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"Christopher Denham is the most underpaid actor on Broadway…He is onstage for almost the entire show. So is — pause for ominous silence — Al Pacino. Now please cue sound effects of chalk scratching on countless blackboards and the ping, ping, ping of an endlessly dripping faucet, and you have some idea of what Mr. Denham must be going through...Mr. Pacino’s lurching, stammering performance is not easy to follow in terms of content, character or subtext." Full Review
"Al Pacino seems perfectly secure and in control of everything he's saying on stage...He's detailed, committed and always interesting to watch...The balance actor Denham adds to the play is invaluable and the most effective asset of director MacKinnon's production...It does provide enough of the old Mamet tension and cynicism that makes decent people feel disgust for the world we live in. And sometimes that's enough to send you out of the theatre with a smile on your face." Full Review
"Two hours of bullshit....Have you ever had the desire to watch Pacino at home, arguing with AppleCare Plus? You are in luck...'China Doll' offers the sad spectacle of two world-class artists turning in their lamest work. The play is crammed with backstory and padded with an interminable series of phone calls. Pacino, wobbly on his lines, dithers without the vocal snap and drive that Mamet—even late, third-rate Mamet—needs." Full Review
"As terrible as the buzz has been — Pacino struggling with his lines, theatergoers demanding refunds, a delayed opening — the reality is even worse. The plot, such as it is, plays out like a bad parody of Mamet at his worst — all tough-guy posturing, secret motives, power plays, violent resolution — and with zero impact…Asking us to feel for a rich dude committing tax evasion: Mamet is setting up a real challenge for himself." Full Review
"There’s material for maybe a one-act in this overblown character study...Mamet loves writing this kind of savage dialogue and Pacino loves delivering it..Pacino can handle Mickey’s lightning mood changes and even charm (and con) us...What he can’t do is play all the characters who are integral, but aren’t actually on stage...Let’s face it, that’s the job of a playwright committed to writing a legitimate play, instead of phoning it in." Full Review
"Is 'China Doll' a great play? No. At times it's barely passable…It isn't dramatically compelling…'China Doll' is confusing…It's almost as though the scenes that explained each person were axed from the finished script…Still, nothing beats a sharp Mamet one-liner, and this script is peppered with several…Pacino's work is virtuosic, drawing on his years of experience playing characters with the shortest possible fuse to deliver the quintessential Al Pacino performance. And that's thrilling." Full Review
"It’s unclear how much Pacino is enjoying the exercise…He often seems distracted, stuttering over his sentences…Much of the first act feels like throat clearing, a long limbering up to set the wheels of plot spinning. Spinning is most of what they continue to do throughout the second act until a wildly improbably finale…Pam MacKinnon has little success in clarifying the relationships or even the setting...If Pacino had not signed on, would anyone have bothered with this at all?" Full Review
"Ultimately, it feels like a stunt; by keeping the other side of the discussion silent, the playwright doesn't have to justify what Mickey is saying. Some of the leaps in the plot are so oblique that the play loses any steam it had…But after all is said and done you are left with Al Pacino...If 'China Doll' has its weaknesses--and it has--it also has Al Pacino. And Al Pacino, on this occasion, is enough." Full Review
"There is drama tucked away inside the script of 'China Doll,' but both playwright and director have applied the brakes, slowing the action to a crawl, and their low-energy star is unable to act as a galvanizing agent. Some of Mamet's plays are thrilling and some are irritating, even infuriating. I would never describe one as sleepy. Until now." Full Review
"What’s most unclear is why Mamet wants to keep so much unclear...But as the play progresses, there is, if not complete clarity, a growing force and focus…Mamet gives Pacino the gift of snappy dialogue…In return, Pacino gives Mickey a specificity of intonation and of gesture that somehow compensates for the vagueness of the script. That specificity, of course, is Pacino’s, his familiar repertoire, semaphores of his stardom – the Pacino shout; the Pacino point." Full Review
"An audience can care about ANYTHING when there is passion behind the story. Needlework, cleaning horse stalls, and even watching paint dry. Just light the match of passion and we are hooked. Which is why we are so disconnected from the goings on in this production. First of all, David Mamet’s script is nearly lifeless...At the center of this tale is a temper tantrum on very, very slow burn. " Full Review
"All the proper elements appear to be on hand, but the few tiny misalignments are just killers. With the proper additional time, the pieces could come together into what there's every reason to believe the play can be: a gripping, incisive look at what happens when a free-wheeling rich man is transformed into an animal locked in a cage of his own making. But that's unlikely to happen as long as Pacino, and not the magnificent monster he's portraying, is the one who seems lost and trapped." Full Review
"David Mamet has written a tense and involving one-act play. Trouble is, he’s written it as a two-act play…Although the playwright holds off on his ending for longer than he should, when it does arrive, it’s explosive...It’s not only a surprise, it’s perhaps even too much of an unexpected plot turn. But it does send the audience up the aisles with more satisfaction than they felt at the end of the first act…Pacino is certainly effective at displaying Mickey’s labile moods." Full Review
"A strongly wrought story of considerable moral complexity, one that will hold your attention all the way to the brutal end… Not only is the premise of 'China Doll' involving, but Mr. Mamet is once again coining the bright, hard utterances that are his trademark…I never felt that Pacino was at ease with his lines. Especially in the first act, his pace is much slower than you expect it to be...In his best moments he’s as richly characterful as ever." Full Review
"For the most part, 'China Doll' is a rambling, incoherent monologue…With big gestures and expressions, Pacino delivers a highly worked-up, outlandish performance that could be interpreted as a desperate attempt to add entertainment. Despite the play's problems, Pacino's theatrics throw it off further dramatically. The visual opulence of Pam MacKinnon's production is also questionable." Full Review
"The story is rigged to make Mickey, of all people, a victim…As the basis of a drama it’s disastrous...How much can one care about the machinations of the super-rich…? Perhaps what Mamet is getting at is hubris, the self-knowledge that comes only when it can do no good. If so, the production, clearly hamstrung by the script’s severe limitations, barely acknowledges the possibility, with its stuttering pace and sudden botch of a final curtain." Full Review
"A smug but pointless exercise stretched over two hours and enlivened only by the occasional incisive political zinger…This is a far-fetched scenario whose scant credibility escapes it like air out of an unknotted balloon, landing with a splat in a preposterous ending that doesn’t work at all… Although the Pacino as always is a unique stage animal, he's giving a lazy performance without much heart." Full Review
"'China Doll' is not even better than oral surgery. At least for that sort of medical procedure you get painkillers. And it’s not a complete waste of time and money...Pacino is Mickey Ross, who’s on his cellphone for three-quarters of the show. Not the stuff of great drama...The entire production hinges on its star attraction…Pacino can’t make Mamet’s malarkey into anything. Some actors can make reading the white pages fascinating. Pacino fails to make phone calls anything but drudgery." Full Review
"Plays depending on phone conversations with unseen participants are almost always a bad idea, and 'China Doll' is no exception. However, bad as it is (and worse still after the intermission), 'China Doll' has one major asset, and that is the star’s unrequited commitment. It may be a dopey play that keeps tripping over its MEGO-inducing minutiae, but Pacino delivers every line with relish, with mustard, onions, the works." Full Review
"All the charisma, verbal and physical quirks Pacino brings to Mickey Ross can't save this horse from being lame-footed…All this one-sided talk doesn't exactly have on the edge of your seat, despite having a usually smart director like Pam MacKinnon at the helm...But while this has none of the snap, crackle, pop of Mamet gems like 'Glen Garry Glen Ross' or 'Speed-the-Plow'... Mr. Mamet is still enough of a pro to treat us to a few Mametian zingers." Full Review
"It feel like Mamet and Pacino deliberately dreamed up a project that would have to flounder to make its point. They succeeded. It is hard to imagine a more disorienting show. And yet it's hard to imagine another actor going ahead with what Pacino pushes through here. Well, he doesn't exactly push through. He jumps around in the quagmire, unleashing one gurgle, one spluttering demi-sentence, one gesticulated demand, after another." Full Review
"The playwright has given Pacino almost no story to build around his character and given him lines that pick over the same obvious plot points, mostly with the same barking emphasis…It is always a kick to watch Pacino wrestle with a character — and this one is a beast. Every so often, Mamet gives him a wonderful line that sums up the dark side of humanity. More often, however, the writing is as lazy as Mickey calling someone 'more fun than a Swiss Army Knife.'" Full Review
"It’s a very slow burning first act…The carefully parsed-out details that we do learn, however, make for a riveting second act. Much of the language is sublime and there are great one liners along the way: ‘Everyone wants to go to heaven, but no one wants to die.’ But would 'China Doll' work without Pacino or a star of his caliber? No way…He brings out his entire arsenal of shtick...And he’s great doing all of it." Full Review
"If 'China Doll' were written by an aspiring playwright, you’d wonder if the author should be exploring another line of work. That it’s the creation of David Mamet, one of the most influential authors in contemporary American theater, is mind-boggling. Among its transgressions is the abuse of the talent of Al Pacino, who gives a valiant performance, although one that also seems to acknowledge he knows when he’s beaten. The drama is a pointless, drawn-out mess." Full Review
"If 'China Doll' only consisted of its relatively lively 40-minute second act that could have sufficed as minor starry entertainment. Unfortunately, it's painfully preceded by a leaden first act of a nearly interminable hour. Together this makes for a negligible play and a sad display of the latest efforts of two great theatrical talents." Full Review
See it if This is hardly a masterpiece, but it wasn't as bad as people made it out. I saw it late in the run and it held my interest. Pacino was good.
Don't see it if This will be looked back on as a total flop and failure. But at least that makes this unremarkable play memorable now.
See it if You're a Mamet completist or Pacino obsessive and can get a discounted ticket. It's not good, but not unwatchable either.
Don't see it if You're expecting prime Mamet.
See it if you are a fan of Al Pacino you are a David Mamet completist you are a playwright (as a case study for what can go wrong from page-to-stage)
Don't see it if you are a fan of Al Pacino
See it if You heard the terrible reviews and still need to see Pacino live. Bucket list item ✅ The majority of the dialogue is delivered into a phone
Don't see it if Unless you have to see Pacino live.. The play itself is kinda awful though I am in Finance and really appreciated the compliance plot point
See it if You want to see Pacino looking like a homeless person in expensive clothes.
Don't see it if You want to understand what's going on, get value for your $ or be engaged by the story.
See it if you really, really, REALLY love Al Pacino.
Don't see it if You want a very slow show. The WHOLE show has no real plot. You want to see Al fall asleep on stage and barley hear him. DON'T WASTE MONEY.
See it if you like pretentiousness and aging actors meandering all over the stage to read the teleprompters.
Don't see it if you enjoyed David Mamet plays before he turned from a liberal to a conservative. (i.e. all the good ones).