M. Butterfly
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M. Butterfly
76

M. Butterfly NYC Reviews and Tickets

76%
(331 Reviews)
Positive
79%
Mixed
17%
Negative
4%
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.

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Member Reviews (331)

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75
Ambitious, Strong visuals, Thought-provoking, Unsatisfying end, Engrossing

See it if you enjoy Taymor's strong artistic sensibility. Many striking images: fascinating panels, lighting, costumes. Engrossing plot; well acted.

Don't see it if you want enlightenment. MB: some men love a dream more than reality. Breaking of 4th wall is jarring. Ending (w/makeup applicn) felt forced. Read more

90
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.

Critic Reviews (53)

The New York Times
October 26th, 2017

"'M. Butterfly' returns to Broadway on heavier, drabber wings...Hwang more than implicitly compares Gallimard’s dim vision regarding his love object to the unrealistic beliefs that Western countries hold about the East...For 'M. Butterfly' to have emotional impact, it must make its audiences uneasily complicit in that fantasy. In this version, you always maintain the distance...We’re not being seduced, but preached at."
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Time Out New York
October 26th, 2017

"'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."
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New York Magazine / Vulture
October 26th, 2017

"Strangely uneven...Despite compelling performances by both leads—especially Ha—both play and production wander into clunkiness and confusion...Hwang and Taymor often struggle to convey the specific reality in which events are occurring...Hwang’s observations feel suspended—like little islands of incisive commentary in a stream that hasn’t entirely found its flow...The show often seems to be floating just above something truly powerful, looking for a place to land."
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The Hollywood Reporter
October 26th, 2017

"The bluntness and lack of poetry in Taymor's sluggish 'M. Butterfly' revival are no fault of the talented Jin Ha, who plays Song with an enigmatic air..Owen's dour Gallimard is more hamstrung by the production's approach...M. Butterfly remains a provocative drama...But in their counterintuitive attempt to make the play relevant for an audience more versed in the complexities of gender and racial politics, Taymor and Hwang have inadvertently undercut its pathos."
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Entertainment Weekly
October 26th, 2017

"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."
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Variety
October 26th, 2017

"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."
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The Wall Street Journal
October 26th, 2017

"Ms. Taymor’s revival isn’t remotely worthy of Mr. Hwang’s subtle meditation on male desire and the inability of Westerners to understand the Asian mind, and Mr. Owen is so miscast that it’s easy to forget how fine an actor he can be under more favorable circumstances...Jin Ha, by contrast, is astonishing...Were the rest of this production half as impressive as his performance, it would be worth paying any price to see."
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Deadline
October 26th, 2017

"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."
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Chicago Tribune
October 26th, 2017

"The revision of the script is very savvy and potent. But it doesn't solve all the problems with Taymor's revival, which begin with Owen's invulnerability...You do believe Ha, whose very sophisticated, disciplined and nuanced performance is the highlight of a production that embraces a whole variety of styles without ever really committing to a fully consistent point of view...Such scenes require an unstinting embrace of emotional truth — places that this production seems reluctant to go."
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New York Daily News
October 26th, 2017

"Between a wan star turn, a clumsy staging and nagging issues that remain even with a revised script, the revival at the Cort Theatre frustrates and falls flat...There’s no mystery or ambiguity in Owen’s portrait...Taymor's work here is short on passion and inspiration...If you’re determined to see a fully satisfying Broadway play, 'M. Butterfly' isn’t the right specimen."
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AM New York
October 26th, 2017

"Oh lord, what have David Henry Hwang and Julie Taymor done to 'M. Butterfly'?...Its seriously misguided and marred Broadway revival contains extensive, unnecessary and mostly detrimental rewrites...Visually, the production is a mess...Likewise, Hwang’s meandering and confusing rewrites bring the suspenseful pace to a halt...The play was ripe for revival — and it has instead been ripped apart."
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NY1
October 27th, 2017

"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.”
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Theatermania
October 26th, 2017

"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."
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Lighting & Sound America
October 27th, 2017

“The thrill is diminished, in part thanks to a miscast star and a busy, bustling production that, too often, seems interested in pageantry for its own sake...Taymor has gotten Hwang to revise the script, filling it with unnecessary details...The original script is a solid piece of construction leavened by considerable wit and ideas that still provoke and stimulate; by adding all this froufrou, a once-powerful drama now packs all the sting of, well, a butterfly.”
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Talkin' Broadway
October 26th, 2017

"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."
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Broadway News
October 26th, 2017

"Despite Taymor’s infusions of stylish pageantry – or possibly, in part, because of them — the play’s emotional core seems to have been hollowed out...Taymor’s plodding, sometimes fussy staging, coupled with Hwang’s revised version of the play, ultimately leave a wearying, watery impression...This production tends to underline the play’s flaws, notably Hwang’s sometimes over-explicit writing."
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TheaterScene.net
November 15th, 2017

"So much revision has been done to the 30th anniversary production and first Broadway revival of David Henry Hwang's Tony Award winning 'M. Butterfly' starring British film star Clive Owen that it is a bit of a misnomer that the play retains the same name. While the themes of East and West relations may be even more relevant now than in 1988, the play seems to twist itself out of shape to retain the element of surprise."
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Theater Pizzazz
October 26th, 2017

"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."
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CurtainUp
October 31st, 2017

“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.”
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Front Row Center
November 1st, 2017

“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.”
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Front Mezz Junkies
November 4th, 2017

“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.”
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Exeunt Magazine
November 5th, 2017

"The production unfortunately leans towards flatness and simplicity which dulls the power of the play and muddies the play’s intentions...It’s a pleasure to watch Hwang disassemble and disabuse the audience of archaic orientalist, colonialist notions. If only this production were worthy of Hwang’s creativity...Taymor’s stark, severe approach chills the dream-like elements of the play...Owen is too handsome and suave to be fully believable as a fumbling, socially-inept fool."
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T
December 15th, 2017

“The stunning albeit straightforward play about fantasy, deception, espionage, and betrayal seems to have lost its way...What did work for this production is the casting of Ha as Liling and Owen as Gallimand...Working against the performances, unfortunately, is Steinberg’s cumbersome and oddly unimaginative set. The constant movement of stage hands (and actors) pushing, pulling...distracts from the needed grounding of the plots and subplots driven by the conflicts of the characters.”
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New York Theater
November 2nd, 2017

"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."
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C
October 26th, 2017

"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."
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Theatre's Leiter Side
November 2nd, 2017

“This butterfly doesn't soar…It's…clear that…Taymor's strengths are mainly visual and rhythmical; the acting in her work is too often geared toward the theatrical…The performances in 'M. Butterfly' tend to be colorful but overripe and lacking in subtlety. Too many speeches, especially in the play's closing moments, have the feel of message-laden rhetoric…Without a believable, much less moving, connection between Gallimard of the West and Song of the East I doubt that ever the twain shall meet.”
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Times Square Chronicles
November 2nd, 2017

“The revival lacks chemistry and plausibility...I never believed that either was infatuated enough or in lust enough, to make this story real. You also must believe that Song can pass as female and sadly I never believed that...Owens performance is lacking in any kind of substance. At times it felt like he was reading the phone book...I found myself feeling nothing for Gallimard...This revival of ‘M/ Butterfly’ just lacks humanity and all those things that make us feel and are human.”
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The Guardian (UK)
October 26th, 2017

"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."
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What Should We Do?
October 31st, 2017

“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."
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Gotham Playgoer
November 19th, 2017

"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."
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The Wrap
October 26th, 2017

"Hwang has so much going on that it’s difficult to say for sure what’s going on, and sometimes that includes the plot. What does come across in the new 'M. Butterfly' is that Gallimard never has much sexual interest in women. Owen’s riveting, tortured portrayal makes that clear...Julie Taymor is better known for directing sets than actors, but her success here isn’t limited to Owen’s performance."
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Wolf Entertainment Guide
October 31st, 2017

“No matter how good the acting, no matter that it is based on a real story, and no matter how attractive director Taymor tries to make the staging, one is hard-pressed to imagine that a man could be sleeping with another man for many years and still think he’s a woman...The author has tried to make the sexuality of the yarn more believable...But all of the trappings still make it tough to accept...The play has a tall wall to scale.”
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W
November 2nd, 2017

“Unfortunately, as rewritten by Hwang and directed by Taymor, the piece is so cheapened that this curious tale of love and betrayal now drowns in weighty realism, down market visuals and Chinese Opera numbers that have all the grace of a second tier touring company. Despite best efforts of the talented Owen, we stop caring long before the lovers’ confrontation and court scenes...Julie Taymor divested the play of romance, smoke and mirrors paramount to its success.”
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T
October 30th, 2017

"Occasionally striking but ultimately disappointing...Taymor focuses on visuals and neglects the human connections. The opening is gripping...But the subsequent staging consists mostly of actors running on and off...There is little spark between Owen who is miscast, and Ha who is intriguingly feminine...The first version was infused with mystery and sexual longing, but both playwright and director have clipped the play’s wings, leaving us with an earthbound 'Butterfly.'"
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The Stage (UK)
October 26th, 2017

"This Broadway revival feels both over-dressed and dramatically under-nourished...In an age where gender fluidity is increasingly normalised, the revelation is hardly as shocking as it once was...The real drama is supposed to play out between Clive Owen’s diplomat and Jin Ha as his lover, but there's something rather tentative and passionless about this too; there's little sense of connection -- or jeopardy...Without being able to believe in their relationship, there’s not much at stake."
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Towleroad
October 27th, 2017

"Taymor’s revival delivers some of the director’s customary flourish, but the story underneath, significantly revised by Mr. Hwang, feels hollowed out and robbed of its bite...Still, Taymor’s direction is fluid and often quite beautiful...In teasing queer desire to the fore, Hwang has necessarily tidied up the play’s frank and insightful look at dark underpinnings of straight male sexuality. But uncomfortable though they may be to interrogate, doing so could hardly be more urgent.”
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Daily Beast
October 26th, 2017

"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."
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Financial Times (UK)
October 27th, 2017

"The story is just as silly as the opera. And though we hear snatches of Puccini’s music throughout, Hwang and Taymor have no poetry of their own to redeem that silliness...The dialogue here veers into belaboured though not always accurate accounts of the Vietnam war...A play based on a real-life espionage scandal thus ends up seeming artificial...Several sequences mimicking Beijing opera do supply a stylish and enigmatic counterpoint to Hwang’s over-scripted story."
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City Cabaret
November 4th, 2017

“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.”
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NewNowNext.com
October 30th, 2017

"The play is talky but full of Hwang’s lively, sexy and knowing writing, which also spans the hot topic of men relentlessly trying to dictate how women should act...Taymor employs a series of rotating panels that are sometimes lovely and other times distancing...Required sparks of chemistry and shock value seem to be missing this time (the original version sent jolts), but by the end, Owen excels."
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Newsday
October 26th, 2017

“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.”
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W
November 4th, 2017

“Where Puccini's ‘Madama Butterfly’ opera is all emotion and tragic lovers, this production is the opposite; at times, it is almost a clinical depiction of how a seemingly-rational man could get things so wrong. This, despite exquisitely vulnerable performances from Owen and Ha. They take two unlikable characters and break them open, so that we can see their humanity. If only this production were as focused on feelings, instead of on facts.”
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The Telegraph (UK)
October 26th, 2017

"A lackluster Broadway revival...It’s delectable material, but Owen gives a performance that’s often as confined as his character...Taymor has created some beautiful extended opera sequences. But characterization suffers...'M. Butterfly' is at its most compelling when it tries to discern human mysteries...In Taymor’s production, these questions seem more like afterthoughts. The crux of 'M. Butterfly,' the beauty and cruelty of Gallimard and Song’s knotty relationship, never fully takes flight."
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StageZine
October 31st, 2017

“Time hasn’t been good to ‘Butterfly’ between the tinkering and adding of layers to the already intriguing subject matter by playwright Hwang, and the dizzying, busy direction by Taymor. They have taken this 'Butterfly' so close to the sun that they have managed to singe its gossamer wings....One look at Ha as Butterfly and that illusion is totally shattered... Owen is brilliant...Hwang should have stuck to his original script and the subtle direction of his original director, John Dexter."
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Village Voice
November 2nd, 2017

“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."
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Drama Queen NYC
November 4th, 2017

"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."
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The Clyde Fitch Report
November 1st, 2017

“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.”
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Show Showdown
December 1st, 2017

“Curiously flat...Feels sluggish, talky, and distant...The added material does little more than make the show feel longer. While I appreciate the attempt on Hwang's part to subvert the ‘Madama Butterfly’ story and to toy, especially, with the stereotype of the fragile, delicate, passive Asian naif whose life is consumed with longing for the white western man- there's little else that really takes hold: no depth or nuance of character, no one especially likable or ultimately very interesting.”
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Philadelphia Inquirer
October 27th, 2017

"'M. Butterfly,' always a history play, has become more distant in time, more remote in attitudes...Taymor undermines all the script’s rich subtleties by adding a fatal dose of sentimentality...The play’s edge has dulled with time and with Taymor’s direction; like the overlong Maoist production numbers, it creates a too-blatant tone...Basic to 'M. Butterfly' is the duality basic to all theater—people pretending to be other people—a pleasure largely lost in the surprisingly dull revival."
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Showbiz 411
October 27th, 2017

“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.”
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Peconic Public Broadcasting
October 30th, 2017

"It’s not a must-see since it is woefully dated, but the performances are worth either seeing it for the first time or seeing it again...All this is cotton candy, but it will keep you happy as the somewhat sordid tale slides by. So do you see this revival of 'M. Butterfly'? Yes, if you are a Clive Owen fan or want to remember a different time in the world. 1988, however, is not 2017."
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TheaterScene.com
November 5th, 2017

“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.”
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Vogue
October 27th, 2017

"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."
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