China Doll
Closed 1h 25m
China Doll
48

China Doll NYC Reviews and Tickets

48%
(141 Reviews)
Positive
35%
Mixed
21%
Negative
44%
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.

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Member Reviews (141)

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45
Opaque, Boring, Tedious, Confusing, Unengaging

See it if you've always wanted to see Al Pacino make a lot of phone calls.

Don't see it if you can't handle a SUPER slow burn for a SUPER small payoff.

72
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.

Critic Reviews (40)

The New York Times
December 3rd, 2015

"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."
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Time Out New York
December 3rd, 2015

"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."
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New York Magazine / Vulture
December 3rd, 2015

"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."
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The Hollywood Reporter
December 3rd, 2015

"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."
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Variety
December 3rd, 2015

"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."
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The Wall Street Journal
December 3rd, 2015

"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."
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The Observer
December 8th, 2015

"David Mamet’s ghastly 'China Doll' is the worst thing I’ve seen on a professional New York stage since the ill-fated 'Moose Murders.' On the disaster meter, it might be even worse...Neither he nor the play makes one lick of sense, including the title...What is it doing on Broadway, and what did we do to deserve it?"
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Deadline
December 4th, 2015

"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."
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Chicago Tribune
December 4th, 2015

"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."
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Los Angeles Times
December 4th, 2015

"If eavesdropping on a switchboard is your idea of drama, then 'China Doll' is the play of your dreams. (I was secretly hoping Mickey would holler for Carson to get Mamet a play doctor.) The playwright toys with a number of dramatic possibilities but never finds conviction...Reports of Pacino having difficulty memorizing his lines have been circulating...But I would defy anyone to try to learn a script so vexingly stylized it seems as though it could only be a Mamet parody."
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New York Post
December 4th, 2015

"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."
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New York Daily News
December 3rd, 2015

"'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."
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AM New York
December 3rd, 2015

"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."
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NY1
December 4th, 2015

"'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."
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Theatermania
December 3rd, 2015

"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."
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BroadwayWorld
December 4th, 2015

"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."
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Lighting & Sound America
December 9th, 2015

"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."
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Talkin' Broadway
December 4th, 2015

"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."
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TheaterScene.net
January 10th, 2016

"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."
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CurtainUp
December 4th, 2015

"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."
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Front Row Center
December 8th, 2015

"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. "
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Exeunt Magazine
December 6th, 2015

"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."
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C
December 4th, 2015

“'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."
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DC Theatre Scene
December 6th, 2015

"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."
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The Guardian (UK)
December 3rd, 2015

"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?"
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The Clyde Fitch Report
December 11th, 2015

"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."
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The Huffington Post
December 3rd, 2015

"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."
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The Wrap
December 3rd, 2015

"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."
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USA Today
December 3rd, 2015

"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."
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Newsday
December 3rd, 2015

"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.'"
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Towleroad
December 8th, 2015

"A grueling and nearly impenetrable slog of a play...The exposition proceeds at a slow trickle, as does the plot. Excepting the brief moments when Mickey barks at or cajoles his assistant, Mamet’s play is entirely made up of one-sided conversations conducted over an ergonomic earpiece...Whether anything else about the play becomes clear depends on the sheer strength of your will."
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NorthJersey.com
December 5th, 2015

"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."
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WNBC
December 4th, 2015

"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."
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NJ.com
December 4th, 2015

"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."
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StageZine
December 4th, 2015

"David Mamet’s latest, 'China Doll,' is an enigma. Enigmas can be fun and brilliant...cracking the so-called undecipherable codes of Mamet’s 'China Doll,' however, is pointless; you’ll just end up with a headache...The narrative is so undisciplined and structure-free that it is hard to connect to its central character...The culprit who failed both Mamet and Pacino is the director, Pam MacKinnon. She is way out of her league with two super egos like Mamet and Pacino; she never had a chance."
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The Associated Press
December 3rd, 2015

"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."
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Journal Inquirer
January 14th, 2016

"It’s all about money and what it can buy. Only 'China Doll' hasn’t made that theme even remotely interesting. Paying a lot of money to have a star headline the show hasn’t worked either...As we were leaving the theater, audience members who stuck it out were questioning each other about the purpose of the play."
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American Theater Web
December 4th, 2015

"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."
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Financial Times (UK)
December 4th, 2015

"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."
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Center on the Aisle
December 9th, 2015

"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."
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