Review Roundup: FEFU AND HER FRIENDS at Theatre for a New Audience
Theatre for a New Audience presents Fefu and Her Friends, one of the most beloved plays of the late, nine-time Obie Award-winning Cuban-American playwright and director María Irene Fornés. Lileana Blain-Cruz, winner of two Obie Awards (Suzan-Lori Parks' The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World and Jackie Sibblies Drury's Marys Seacole) stages the play in her TFANA directing debut, the first Off-Broadway revival of Fefu and Her Friends since American Place Theatre's 1978 staging.
Fefu plays on the Samuel H. Scripps Mainstage at TFANA's home, Polonsky Shakespeare Center (262 Ashland Place, Brooklyn), through December 8, 2019.
Fefu and Her Friends tells the story of what happens when a group of articulate, idiosyncratic women gather in Fefu's New England country house in 1935 to rehearse for a charity event. Their conversations evolve and become intimate dialogues commenting on gender, sex, psychology, and class. A modern classic of both feminist and environmental theater, Fefu and Her Friends runs approximately 90 minutes with no intermission. Part I begins with the audience together. In Part II, the audience splits into four groups that move around the auditorium each experiencing the story in a different setting in a different order. In Part III, the audience comes back together. Fornés' play-humor-laced, unsettling, and wrenching-allows the audience to see this fascinatingly enigmatic gathering via multiple perspectives.
Let's see what the critics had to say...
Jesse Green, New York Times: And a good revival it is - I think; it seems well acted and designed. If I hedge it's only because Fornés, in writing a play that deliberately challenges the usual values of coherence and engagement, also challenges the usual value of criticism. What makes sense to any one audience member may not make sense to another, and indeed what each of us sees will literally be different. That's because the play's abstract style (there's no plot in the usual sense) and its multiple-perspective construction turn it into an almost Cubist experience.
Michael Sommers, New York Stage Review: The pleasures and pressures of friendship among women is perhaps the major theme that Maria Irene Fornés explores in her 1977 play Fefu and Her Friends. There are others-gender roles, sexuality, and alienation, to mention several more-but essentially it is an inventive drama that studies various sorts of relationships between women. Produced and presented by Theatre for a New Audience at its Polonsky Shakespeare Center, where the revival opened tonight, Fefu and Her Friends is an absorbing and thoughtful, if somewhat enigmatic, work that is distinguished by its unorthodox structure.
Naveen Kumar, TimeOut NY: A play can be like a symphony, rapturous in a way that surpasses logic. María Irene Fornés's ingenious Fefu and Her Friends is such a work, and this revival from director Lileana Blain-Cruz is nothing short of exquisite. Though the play hasn't been performed Off Broadway since its 1977 premiere, it feels as ahead of its time as any work on today's cutting edge.