Review Roundup: Michael R. Jackson's TEETH Opens At Playwrights Horizons

The new musical will run through April 14 on the Mainstage at Playwrights Horizons.

By: Mar. 19, 2024
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Review Roundup: Michael R. Jackson's TEETH Opens At Playwrights Horizons
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Playwrights Horizons presents world premiere production of Teeth, a new musical with book and music by Anna K. Jacobs and book and lyrics by Michael R. Jackson. The critics stopped by the newest show from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Strange Loop. Read the reviews below.

The production directed by Sarah Benson with choreography by Raja Feather Kelly.

The new musical will run through April 14 on the Mainstage at Playwrights Horizons.

Teeth follows Dawn O’Keefe (Alyse Alan Louis), an evangelical Christian teen struggling to be an exemplar of purity amongst her community of fellow Promise Keeper Girls. Her stepbrother, Brad (Will Connolly)—alienated by his repressive upbringing in the community led by his fanatical Pastor father (Steven Pasquale) and intrigued by the online camaraderie of the Truthseeker men’s support group—is haunted by an indelible incident from his and Dawn’s past.

As Dawn’s desires become tested and twisted by the men in her life, she discovers a deadly secret not even she understands: when men violate her, her body bites back—literally. Crackling with irrepressible desire and ancient rage, Teeth is a dark comedy conjuring the legend of one girl whose sexual curse may also be her salvation.
 

Review Roundup: Michael R. Jackson's TEETH Opens At Playwrights Horizons Jesse Green, The New York Times: I find the result a bit mystifying. Jackson is a major talent, and Jacobs, in her Off Broadway debut, is already highly accomplished. Benson, in her stagings of “Fairview” and “An Octoroon,” has proved herself the kind of director who can deftly manage complex genre pastiche. But in “Teeth,” I’m sorry to say, this holy trinity has bitten off more than it can chew.

Review Roundup: Michael R. Jackson's TEETH Opens At Playwrights Horizons Sara Holdren, Vulture: While it’s tempting to go big and brazen, Teeth loses something as it bursts its seams. But what it’s got is still, in so many moments, lava-hot and canines-sharp. Underneath the fire and blood, the mythical battles and severed dicks — inside the promise ring and the cheap paneled walls of the church rec room — is the real horror show.

Review Roundup: Michael R. Jackson's TEETH Opens At Playwrights Horizons Brittani Samuel, The Washington Post: In their new musical “Teeth,” making its world premiere at off-Broadway’s Playwrights Horizons, writers Anna K. Jacobs and Michael R. Jackson plunge right into this dark world, especially the shame and insidious secrets that preside over it. The show explicitly presents acts of rape and assault that may be difficult to watch (or even read about) for some. But “Teeth” is a brazen, unique, cackle-worthy slice of musical theater, even if, at times, it stumbles from grace.

Review Roundup: Michael R. Jackson's TEETH Opens At Playwrights Horizons JD Knapp, The Wrap: Pasquale recovers most successfully when he ditches Pastor to play an overly friendly gynecologist whom Dawn (Alyse Alan Louis), the show’s Vagina Dentata, visits after she has accidentally castrated her boyfriend (Jason Gotay). The scene is lifted from Lichtenstein’s script but enhanced immeasurably by replicating the “Dentist!” number from “Little Shop of Horrors.” Jackson’s lyrics are delightfully sadistic and Jacobs’ music channels what sounds like Greek soft shoe. Also wonderful is their creation of a character not in the movie. Dawn now has a gay best friend, Ryan (Jared Loftin), who makes the tragic mistake of switching teams. Jacobs and Jackson give their very best one-liners to the emotionally and sexually conflicted Ryan, and Loftin knows just what to do with them.

Review Roundup: Michael R. Jackson's TEETH Opens At Playwrights Horizons Adam Feldman, Time Out New York: Jacobs and Jackson embrace this idea with a vengeance. As severed-tongue-in-cheek as Teeth may be, it takes sexual violence and retribution seriously. Jacobs and Jackson’s version of Dawn incarnates a goddess called Dentata, risen from the cthonic depths of ancient legend to reboot her crusade to dismember every man. As our antiheroine moves further down this path, the production ramps up to a climax of fire and rain, and Alan matches it with her performance. No stranger to strong women—she was Hillary Clinton in 2019’s Soft Power—she moves from trembling worry to trembling fury with fearsome abandon, backed by a female chorus of six that ably mirrors her transformation.

Review Roundup: Michael R. Jackson's TEETH Opens At Playwrights Horizons Amelia Merrill, New York Theatre Guide: Despite tonal inconsistencies, the tilt to full horror at the climax of Teeth brings the musical home with fangs and flair. Alan Louis’s embrace of a supernatural villainess persona is aided by Jane Cox and Stacey Derosier’s lighting, which relies heavily on strobes but also evokes female-empowerment horror lore like Suspiria. Steven Pasquale’s performances as a power-hungry pastor and a creepy gynecologist is laudatory, his vocals and comedic timing crisp. Alan Louis’s voice can’t always handle Jacobs’s and Michael R. Jackson’s (A Strange Loop) music, but she still becomes a heroine worth cheering.

Review Roundup: Michael R. Jackson's TEETH Opens At Playwrights Horizons David Finkle, New York Stage Review

: The actors distinguish themselves under Sarah Benson’s direction and Raja Feather Kelly’s abundant choreography. Jacobs and Jackson provide a strong score, a bounce back for Michael “A Strange Loop” Jackson from his White Girl in Danger follow-up. Yes, the occasional lyric may elicit the wrong kind of chuckle. But even if patrons don’t exit Teeth clamoring for the score on an original cast album, many will appreciate it most of the time, as it hurtles along under Patrick Sulken’s conducting. The same can most likely be said for the avenging-women vs. rapacious-men enterprise.

Review Roundup: Michael R. Jackson's TEETH Opens At Playwrights Horizons Jonathan Mandell, New York Theater: But “Teeth,” opening tonight at Playwrights Horizons, seems likely to turn off at least as many theatergoers as it would draw in: It’s deemed “appropriate for audiences ages 17+,” and it’s impossible to see how It could be otherwise, given that it’s an adaptation of a 2007 horror movie of the same name about a woman who has lethal teeth in her vagina. What’s most disappointing about “Teeth” is not its excesses, although these are deliberately in-your-face — the aggressively vulgar lyrics, the gory severed penises – but how the various elements of the show don’t completely hold together.

Review Roundup: Michael R. Jackson's TEETH Opens At Playwrights Horizons Brian Scott Lipton, Cititour: Outrageously funny. Outrageously smart. Outrageously tuneful. Simply outrageous. All these descriptions fit “Teeth,” which should hopefully keep making its mark on New York’s theatrical scene long past whenever it closes at its current home, Playwrights Horizons. While “Teeth” is sometimes raunchy, frequently foul-mouthed, and a tad bit gory (in movie terms, it’s a definite R), it’s still the best new musical I’ve seen all year.


Average Rating: 66.7%


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