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Slave Play Broadway Reviews

Slave Play, the acclaimed new play by Jeremy O. Harris, directed by Robert O'Hara, features Ato Blankson-WoodJames Cusati-MoyerSullivan JonesJoaquina KalukangoChalia La TourIrene Sofia LucioAnnie McNamara, and Paul Alexander Nolan. The cast is being understudied by Eboni FlowersThomas KeeganJakeem Dante Powell, and Elizabeth Stahlmann.

The Old South lives on at the MacGregor Plantation - in the breeze, in the cotton fields...and in the crack of the whip. It's an antebellum fever-dream, where fear and desire entwine in the looming shadow of the Master's House. Jim trembles as Kaneisha handles melons in the cottage, Alana perspires in time with the plucking of Phillip's fiddle in the boudoir, while Dustin cowers at the heel of Gary's big, black boot in the barn. Nothing is as it seems, and yet everything is as it seems.

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Critics' Reviews


BWW Review: Jeremy O. Harris' Bold and Dynamic SLAVE PLAY Moves To Broadway

From: BroadwayWorld | By: Michael Dale | Date: 10/06/2019

But one point must be made specifically and clearly. Slave Play ventures into subject matter the likes of which this playgoer has never seen presented on Broadway, and does so in a bold, even outlandish manner that should be admired and welcomed. This older straight white critic won't claim to get everything the 30-year-old gay African-American playwright is saying, but if voices like his -- those that have long been nurtured and developed by non-profit Off-Broadway -- can be commercially accepted on Broadway, the fabled boulevard can advance just a little closer to truly being the artistic center of American theatre.


‘Slave Play’ Review: Who Says Broadway Isn’t Ready For Jeremy O. Harris?

From: Deadline | By: Greg Evans | Date: 10/06/2019

And then Harris and his simpatico director Robert O'Hara - near miraculously blending their talents to pull off an incendiary work that could go wrong in any single minute of its intermission-less two hours at the Golden Theatre, where it opens tonight - add yet another meaning to the title.


‘Slave Play’ on Broadway is a shocking, exhilarating triumph: review

From: | By: Christopher Kelly | Date: 10/06/2019

The eight-member cast, all but one of whom (Kalukango) originated their roles off-Broadway, is fearless in anatomizing a group of very complicated people (special note to Nolan, playing arguably the most emotionally and physically exposed character, and Ato-Blankson-Wood, who serves up an anguished portrait of a queer black man trying to come into his own). The set design, by Clint Ramos, is at once simple and absolutely arresting, with a wall of mirrors forcing the audience to literally see themselves in these proceedings. The director, Robert O'Hara, handles this incendiary material with just the right mixture of ferocity and grace, periodically nudging the drama towards chaos, but then reeling it right back in.

It's in that persuasive finale, devoted to the tormented exasperation of Kalukango's sublimely rendered Kaneisha, that we get the stunning truth of what her character is after - and that only Nolan's expertly, intuitively constructed Jim can help her through. It is, in a cosmic sense, what 'Slave Play' is after, too. I cannot reveal to you what that catharsis is. I can just tell you that 'Slave Play' delivered one to me - and in the process opened my eyes and ears more fully, and gratefully.


‘Slave Play’ on Broadway: Bigger, Brasher, and Still a Theatrical Explosion

From: Daily Beast | By: Tim Teeman | Date: 10/06/2019

On Broadway, necessarily, the play is bigger in every way; to this critic, some things are gained, others are lost in the increase in this scale. The performances are larger and broader, particularly in the deliberately off-kilter theatrics of the play's first segment. But the new, spectacle-sized aspect of Slave Play on Broadway also muffles some its most chilling moments and some of its most disturbing tableaux.


Review: ‘Slave Play,’ Four Times as Big and Just as Searing

From: New York Times | By: Jesse Green | Date: 10/06/2019

Uptown, his staging has grown broader and funnier but no less trenchant in the 800-seat Golden than it was in a space one-quarter the size; the continuous embroidering of marvelous detail fills any gaps that might have opened in the expansion. (Watch Phillip take refuge under his hoodie when he gets overwhelmed, or Alana scramble after her notebook as if it might protect her from what she's learning.) The returning cast - especially Mr. Cusati-Moyer as the boyfriend who pathetically insists he is not as white as he looks - has likewise amped up the emotional volume; they have a bigger house to bring down. Their performances make that of the only new cast member - Ms. Kalukango - even more distinct and grave by comparison. As Kaneisha becomes the center of the play's argument, you see her struggle to express herself playing out on her face before she has the words. When the words do come, they are all the more devastating.



From: Theatre News Online | By: Jeremy Gerard | Date: 10/06/2019

Slave Play, by contrast, is the work of a promising satirist whose cleverness thus far trumps his dramaturgy. I was more taken with Daddy, the other Harris work staged off-Broadway last season. Most of my colleagues hated that one, but its unforgiving exposure of another race-charged theme - it concerned a wealthy white art patron and the impressionable young black artist who becomes his lover - more assured and more dangerous than this work. Slave Play earns its laughs, but not its sorrow.


BROADWAY REVIEW: ‘Slave Play’ is a frank, challenging drama on race and sex

From: New York Daily News | By: Chris Jones | Date: 10/06/2019

But 'Slave Play,' which runs over two hours in one act, is under no obligation to make those points. It is the work of a major new voice in the American theater, a fervent, assured, hyper-articulate young moralist seeking acknowledgement of and reparations for, white supremacy, and who is utterly disinclined to dispense false hope to those who think 'I love you' makes good on anything.


Sometimes confounding and excessive, Slave Play is also funny and intelligently provocative as it examines the lingering impact of slavery through the distress and desires of characters who aren't what they first seem.



From: New York Stage Review | By: Melissa Rose Bernardo | Date: 10/06/2019

Because Slave Play-sharply and smartly directed by Robert O'Hara-is a show that needs to be processed. Admittedly, that is a terribly clinical way to put it. 'Can you stop saying processing?' yells one character, Jim (Paul Alexander Nolan). 'We aren't computers. My emotions aren't materials.' But fair warning: As the program note by poet-novelist Morgan Parker begins, 'This might hurt.'



From: New York Stage Review | By: Steven Suskin | Date: 10/06/2019

Uncomfortable theater, yes; it's impossible for a play called Slave Play, in this day and age, to be-well-comfortable. But Harris, already acclaimed as an important new voice in the American drama, is on to something here. Modernish audiences are likely to quickly embrace this important new play. Others might well find it uncomfortable, but attention should and need be paid.


'Slave Play': Theater Review

From: Hollywood Reporter | By: David Rooney | Date: 10/06/2019

Some will balk at the grim finality with which Harris stomps on the hope of finding sexual harmony in interracial relationships - or by extension, societal balance in the uneasy intersection of black and white America. Whether or not you agree, there's unquestionably something raw and unsettling in the playwright's position that black identity can never be wholly separated from historical oppression. The play appears to suggest that even the most liberal white perspective, on the other hand, tends to fall back on the convenient escape of not seeing race, rather than being mindful of the painful legacy of subjugation.


Slave Play

From: TimeOut NY | By: Adam Feldman | Date: 10/06/2019

Brash, smart and gleefully confrontational, this is the kind of show that starts arguments. It starts on a perverse antebellum plantation, but as it moves forward, in three very different acts that successively reframe what we have seen before them, it keeps you off balance; even afterward, you may feel staggered. As I wrote of its incarnation at New York Theatre Workshop, 'Slave Play is funny, perceptive, probing and, at times, disturbingly sexy. It snaps like a whip, and its aim is often outward.' Whatever you think it is, it's almost certainly not what you think.

Despite its flaws, 'Slave Play' announces the arrival of a bold and challenging new voice in theater. And there's no doubt that Harris has the talent to produce a masterpiece (or five). He also has that rarer quality, drive. In the words of his muse, he is willing to 'work work work work work.'


Theater Review: Slave Play Nearly Demands a Conversation. So We Had One.

From: Vulture | By: Sara Holdren | Date: 10/06/2019

It leaves you in an ongoing feedback loop inside your own brain. And, at least for me, doing a lot of second-guessing of my own impulses. Even feeling semi-paralyzed. This time around, I find myself trying to work through this visceral feeling of isolation just as much as I'm working through the play itself. I think I'm left wondering: Does this play prescribe something about how to go forward as a human being in the world with other human beings? Or does it avoid prescription?


Broadway Review: ‘Slave Play’

From: Variety | By: Marilyn Stasio | Date: 10/06/2019

Jeremy O. Harris' broad send-up of race and sex in America, 'Slave Play,' isn't outrageously funny. But it does have its funny moments - and it certainly is outrageous. In the very first scenes, we're confronted with three vignettes of seduction and copulation. For starters, a slave named Kaneisha (the abundantly talented Joaquina Kalukango) enthusiastically seduces Massa Jim (Paul Alexander Nolan), who prefers to be called Mista Jim, by throwing herself on the cabin floor and twerking.


Theater Review: 'Slave Play'

From: NY1 | By: Roma Torre | Date: 10/06/2019

It's a shocker alright, and provocatively compelling, many would say. And while I'm happy to see new works by young playwrights challenge the status quo, especially when performed so brilliantly as 'Slave Play' is...this one is dramatically quite a mess. Provocative? Yes. An intriguing premise? Yes. Important theatre? No, at least not yet.


‘Slave Play’ review: Broadway’s most thoughtful mess

From: New York Post | By: Johnny Oleksinski | Date: 10/06/2019

With all that time for development, most of the characters, such as they are, remain vague and archetypal. There's little change from start to finish, and therefore no investment from us. For better or worse, 'Slave Play' is the sort of show you see to say you've seen it.



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