New York | 1h 25m | Already closed

China Doll

From 40 critic and 141 member reviews
Members say: Disappointing, Slow, Confusing, Great acting, Excruciating

About the show

Al Pacino returns to Broadway in a limited run of a new play by David Mamet about big money, fast planes, a beautiful woman, and other objects of desire. More…

'China Doll' is a play about a wealthy man, his young fiancée, and an airplane. The man has just bought a new plane as a wedding present for his girl. He intends to walk away from it all with her, go into semi-retirement, and enjoy himself. He's in the process of leaving his office, and is giving last minute instructions to his assistant. He takes one last phone call...

1h 25m | Already closed | Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre (Midtown W)


"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

The Wrap

"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

The Wall Street Journal

"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

USA Today

"Pacino, stooping slightly, paces and gesticulates; his pauses and occasional mumbled lines (others are shouted, with sometimes alarming intensity) seem entirely in character...Pacino also reveals him, sometimes hauntingly, as a desperate old man. The play itself is not always coherent...But if 'China Doll' is sometimes shaky or confounding, it is never boring. Whatever Mamet's points, he and Pacino consistently engage us." Full Review

DC Theatre Scene

"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

The Clyde Fitch Report

"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


"Theatergoers early in previews had trouble deciphering the plot. We’re charged with doing so based on only Mickey’s part of these chats, and it can be a challenge, particularly with Pacino's halting delivery...The climax, which occurs impossibly soon after the events that set it in motion, would have benefited from a firmer hand by director Pam MacKinnon. 'China Doll' is muddled, but it's still a treat to see Pacino, even if we're not always sure what he's doing." 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

Financial Times (UK)

"If the character is gung-ho, however, the plot is gossamer...It’s a great joy to watch Pacino hold the stage for two hours. He may be aided by teleprompters and his energy may flag here and there — but his character, an ageing business magnate, is supposed to sputter...The evening sometimes seems more of a finger exercise than a full-length composition. 'China Doll' lacks delicious byplay, but in its sharper moments Mamet’s razor can still draw blood." Full Review

American Theater Web

"The repetitive information in the calls and Pacino’s often stammering delivery mean that 'China Doll' can make much of the first half of the play exceptionally slow-going...There’s some joy to be had in watching Pacino command attention with offbeat intensity. Further, the play’s indictment of how big business and wealth has the potential to corrupt our political system has an unfortunate and disheartening timeliness." Full Review

Center on the Aisle

"While Mamet has an extraordinary career as a playwright, 'China Doll' is not his greatest work, but theater aficionados will certainly get a taste for the renown and distinctive Mamet style of dialogue which is often marked by street smart, cynical and intelligently-crafted composition. While the play as a whole may not be superb in content or subtext there are elements that are absolutely incredible and transcend the show’s shortcomings." 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

The Huffington Post

"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


"'China Doll' is less a fully realized drama than an elongated rant...The script is a rambling mess...It's both overwritten and underwritten. Repetitiously wordy, yet lacking in coherence....If 'China Doll' fails as a play, it does make for a fairly interesting character study. And watching Pacino bluster through it is almost worth the trip." Full Review

The Associated Press

"The play itself is a meandering one-note character study of a doomed man…Pacino is predictably unpredictable: You never know when he'll handle something with menace or mockery. He drags out syllables to their breaking point and hurls verbal grenades that sound as innocuous as 'Well, I had a vision…' Director Pam MacKinnon has kept the tension building as the walls slowly close around Ross...But even she can't rescue the farcical, out-of-context ending." Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

"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


"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


“'China Doll' struggles mightily to make sense of byzantine, virtually incomprehensible two-hour monologue; Pam MacKinnon struggles to have Pacino speak like a fast-talking Mamet character, rather than slipping into his idiosyncratic verbal rhythms, and the audience struggles to pay attention --or even stay awake...To Mamet’s credit, there’s a germ of an interesting play here." Full Review


"Mamet seems to have no idea what he's trying to say here…The only real pleasure here is getting to luxuriate in Pacino's presence for a couple of hours, listening to the gravelly, up-and-down cadences of that unmistakable voice, and watching him almost succeed in generating pathos out of thin air. This lion in winter can still roar. Mamet owes him — and the audience — something much meatier to chew on." Full Review

Exeunt Magazine

"The play’s excessive use of one-sided phone conversations renders inert a play which otherwise might have had promise...Pacino settled in nicely and ripped through Mamet’s crackling dialogue...There’s still some fleeting magic in Mamet’s pen — including a few firecracker lines that really land…Perhaps the most deliciously terrible ending ever seen on Broadway, not necessarily dramatically implausible but written and directed with giggle-inducing ineptitude." 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


"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


"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

Lighting & Sound America

"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

Chicago Tribune

"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

Ambitious, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Entertaining, Quirky

See it if You like Al Pacino and you don't care that it's largely a one-man show.

Don't see it if You think listening to only one side of multiple phone conversations would be boring.

Clever, Ambitious, Entertaining, Absorbing, Delightful

See it if You enjoy plays. It was an interesting concept.

Don't see it if If you can't stand watching people talk on the phone.


See it if You are a Pacino fan. It's about two 45 minute acts of dialogue. There is 1 other actor w a few lines to break up the monotony. It's Mamet!

Don't see it if You expect glitz and glam. This show is led by Pacino & one must follow closely to understand the dialogue.

Cliched, Exquisite, Dizzying, Quirky, Intelligent

See it if you want

Don't see it if you don't

Entertaining, Great acting, Funny

See it if you love Al Pacino. He's always worth the price of admission no matter what he is in

Don't see it if you are looking for a great story line

Intelligent, Intense, Thought-provoking, Original, Clever

See it if You love Al Pacino

Don't see it if Like full Broadway productions.

Clever, Exquisite, Great acting

See it if you want to see an incredible one man performance !

Don't see it if not open minded to a cleverly stage play

Entertaining, Great acting, Cliched, Disappointing, Indulgent

See it if You love Mamet, even at his weakest, or will see anything with Pacino.

Don't see it if You disliked Mamet's last few plays.

Great acting, Clever, Slow

See it if You like Al Pacino! His acting is really great.

Don't see it if You want to see something funny and entertainment.

Ambitious, Disappointing, Slow, Confusing, Original

See it if A slow story not worthy of Al Pacino. He talks on phone the whole time

Don't see it if If you are looking for this legend to shine

Star-driven, Omg!, Obdurate, Smarmy, Mametesque

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).

Also "I'm not your puppet, Pam!" Al Pacino famously said to director Pam Mc... Read more Read less

Cliched, Disappointing, Underrated

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.

Make it stop

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

Banal, Disappointing, Excruciating, Must see, Indulgent

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 are a huge Al Pacino fan & need to see him on stage.

Don't see it if you are looking for an exciting time at the theatre. Play runs flat, David Mamet did not do Al Pacino any justice or favors with this play

Dated, Disappointing, Overrated, Slow

See it if You die to see Al Pacino.

Don't see it if It annoys you when a decently put together show somehow doesn't work.

Disappointing, Overrated

See it if you're only interested in seeing a play with a famous actor

Don't see it if You're after a great story and acting. Al Pacino was not the greatest actor in stage, very one dimensional

Dizzying, Edgy, Intense

See it if You are an Al Pacino fan ! This is close to being a monologue.

Don't see it if You only want to see a traditionally constructed play.

Disappointing, Dizzying, Slow

See it if You love Al Pacino or David Mamet.

Don't see it if There are a lot of reasons not to see this. The play is interesting, Pacino is good, but there's not enough substance to make this worth it.

Disappointing, Slow

See it if you want to see Al Pacino on stage

Don't see it if any but Al Pacino is doing the role. It was clearly written for him and only him. Not much of a show in gereral

Indulgent, Mediocre mamet, But not the full-on trainwreck i was expecting based on the reviews

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.

Confusing, Disappointing, Overrated, Slow

See it if You like a slow moving play. And if you think al paccino

Don't see it if It was a play that was slow moving. And disappointing because the greatest star of all time was in the show. Can't believe he was in this.

Slow, Original, Masterful, Great acting, Disappointing

See it if you like Al Pacino.

Don't see it if you don't like Al Pacino. You'll be wasting your time and money, since he was the literally the only good thing about the play.

Disappointing, Slow, Confusing, Indulgent, Overrated

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.

Banal, Cliched, Confusing, Disappointing, Excruciating

See it if The Mamet/Pacino combo seems too good to pass up

Don't see it if You do not want to feel robbed by a legend

Cast & Creatives (8)