed them. As revenge." Whiteness has become a trap, she insists, something none of them are allowed to be proud of anymore.

Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

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