Closed 2h 35m
Children of a Lesser God
Midtown W
77

Children of a Lesser God NYC Reviews and Tickets

77%
(776 Reviews)
Positive
82%
Mixed
16%
Negative
2%
Members say
Great acting, Thought-provoking, Absorbing, Intelligent, Dated

About the Show

The Tony-winning drama about the romance between a sensitive but spirited deaf woman and a devoted (and hearing) teacher returns to Broadway with Joshua Jackson ('The Affair'), Lauren Ridloff, and Anthony Edwards ('ER').

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Member Reviews (776)

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65
Disappointing, Slow, Lifeless, Confusing

See it if No major reason to go. It's not horrible. Just mediocre.

Don't see it if The constant translation and acting by Jackson were out of the narration of a children's book. Really unnatural, devoid of passion and silly Read more

77
Dated, Great acting, Relevant, Slow, Resonant

See it if Still important, still poignant drama about disabilities both physical & emotional Yet good work by leads can't quite overcome clumsy script

Don't see it if Leon's direction fails to ignite action or balance drama's flaws Inert set hurts also Play feels more about gender issues than disability

Critic Reviews (46)

April 11th, 2018

"A knockout professional debut performance by Ridloff...A lovely performance by Jackson...Leon’s direction seems random...The play falters badly in its second act...Eventually you realize that Mr. Medoff simply did not have the wherewithal to dramatize the fundamental conflict any further because James is his hero but Sarah is right. The play, written when it was, can’t quite support that — not because of its deaf politics, but because of its sexual politics."
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April 11th, 2018

"Maddeningly heavy-handed...Some of the problems are structural...But a larger problem is tonal. To today's audiences, James's relationship with Sarah is manifestly jerkish from the get-go...A different production might have hidden these failings or even jujitsu-ed them into virtues. But Leon's revival, broad and ungainly, exacerbates them...Ridloff is the only thing in the play that seems to have any inner life at all. She is a wonder; the rest is mostly unspeakable."
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April 11th, 2018

"There are two intense scenes...Both are performed with instinctive brilliance by acting rookie Ridloff, Broadway's most accessible show ever for the hearing-impaired is at times inaccessible or awkward for the hearing - which is maybe the most thematically resonant technical flaw ever to afflict a play...Leon’s direction leans into the play’s age as well as its loose plotting...Logistical concerns vanish in the play's best moments."
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April 11th, 2018

"The production tips the balance away from the author's sensitive handling of deaf politics toward the bland reaffirmation that the heart is a more powerful communication tool than the human voice...Leon's sluggish production does eventually gather some steam...Those basic rights of autonomy, respect and visibility should still resonate today, perhaps more than ever...And yet they are strangely muffled by Leon's insipid treatment of the love story."
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April 11th, 2018

"Urges its audience to '#StartListening', but struggles at times to relay a clear message of its own...Jackson's performance loosens as it goes and is especially noteworthy in the second act. Ridloff, however, is downright powerful from the moment she signs her first sentence...'Children of a Lesser God' hopes theatergoers will go home and give some deeper thought to the way they communicate...but the most lasting impression of the show is its two standout performances instead."
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April 11th, 2018

"Ridloff is a stunning performer...Conflict between the speaking world and the silent world was portrayed more forcefully in the original production...Lacking that solid thematic foundation, Medoff's play deflates into just another romantic drama about mismatched lovers...The writer doesn’t seem to have any special aptitude for the language of love, and his efforts to lighten it up are embarrassing...Jackson doesn’t give off much heat for a lover with a burning heart."
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April 12th, 2018

"'Children' is too dramatically creaky to survive its own transformation into a period piece. Today we want to see inside the deaf culture at whose existence Medoff hints, instead of merely looking at it through a window...The only other thing the play has to offer is a chance for a virtuoso deaf actor to strut her stuff...Ridloff's performance is stupendously bold and expressive—she signs like a ballerina dances—and I can’t imagine this will be the last that Broadway sees of her."
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April 11th, 2018

"Lives on now mostly as a well-constructed if somewhat dated relationship drama and as a showcase for its two primary, argument-siding characters...Sarah's stance, hardly the revelation it once was, becomes clear at the play’s emotional peak...It is entirely to the credit of Ridloff's powerhouse performance that the moment still hits as hard as it does...Jackson’s performance can seem broad, pitched too big, but the exaggeration makes as James' importance as translator comes into focus."
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April 11th, 2018

"Ridloff, who communicates superbly on myriad levels is making a most distinguished Broadway debut in a role she has made entirely her own...While it remains easy to understand the how and the why of this play meaning so very much to so many people, it no longer is so easy to pull for the success of their relationship as you sit in the theater. And, frankly, that messes with the dynamic of the whole affair...These issues are exacerbated by a strange and chilly aesthetic structure."
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April 11th, 2018

"Only fitfully engaging and stirring...Medoff's script can be simplistic and preachy. And creepy...'Children of a Lesser God' is, ultimately, about connecting. Leon's stark and chilly production actually doesn't nurture intimacy...Ridloff, a wonderfully expressive actress, provides the show with its vibrant beating heart. She connects with and conveys Sarah's anger, desire, vulnerability and independent spirit - and leaves a lasting impression."
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April 11th, 2018

"Although the play's central theme remains timely and has broad application, it has not aged well as a work of drama, with its romance coming off today as corny and overly sentimental...The underwhelming revival does the play no favors with a slick, angular and metallic visual design that unnecessarily calls attention to itself...Its primary problem is a lack of chemistry between the raw and aggressive Ridloff and the unexpressive and uninteresting Jackson."
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April 11th, 2018

"In 1982...it was revelatory...It doesn't hold up all that well. The play still resonates, but the production is flawed...Leon's staging is poorly paced...and the overall effect is rather static...And while Sarah's refusal to speak or lip read is understandable, her angry defiance, as written, is somewhat confounding given their loving relationship. The emotional dynamic seems off...Lauren Ridloff’s talent is stunning...Great work from Joshua Jackson having to do some heavy lifting in this production."
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April 11th, 2018

"Exciting performances infuse Medoff's musty script with new vitality...Between excellent acting and mediocre design, the former wins out, but just barely. I'm still not convinced that ‘Children of a Lesser God’ is durable enough to remain in the theatrical repertory: Medoff's language is too clunky and his drama too contrived. Still, that shouldn't prevent us from connecting with these very human performances for a fleeting moment."
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April 11th, 2018

"Beyond the exquisite portrayals of the two complicated characters at its center, there is a great deal more to commend about the smartly reconceptualized revival...Leon has wisely avoided any lingering mustiness clinging to this nearly forty-year-old work by fully embracing the still-evolving changes in the ways we think about relationships...Lauren Ridloff gives a luminous and emotionally explosive performance as Sarah."
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April 11th, 2018

"A remarkably, uncomfortably dated work...The first act, as James continues to both bully and seduce Sarah, is icky...The lack of any chemistry between the leads doesn't help. And that this production makes Sarah black turns it from icky to deeply discomfiting...The second act...is less gross but no less uncomfortable...'Children of a Lesser God' has some things going for it. Ridloff is sensational, as expressive as she is lovely."
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April 12th, 2018

"The piece feels only modestly affecting and somewhat dated...Jackson pulls off some of Medoff’s more dramatic (and melodramatic) scenes with true conviction. Nonetheless, his performance never completely coalesces...It doesn’t help that Kenny Leon’s entire production feels a bit more lightweight than it should have, from his use of R&B and pop standards that will tempt you to sing along to Derek McLane’s too-pretty abstract set...Leon has cast the play well."
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April 12th, 2018

"Fails to illuminate that quest for connection or compellingly engage us in its telling...Jackson is simply not up to the demands of the part...The performance merely becomes monotonous and wearing. This is a huge drawback in a play that only works if we become totally invested in the two principal characters...Ridloff is a delicate, almost gamine Sarah whose charisma and emotional clarity somewhat compensates for a lack of ferocity."
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April 16th, 2018

"Medoff’s superior command of dramatic writing encompasses two substantial leading roles and several rich supporting parts...Director Leon imposes an odd production design on the presentation that is distracting...Jackson gets through the role with professionalism but with little impact. Others in the cast make up for this void but the vacuum of implausibility looms...The main thing is that it holds up as an affective stage piece but is considerably let down by this problematic production."
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April 11th, 2018

"A mostly mild-mannered staging of a play that begs for more emotional credibility from the two the leads who lack the spark to make us care. What is essentially missing from the two leads despite their earnestness is any discernible chemistry...If Leon's direction of the play and its players is no more than arrestingly tasteful it still doesn't diminish Medoff's theme that the world of sound and the world of silence have the right to be extraordinarily worlds apart."
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April 12th, 2018

"Joshua Jackson has a difficult role as both actor and translator, and he is simply put, wonderful. He makes it all look so easy...Lauren Ridloff is a powerhouse of raw emotion and honesty. She is so incredibly strong and beautiful...The signing is so amazing that when the characters do simple mimes of opening windows and doors, those movements come across as awkward and jarring compared to the complex moves of ASL. Those mimes felt out of place."
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April 16th, 2018

"Meant to be a memory play but the lighting, sound, design, and direction have not necessarily made that consistently evident. Leon's direction leads the play to come off as messy and confusing...Jackson's tender relationship with Ridloff is the play's saving grace but he cannot overcome the fundamental weakness of James being the central voice of the play...Ridloff is a charismatic and dynamic...No one in this production has made the case for this play in this moment."
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T
April 19th, 2018

"Does not seem to have the emotional impact as the original...Jackson gives a valid and notable performance...Lacks the impassioned tone that should complement Sarah's expressions when delivering her lines...Ridloff is a joy to watch...Sculpting words with fluid movements...accompanied by miens of anger, joy, passion, and concern...Both actors deftly execute their roles...but lack a certain chemistry...Leon has approached this production from too many angles."
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April 11th, 2018

"Stunning Broadway debut of Ridloff...Feels dated...As respectful as 'Children of a Lesser God' is towards the deaf point of view - James is shown as well-meaning but ignorant - the play is still presented entirely from his perspective...Jackson is a charming actor, but his halting efforts to use two languages at the same time feels awkward, and turns tedious...Near the end of the play, Ridloff insists on 'speaking' for herself, it is stirring. If only the play didn't seem to undermine her efforts."
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April 25th, 2018

“Ridloff's…engaging performance is the chief reason to see this less than exciting revival of a play whose aging seams are showing…Jackson, who handles his technical requirements unusually well,…isn't able to make James…likable enough…Moreover, the experience of hearing only his voice saying both James's lines and Sarah's grows thin as the monotony grows thicker…The dramaturgy too often creaks under the weight of exposition, artificially induced crises, or melodramatic circumstances.”
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April 15th, 2018

"Ridloff’s performance is wonderfully done, but the role is written, so that most women will see her as an unforgiving, spoiled brat...When James tells her of his family life, it is James our hearts break over...Jackson signs brilliantly...He brings those movements to fluidity. His understated performance is riveting...In the 'PC' world we live in, this play makes zero sense. I understand we may not like having to compromise, but isn’t that part of life?"
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April 11th, 2018

"The strongest argument for seeing this revival is the powerful performance by Ms. Ridloff. It is easy to see why James would be so attracted to her. Mr. Jackson gives a creditable performance in a demanding role, although I would have liked a little more variety...The direction by Kenny Leon is assured, but I wish he had made a few cuts."
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April 11th, 2018

"In the original Broadway production, Rubinstein's James came off merely brash for aggressively pursuing Sarah...Today, James's behavior is downright creepy...At its heart, 'Children' is a two-hander with one actor doing all the talking...'Children' might not exhibit all the limitations of a two-hander if any of the supporting characters were develop beyond a mere stereotype...Ridloff successfully projects the beautiful enigma that James loves but will never fully know."
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April 12th, 2018

"'Children of a Lesser God' is one play whose sell-by date has definitely passed; even given embers of a still burning debate about deaf culture and identity, this plodding and clinical revival is dull, stale, unremarkable, and problematic in its treatment of a relationship between a deaf student and her teacher. Despite strong performances by TV's Joshua Jackson and deaf actor Lauren Ridloff, skip this one."
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April 11th, 2018

"The interactions between the characters are palpably torturous...Ridloff turns in an impassioned award-worthy performance...Supertitles in the theater contain a transcription of his spoken words, but not of her signing, until he reiterates it...As a result, there is a bit of an emotional disconnect and lack of chemistry between the two actors, and timing that often feels a beat behind...While 'Children of a Lesser God' has in some ways become a period piece, it’s one that is still important."
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April 25th, 2018

"It's inexplicable to me that a teen heartthrob over a decade past his sell-by date has landed a role on Broadway; still, at the very least, I'd expect him to learn his lines...And isn't the insistence on speaking Sarah's dialogue out loud an implicit endorsement of James' position? Ostensibly about deafness, ‘Children of a Lesser God’ ultimately defers to the demands of the hearing world."
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April 11th, 2018

"The world is a much different place than it was when the 1980 Tony-winning play first brought much needed attention to the complicated issues facing the hearing-impaired...But the drama's impact remains as it unfolds...Ridloff plays Sarah with a don't-mess-with-me vengeance, careful to not let vulnerabilities sneak through...Jackson is solid as James, speaking his own lines and interpreting for Sarah."
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T
April 11th, 2018

"The pedigree of this story promised some acting fireworks...When the play centers its focus on the core relationship, 'Children of a Lesser God' is at its best...Chemistry between these two central characters is critical here and both actors deliver on that promise...However, I did not really get engaged so by the end, all of this fell a little flat for me. A very good clinical and analytical study with some great acting roles but not exceptional enough to be considered a top-tier play."
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T
April 17th, 2018

"What makes us more sympathetic to Sarah is James's lack of tact. Although he is filled with love and compassion, he simply cannot put himself in the shoes of the woman he so desperately wants to help...Jackson does yeoman's work delivering his lines and translating Sarah's sign language...As a result much of his performance seems more informative than emotional...It is Ridloff's luminescent performance that carries this production triumphantly to the finish line."
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April 17th, 2018

"Both characters and actors, are electric together...Succeeds as a romantic play...Jackson gives the character such a noble, caring nature, and Lidloff's sparkling wit helps you understand why the two fall in love; they strengthen each other...I’d like to say that these lovebirds soar over social barriers and labels, but the reason 'Children of A Lesser God' succeeds as a romantic play is because it shows, sometimes, love is not enough."
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April 11th, 2018

"It still holds up very well...A moving and revealing insight into the world of the deaf...The supremely expressive Ridloff is able to convey a wealth of emotion in a performance that is full of passion and frustration while avoiding vulnerability and therefore sentimentality....Jackson's performance is dexterous and impressive...The production additionally makes unprecedented steps towards inclusivity...Leon's absorbing production is only undermined by an ugly abstract set."
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April 12th, 2018

"McGinty and Edmond speak as well as sign their dialogue, bringing into focus how isolated Sarah is...Leon seamlessly fuses conversations taking place at different places to create an exquisite storytelling tableau. The story still is timely decades after the play's debut. 'Children of a Lesser God' makes us sit up and listen."
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April 11th, 2018

"Jackson gives a completely unenthusiastic, lackluster performance, producing a pompous and condescending vibe that, like him, never seems to go away...Ridloff provides such a powerful honesty to her character that it is impossible not to side with her and to believe everything she says...Perhaps Mr. Leon is unaware that 'Children of a Lesser God' is a deeply offensive play...This production of 'Children of a Lesser God' proves that some plays are best left on the shelf."
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April 16th, 2018

"Still a riveting show despite being slightly dated...What makes the story so engrossing is the manner in which James and Sarah interact...Mr. Jackson and Ms. Ridloff give outstanding performances...The supporting cast members are all first rate...Kenny Leon’s scattershot direction is often cumbersome...Mr. Leon could have improved the pacing of the material and brought more focus to the ending."
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April 12th, 2018

"Changing deaf community politics in the four decades since the original production, plus the stilted mechanics of Kenny Leon’s direction, plus the use of supertitles for what is and is not translated using that tool, create a murky mess of a story that might once have resonated but which hasn’t aged well...This is an odd play to revive without adaptations, either in the text or in the staging."
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April 22nd, 2018

"Medoff's play presents a love story between Sarah, a young woman deaf from birth, and her speaking teacher James...But more than that, the play takes on the conflict between the deaf who would prefer not being forced to accommodate to a hearing world...Although not a perfect production, it has an aura of sweetness and a gentle tension that smacks of a slightly different time. And performances, under Leon's direction, are uniformly excellent. Well worth seeing."
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M
May 9th, 2018

"Feels amiss despite the two outstanding leads...Too much weight is shouldered by the two which burdens the storytelling...The shortcomings with the play stem from a riddled script, flimsy sets and flawed audio. Too much of the dialogue gets lost in translation. However, the prescient messaging of the play resounds clearly. The multi-racial cast echoes the struggle to feel empathy versus pity and proffering help without browbeating."
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April 12th, 2018

"Jackson definitely has the stage debut of the year, and Ridloff isn't far behind him. She makes the Sarah Norman character accessible if not understandable...making the play palatable in 2018. That’s because what seemed earthshaking in 1982 seems passe in 2018...The issues involved have changed. It’s hard to work up enthusiasm now for Sarah’s outrage and lawsuit. But credit the actors for keeping the debate alive."
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F
April 21st, 2018

"While Jackson gives a warm-hearted and doubtlessly dedicated performance, Ridloff brings to this production an honesty and ferocity that is refreshing, poignant, and profoundly stirring....Ridloff is a discovery who has blessed this revival with the power to stand as a worthy reincarnation of Medoff's work and who, through expressive, resounding silence delivers a performance among the most exceptional this season."
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April 23rd, 2018

"Ridloff is radiant and full of life and energy...Jackson does a great job of juggling the responsibility of portraying James...Requiring him to act in a way that has him reacting to Sarah's dialogue while translating her...Still a profound piece of theater...Leon has created a superb revival that reminds audiences to cast aside their assumptions about people and learn to listen not just with their ears and eyes, but also with their hearts and minds."
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Z
April 12th, 2018

"Brings new life to a story that takes place in a cloistered environment yet has universal appeal...Ridloff’s passionate performance transcends spoken language. The weakness of the play may be the secondary characters who sometimes feel like superficial foils created to provide friction...The complex issues between the hearing and non-hearing world still exist and, as this revival vividly conveys, the need to be heard in one’s own voice remains powerful and relevant."
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G
April 12th, 2018

"Though written in the ‘70s, the revival paints an accurate representation of deaf culture today...As a deaf person with a cochlear implant, Sarah’s isolation on stage resonated and left me with a few tears. The play used creative ways to subvert this traditional dynamic of who understood what...For once, my struggles with hearing weren't a hindrance, and I was given the privilege to do exactly what I had always hoped to do in a theater: to sit back...and actually enjoy the show."
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