In Broadway's new production of M. Butterfly, Clive Owen brings London stage chops and matinee idol polish to the play's conflicted protagonist and semi-reliable narrator, Rene Gallimard, a French diplomat in love with a Chinese opera singer who turns out to be a spy. It is a role that accommodates varying levels of power and pathos - John Lithgow was Broadway's first Gallimard in 1988; he was followed by Anthony Hopkins, Tony Randall and, in David Cronenberg's 1993 film, Jeremy Irons. But, as crucial as it is to have a compelling presence like Owen as the play's lead storyteller, success here hinges on pinning the right Butterfly: Song Liling is a Chinese man claiming to Gallimard - even in bed - to be a woman, one who lives publicly as a man and performs female roles (as male singers did in traditional Chinese opera).
M. Butterfly on Broadway Reviews
Reviews of M. Butterfly on Broadway. See what all the critics had and read all the reviews for M. Butterfly including the New York Times and More...
From: Entertainment Weekly | By: Allison Adato | Date: 10/26/2017
From: Daily Beast | By: Tim Teeman | Date: 10/26/2017
Spectacle and director Julie Taymor go together; in the case of The Lion King, award-winningly, and in the case of Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark, with its litany of injuries and controversies, notoriously. Comparative restraint thrums through her vision for David Henry Hwang's Tony Award-winning M. Butterfly, first produced as a play in 1988, made into a movie in 1993, and now back on Broadway. This re-invisioning of Madame Butterfly, with boundaries of gender and sexuality blurred, is subtly drawn, and not made for superheroes leaping from balconies.
From: Guardian | By: Alexis Soloski | Date: 10/26/2017
Most theater is a seduction. Bodies and lights, words and clothes, they all tempt us to embrace what's unreal. David Henry Hwang's M. Butterfly, now revived on Broadway, starring Clive Owen, is a play that uses the tools of theater to both celebrate and question how we give ourselves over to fantasy. Nearly 30 years on, it's still clever, tender and formally daring. But Julie Taymor's staging and Hwang's rewrites unbalance the delicate poise between illusion and truth.
From: TimeOut NY | By: Adam Feldman | Date: 10/26/2017
Three decades later, M. Butterfly remains provocative and timely, with a great deal to unpack-in part because Hwang, in an unusually extensive revision of the text for its current Broadway revival, has stuffed it with new information. The humiliated Rene Gallimard (Clive Owen) still begins the play in the cocoon of a French prison cell, guiding the audience through flashbacks to his time with Song Liling (Jin Ha, continuously intriguing). But the nature of their intercultural romance has shifted. When they meet in this version, Gallimard knows that Song is male; Song must invent a far-fetched family history to convince him otherwise. These changes, among others, help shift the storytelling away from symbolism and toward a more specific account of a particular relationship, albeit a bizarre one. Aside from lively dance sequences set at the Peking Opera-which was traditionally all-male, Song notes, "Because only a man knows how a woman is supposed to act"-there are few spectacular flourishes.
From: Chicago Tribune | By: Chris Jones | Date: 10/26/2017
"M. Butterfly," which officially returned to Broadway on Thursday night with a marquee director in Julie Taymor, a big star in Clive Owen and a significantly revised script from Hwang, is now an entirely different and very complicated proposition. The power balance between West and East has been transformed: Hwang himself acknowledged this in his underappreciated 2011 comedy "Chinglish," a play that displays much ambivalence about the so-called new China and is very much in dialogue with "M. Butterfly." "Chinglish" is all about another feckless Western man in a sexually compromising situation, this time in a wholly subservient role. China doesn't flutter. It roars with capital.
From: Newsday | By: Barbara Schuler | Date: 10/26/2017
oday's audiences will find the deception that is at the heart of "M. Butterfly" far less shocking than when it won the Tony for best play in 1988. Maybe not shocking at all. In reworking the piece for the revival that opened on Broadway Thursday night, playwright David Henry Hwang, along with director Julie Taymor, clearly recognized the need to come at the intriguing - and true - story from a different angle.
From: Vulture | By: Sara Holdren | Date: 10/26/2017
When David Henry Hwang's memory play M. Butterfly made its Broadway debut almost 30 years ago, it took home the Tonys for Best Play, Best Direction, and Best Performance by a Featured Actor (B. D. Wong in a career-making turn as the Chinese opera singer Song Liling). It also ran for almost two years - a remarkable feat considering its thematically ambitious, stranger-than-fiction story. The play is based both on Puccini's romantic (and deeply problematic) tragedy of an opera, Madama Butterfly, and on the real-life affair between the Beijing opera singer Shei Pei Pu and French diplomat Bernard Boursicot, who for 20 years believed his male lover to be a woman.
From: New York Times | By: Ben Brantley | Date: 10/26/2017
Though it bent (and blew) the minds of rapt audiences with its elusive opalescence nearly three decades ago, David Henry Hwang's "M. Butterfly" returns to Broadway on heavier, drabber wings. True, the revival that opened on Thursday night at the Cort Theater, directed by Julie Taymor, has basically the same anatomy as its predecessor. But it has undeniably morphed into a more prosaic creature, and the tantalizing mists that surrounded its initial run have dissolved as if under a harsh morning sun. When the enigmatic title character in this breakthrough drama about the illusions of sexual and cultural identity is brusquely commanded to "Strip!" by a stricken suitor, you're apt to think, "No need guys. That's already been taken care of."
From: Hollywood Reporter | By: David Rooney | Date: 10/26/2017
Hwang and director Julie Taymor have taken a curious route to address that challenge, going back to include facts that subsequently came to light about the characters' real-life inspirations, and removing much of the illusion in a work that revolves around erotic deception. While broadening the play beyond the perspective of the fictionalized Frenchman, Rene Gallimard, to include that of his lover of 20 years, Beijing Opera performer Song Liling, the production wades into didactic territory that fights against the work's inherent theatricality.
From: NY Daily News | By: Joe Dziemianowicz | Date: 10/26/2017
"The Lion King" has secured Julie Taymor's status as a director with style and vision. But her work here is short on passion and inspiration. Awkward sliding panels, which dominate the set design, add to the choppiness of the play. Scenes from operas add pageantry but mostly feel like padding. On the other hand, the drama also omits details. That includes what the initial attraction is for Gallimard when he thinks Song is a man. The fluidity of gender is certainly topical today, but the question of how Song carried on the gender-bending ruse for so long remains unanswered. Song's anatomically explicit courtroom testimony of the mechanics of his duplicity still leaves questions. Basically it comes down to that people see what they need to see.
From: Deadline | By: Jeremy Gerard | Date: 10/26/2017
Physically and cerebrally Clive Owen has the chameleonic qualities that define a certain kind of star charisma: He's handsome but not pretty; suave in a way that practically advertises insecurity; glib yet always on alert for the surgical riposte. All of which make the Knick star perfect for the role of Rene Gallimard, the French diplomat who falls in love with a Chinese opera star, in David Henry Hwang's electrifying drama M. Butterfly.
Clive Owen underplays it in this earth-bound Butterfly - M. Butterfly, Cort Theatre, Broadway, review
From: Telegraph | By: David Snyder | Date: 10/26/2017
The qualities that make Clive Owen such a powerful and enigmatic film actor haven't translated to the stage of Cort Theatre. That's where he's headlining a lackluster Broadway revival of M. Butterfly, the nearly 30-year-old Tony Award-winning American play inspired by the true story of a French diplomat convicted of espionage, who claimed he wasn't aware that his Chinese mistress was actually a man and a spy.
From: Broadway News | By: Charles Isherwood | Date: 10/26/2017
Though it ends with a tragic death that mimics the searing ending of Puccini's "Madama Butterfly " - which is alluded to (and heard in bits) throughout - Taymor's plodding, sometimes fussy staging, coupled with Hwang's revised version of the play, ultimately leave a wearying, watery impression. Today the play seems overstuffed with now-shopworn metatheatrical gambits (direct address, audience engagement, a fake "I'm ending this show now" moment, etc.), as well as self-explanatory dialogue that bluntly lays bare its themes. Plus there's the melodramatic climax for a big finish.
From: Variety | By: Marilyn Stasio | Date: 10/26/2017
Taymor has shielded Hwang's poetry from being overwhelmed by the sheer theatricality of the story, which was based on a real-life case. In one of the playwright's many ravishing lines, Gallimard embraces his fate because "I have known - and been loved by - the perfect woman." By fortifying the scenes that frame the love story, Taymor has also strengthened the political undercurrents of the play.
From: amNY | By: Matt Windman | Date: 10/26/2017
Hwang's 1988 Tony-winning play is a critical-minded drama dissecting race relations, gender roles and international affairs - and also a gripping thriller full of sex, spying and disguises. Its seriously misguided and marred Broadway revival contains direction by Taymor, lead performances from English actor Clive Owen ("Closer") and Jin Ha (Chicago cast of "Hamilton") and extensive, unnecessary and mostly detrimental rewrites.