New York | 2h 0m | Already closed

M. Butterfly

From 53 critic and 328 member reviews
Members say: Great acting, Absorbing, Thought-provoking, Ambitious, Disappointing

About the show

David Henry Hwang's Tony Award-winning play comes back to Broadway in a new production directed by Tony Award-winner Julie Taymor and starring Academy Award nominee and Golden Globe Award winner Clive Owen. More…

David Henry Hwang’s modern classic, 'M. Butterfly' charts the scandalous romance between a married French diplomat and a mysterious Chinese opera singer – a remarkable love story of international espionage and personal betrayal. Their 20-year relationship pushed and blurred the boundaries between male and female, East and West – while redefining the nature of love and the devastating cost of deceit. For the Tony Award-winning play’s first Broadway return, Hwang will introduce new material inspired by the real-life love affair between French diplomat Bernard Boursicot and Chinese opera singer Shi Pei Pu that has come to light since the play’s 1988 premiere.

2h 0m | Already closed | Cort Theatre (Midtown W)

Theater Pizzazz

"A stunning production. Playwright David Henry Hwang has made some minor revisions, but the play still packs the dramatic wallop it did in 1988...Hats off to Taymor, who peppers the play with vivid pageantry bursting with color...Yet Taymor’s sense of spectacle never gets in the way of what, if rocky and ultimately tragic, is a tender love story...Taymor, Owen, and Ha make major contributions to this exciting production, but it’s Hwang’s tight, toned and fluid script that is the star." Full Review

What Should We Do?

“I found ‘M. Butterfly’ 2.0 to be a fascinating, provocative series of boxes and surfaces, constantly shifting and reconstituting itself to beguile our senses and sympathies...Taymor’s intense, painterly staging complements the shifting perspectives and cinematic quick cuts of Hwang’s script...Taymor creates a dazzling series of tableaux that mesh perfectly with Hwang’s heightened, poetic lines...Owen is unexpectedly vulnerable as a Frenchman undone by his cultural prejudices." Full Review


"Both visually and intellectually, this revival is a wholesale departure from John Dexter’s original production, a decision that turns out to have been wise choosing. This 'M. Butterfly' is every bit as memorable as the original...This conventional style for such an unconventional script has the salubrious effect of throwing the action into high relief, and allows both Owen and Jin Ha to shine; they’re mesmerizing...A heated, intensely provocative show. It never lets up." Full Review

Entertainment Weekly

"Success here hinges on pinning the right Butterfly...Julie Taymor’s take meets that challenge with the casting of newcomer Jin Ha in a fearless, confrontational, and often seductive turn as the diva...Spared the pressure of keeping a spoiler under wraps, this revised 'Butterfly' has room to expand its political parable, and more deeply explore Song’s backstory." Full Review


“It’s the cinematic quality of this production that truly sets it apart...This piece of theatrical performance art has one visionary at its core. That creative eye belongs to director Julie Taymor...'M. Butterfly' shows no signs of aging. Hwang has made some changes to his masterwork but they only serve to amplify the already clear themes of the original...The issue tugs at the heart strings and serves more of an emotional punch than a shocking blow to the mind.” Full Review

Front Mezz Junkies

“Taymor’s onslaught is straight on powerful and direct, energetically engaging, and dramatically concise. It doesn’t seem to want to mask this tale in a romantic or mysterious mist, but to shine a more harsh, realistic light on the story...A bolder and less gauzy attitude is being presented in this production...A powerful and well acted revival. The big reveal does lack surprise, but Hwang’s factual altering of this story brings it forward into the present world.” Full Review


"Taymor's stylish revival attempts to seduce us into belief, to make its gender-play seem not only plausible but understandable...Ha's believably feminine performance undergirds our uncertainty...Taymor artfully constructs Gallimard's orientalist dream...Minor quibbles about the play's occasionally sluggish pace shouldn't obscure the point that no other director comes close to Taymor's magpie talent for incorporating diverse theatrical forms into a singular vision." Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

"A play that uses the tools of theater to both celebrate and question how we give ourselves over to fantasy. Nearly 30 years on, it’s still clever, tender and formally daring. But Julie Taymor’s staging and Hwang’s rewrites unbalance the delicate poise between illusion and truth...Owen is a captivating presence, even playing a man without allurements. Jin Ha makes a nicely spiky Song...This new version is more grounded in fact, which leaves one hungry for particulars of the real story." Full Review

Time Out New York

"'M. Butterfly' remains provocative and timely, with a great deal to unpack—in part because Hwang has stuffed it with new information...These changes help shift the storytelling away from symbolism and toward a more specific account of a particular relationship...Aside from lively dance sequences, there are few spectacular flourishes. Not all of the directorial choices make immediate sense...But even at its most confusing—not to say inscrutable—the revival commands fascination." Full Review

Daily Beast

"This re-invisioning of Madame Butterfly, with boundaries of gender and sexuality blurred, is subtly drawn...But it does have an epic sense of melodrama to it. Hwang doesn’t shy from writing it, and Taymor not from directing it...Owen is the perfect, slightly slapdash and messed-up foreign diplomat...The play’s major revelations are all Ha’s to effect. This is a fantastic performance." Full Review


“While keeping the basics of the original, Hwang has done extensive work on the piece…More importantly, he has filled it out with rich new details of the real story that have come to light in the years since he wrote the play…Taymor presents the play with the spectacle she is known for...But looking past the beauty of the production, and its fascinating story, the play becomes eerily timely toward the end.” Full Review

Village Voice

“If anything, the explicitness with which Hwang has retooled his troubling story only enhances its intellectual richness. True, a little of the mystique of what used to be a tantalizing psychological romance has vanished, but in its place lie the political and sexual ramifications, now fully spelled out...Taymor’s production, stark and harsh for all its lavishness, serves Hwang’s new take on his material with the same effectiveness Dexter brought to the world of the original." Full Review

Drama Queen NYC

"I've been told that this revival is much cooler and more cerebral than the original 1988 Broadway production, and you know what, I’m totally okay with that. Hwang is dealing with some very complex issues in ‘M. Butterfly’, and I’m more interested in exploring those with him than getting caught up in his hapless leading character’s emotional journey...Taymor puts a greater emphasis on acting, to very good effect, underlining how much politics is very, very personal." Full Review

Showbiz 411

“A Taymor collaboration with Goldenthal is always something to be excited about...The pair has brought their great talents to Hwang’s play...It’s as fascinating and as incendiary as it was in 1989...Ha and Owen each hold the audience in the palms of their hands...A must see for the cast but always for Taymor and Goldenthal. What’s unique about this production: it’s very analogue...It’s kind of comforting to see an old fashioned set that springs to life on a human scale.” Full Review

New York Theater

"Hwang’s explorations of these themes in the play remain timely, shockingly so...All these added details may make the play feel more realistic; they certainly complicate it. But those of us acquainted with the original may feel that in the process of grounding the story in fact, there has been a loss of some surprise…resonance…mystique...The new 'M Butterfly,' for all its changes, remains provocative, enlightening and entertaining." Full Review

Gotham Playgoer

"I was prepared to enjoy the production on its own terms and, to some extent, I did. Owen...unconventional choice to play the socially awkward Rene Gallimard, carries it off well...The complex story remains fascinating even though the playwright’s revisions...may have added too much information at the cost of mystery. There are occasional moments, particularly at the trial, when it becomes too much like a geopolitical lecture. Nevertheless, there is much to admire." Full Review

The Clyde Fitch Report

“Taymor’s elegant revival remains a nuanced, spare, evocative dreamwork...The fourth wall is never up in this world of Taymor’s restrained visuals, multiple narrators, and occasional debates over who has the right to tell the story...Ultimately, a story of equals, a story of lives that change under the politics that frame them...’M. Butterfly’ takes wing as both a hazy romance and clear-eyed tragedy.” Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

"In terms of food for thought, 'M. Butterfly' is a veritable smorgasbord, even richer now...We get a highly intelligent, beautifully calibrated, fully committed performance by Jin Ha...That said, Clive Owen offers a surprisingly dry and flat characterization of Gallimard...'M. Butterfly' still packs a wallop—even, as it turns out, in a production that features a wan performance in one of the two central roles, and even though the element of surprise has inevitably been lost over the decades." Full Review


"Gorgeous if oddly unmoving...Owen seems deeply haunted by Gallimard’s forbidden love for Song Liling; but his earnest attempt to play the character’s sexual uncertainty is ultimately unconvincing. Taymor has shielded Hwang’s poetry from being overwhelmed by the sheer theatricality of the story...By fortifying the scenes that frame the love story, Taymor has also strengthened the political undercurrents of the play." Full Review


“The script additions and deletions and Taymor's staging innovations work quite well...Owen and Ha both give vivid new life to the diplomat and the object of his fantasy...Both are best when alone on stage...since the sexual sizzle between them never rises above a simmer...Go to this ‘M. Butterfly’ with an open mind. Even if it doesn't add up to quite the 'wow' you saw or heard about, you'll find it to still be an intriguingly unusual and enormously theatrical story.” Full Review


"The complex issues so elegantly evoked on the page don’t translate quite as well in this current revival...The production is fluid but inconsistent and surprisingly lackluster...The staging looked more prosaic than operatic...Owen is a terrific actor. This movie stud, completely transformed into a social misfit on that stage, pulls off quite the metamorphosis. So strong is Hwang's writing, ‘M. Butterfly’ is riveting theatre, even when the production fails to fully take wing.” Full Review

City Cabaret

“In this production, Hwang reveals more details and Taymor's staging is hit and miss...A sad, tender story, the secret of ‘M. Butterfly’ lies in a suspension of belief, letting Gallimard draw you unconditionally into his passionate affaire de coeur. Clive Owen gives a skilled performance as the complex man who chooses fantasy but Huang's rewriting and Taymor's staging deviate from the fine-spun illusion of mystery and culture.” Full Review

Front Row Center

“The original production enjoyed a distinct advantage over the current one...Its shocking denouement sent shivers down the spines of unsuspecting audiences in a way that the current incarnation couldn’t possibly aspire to achieve...While not much is wrong with this production, we couldn’t help but yearn for the magical theatricality of its first version. Not until the final, beautifully acted and very moving scenes, did we feel true, dramatic energy fill the stage.” Full Review


"At times, all this can feel a bit much—too many turns, too many twists, too many prancing dancers. I was left wondering, too, if the effort to update and surprise, some 30 years after the play first became a sensation, had imposed one too many complications upon an already unbelievable plot. But the experience of watching the play is sufficiently immersive that these questions are more like afterthoughts than central concerns." Full Review


"To his infinite credit, Owen does everything in his power to overcome this central bit of miscasting...Taymor adds some unusual visual elements to the production...Still, the production feels a bit skimpy, and one can’t help but wonder what Taymor would do with a larger budget. Try as everyone might, this 'Butterfly' never really soars; but it rarely crashes to the ground either." Full Review

Absorbing, Entertaining, Great acting, Masterful, Intense

See it if Great acting, twisted story, surprise ending (if you can't figure it out in advance)

Don't see it if you don't like straight acting or prefer musicals

Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Masterful, Must see

See it if Great acting!

Don't see it if If you don't like dramas

Absorbing, Exquisite, Great acting, Profound, Intelligent

See it if you are looking for incredible acting, a gripping story, and intelligent theater. The set is beautiful because it is ALL DONE BY HAND.

Don't see it if no reason not to see it. everyone should see this educational and true play

Also the fact that this is a true story adds to how amazing this show is. i... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Masterful, Must see, Thought-provoking

See it if you like a different kind of love story-have an open mind to subject matter-like to think about the plot after

Don't see it if Brief nudity offends-have no patience for dramas and prefer musicals-

Absorbing, Great acting, Masterful, Must see, Thought-provoking

See it if You like great actors and a compelling story told in a unique way.

Don't see it if You are offended by brief nudity and an unconventional story.

Absorbing, Clever, Exquisite, Great acting

See it if you are excited by contemporary theatre with striking visuals, engaging story and superb acting

Don't see it if if you don't want to see nudity, less than conservative concepts.

Great acting, Masterful, Riveting, Romantic

See it if You want to see an emotionally & exotically charged drama with hilarity.Dancing and costumes were brilliant.Jin Ha&Clive were electrifying

Don't see it if You are not into nudity & explicit sexual talk

Also Found moving screens on stage to be distracting but as show went on it... Read more Read less

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

See it if you like any of the actors, want to see a refreshing revival and interesting plots, and tragic love stories

Don't see it if you are expecting an exact retelling of Madame Butterfly, you don't like male or female nudity, or don't like the fourth wall broken

Also Out of everyone in this play Jin Ha stole the entire show. Thoroughly ... Read more Read less

Exquisite, Absorbing, Great acting, Sets & story - fabulous

See it if Gorgeous sets by Julie Taymor and Jin Ha making his broadway debut was amazing. Clive Owen was fantastic also. Fast moving story.

Don't see it if You don't like political drama. Based on a true story if you do not like reality.

Absorbing, Entertaining, Great acting, Riveting

See it if My friends and I had all seen the show in 1988 and we loved the revival. Clive Owens is terrific as is Jin Ha. I liked the sets as well.

Don't see it if You are pining for John Lithgow. It seems some reviewers are.

Absorbing, Clever, Edgy, Great staging, Great acting

See it if you like great acting.Clive Owen's incredible.He hits every emotional color.Set is constantly changing, leaving us off balance,like the play

Don't see it if you want a story wrapped up with a bow.This leaves you wondering about sexualtiy,love,fantasy.If we love, does it matter if it's an illusion

Absorbing, Great acting, Great staging, Great writing, Riveting

See it if You want a play that keeps you second guessing until the very end. Insanely talented performances by Clive Owen and Jin Ha. GO SEE NOW

Don't see it if You don’t want to be enthralled in fantastic theatre for 2.5 hours

Absorbing, Clever, Entertaining, Great acting, Ambitious

See it if Clive Owen is amazing. His voice and stage presence carry the show well and Jin Ha is strongly convincing in the role.

Don't see it if The production tries to be inventive and it fails at times, but overall the show is about Clive. See it if a fan.

Absorbing, Clever, Entertaining

See it if I loved the original play, so expectations were high. This is a totally different approach and once I stopped comparing, I loved it.

Don't see it if No reason not to see it.

Intense, Riveting, Exquisite, Thought-provoking, Romantic

See it if you're a fan of the opera, or maybe even hated it. If a triple-crossed love story feeds your interest, or you genuinely adore the butterfly.

Don't see it if you're not here to think deeply, gender is strictly conforming for you, or are unwilling to have your conceptions challenged.

Intense, Thought-provoking

See it if you want an intense, thought-provoking experience.

Don't see it if you are not in the in mood for a serious play

Intense, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Great writing

See it if You're interested in a true(ish) story with espionage, romance, cultural and gender themes

Don't see it if you're looking for a family show

Exquisite, Great acting, Must see, Relevant, Refreshing

See it if you want a night of absorbing theatre! The acting and directing are exquisite. What Broadway performances strive to be.

Don't see it if you hang by Brantely's every word. For his complaints, I thought the components he hated made the show modern and better than the 88 version

Absorbing, Entertaining, Great acting, Great staging, Relevant

See it if You want a solid entertainment that is also thought provoking and often visually stunning.

Don't see it if You are easily offended by nudity, homosexual themes, and you are not interested by "east meets west" stories

Also All the way throughout the show, I couldn't understand the awful revie... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Great acting, Great staging, Great writing, Thought-provoking

See it if you enjoy story lines where the audience gets a compassionate perspective to a character's unconventional decisions.

Don't see it if you are offended by nudity.

Clever, Edgy, Entertaining, Thought-provoking

See it if you are not afraid of theatre. Great staging and wonderfully acted. Tough story to tell, but executed beautifully

Don't see it if you like summer blockbusters

Absorbing, Ambitious, Edgy, Great acting, Great writing

See it if See it if you like plays about political intrigue, East West relations and are a fan of Clive Owen and want your boundaries pushed.

Don't see it if You have problems with male nudity, explicit sexuality and think musicals are the only kind of theater worth seeing.

Absorbing, Magnificent acting, Riveting, Intense, Edgy

See it if you like MAGNIFICENT acting. Clive Owen commands the stage, turning in a performance that should be the text book for actors everywhere.

Don't see it if you don't want a gender-bending story that will leave you confused, nudity or staging that has been highly criticized.

Also DUDE LOOKS LIKE A LADY...First and foremost, Clive Owen (Rene Gallimon... Read more Read less

Visually stunning, Absorbing, Clever, Intriguing, Entertaining

See it if You’ve never seen it before. I have a feeling you’ll appreciate this best if you’re not comparing it to a previous production. I loved it.

Don't see it if you’re not willing to think a little outside the box. Julie Taymor’s direction is visually pretty busy for a play. Might distract. I loved.

Masterful, Relevant, Riveting, Visionary, Historic

See it if you appreciate masterful staging, design, writing & acting, even if you have strong memories of the original, which I do, but loved this one

Don't see it if you don't like stories of international historic times (China's communism take-over), w/ transgendered issues, nudity, spectacle & narration