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Marvin's Room

Members say: Great acting, Slow, Thought-provoking, Disappointing, Funny
72
Critics
68
49 reviews
Members
73
438 reviews
 

Roundabout Theatre Company presents the Broadway premiere of Scott McPherson’s award-winning play about the laughter that can shine through life’s darkest moments. Starring Janeane Garofalo and Lili Taylor.

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Lee (Garofalo) is a single mother who's been busy raising her troubled teenage son, Hank. Her estranged sister Bessie (Taylor) has her hands full with their elderly father, his soap opera-obsessed sister, and a brand-new life-or-death diagnosis. Now the siblings are about to reunite for the first time in 18 years. Are Lee’s good intentions and makeover skills enough to make up for her long absence? Can Bessie help Hank finally feel at home somewhere… or at least keep him from burning her house down? Can these almost-strangers become a family in time to make plans, make amends, and maybe make a trip to Disney World?

 


Cast & Creatives (15)



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Reviews (487)

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews
68
Avg Score

85
Broadway News

"An achingly lovely revival...Director Anne Kauffman’s delicately hued but big-hearted production seems as mordantly and ruefully truthful as ever...Not all of McPherson’s tart-but-sweet humor...has aged perfectly...And the play’s small scale...can sometimes feel a bit lost on the wide expanse of a Broadway stage...Kauffman and her flawless cast manage to make the play’s steady accrual of small moments of wry humor and undeniable pathos add up to a rich emotional payoff." Full Review

30
Variety

"It’s a good play. Honestly, it’s a good play. This mantra is necessary to keep your faith in 'Marvin’s Room'...Despite decent performances, this lugubrious Broadway revival does his dark comedy no favors...This is an intimate play full of quiet moments that cry out for privacy — or at least a little directorial sensitivity. Exposing its modest scenes on the massive stage of the American Airlines Theater is like tossing a puppy into the ocean and expecting it to swim for its life." Full Review

75
BroadwayWorld

“Emotionally rich…Garofalo's knack for flat, unemotional humor is well-utilized…Despite its sparks of quirky humor, ‘Marvin’s Room’ is a small piece that intends to draw audiences in with its gentle approach to emotions. But instead of pushing the production forward and framing it tightly, designer Laura Jellinek's set takes up the far reaches of the stage, shrinking the impact of the fine ensemble's performances. But this is one misstep in an otherwise satisfying production." Full Review

80
Time Out New York

"Anne Kauffman’s luminous revival for the Roundabout tends to McPherson’s legacy with grace. She plays down the wildness of the humor, and the first act leans toward placidity. This strategy pays off later, however, as Taylor’s performance—gently weird, shadowed with defeat—takes bloom. Without pushing its virtue too hard, the play movingly depicts a world in which loving others is, as it often has to be, its own reward." Full Review

65
The New York Times

"Thoughtfully directed by Kauffman; keenly performed by Taylor, Garofalo and especially Weston; a pleasure to watch throughout...But it is somehow, also, fatally mild. How can this be when nothing has been altered?...Without that heightened and emotional context some of the play’s flaws are more evident now...This production of 'Marvin’s Room' languishes in the gap between the powerful, absurdist comedy Mr. Rich saw and the histrionic excess of the three-hanky film." Full Review

60
Theatermania

"It's unfortunate that more of the play's humor doesn't come through in Roundabout Theatre Company's production. Director Anne Kauffman paints this small, intensely intimate family drama with broad strokes that sometimes obscure the comic moments that lighten the darkness...This intimate play about terminal illness at times gets lost on the large American Airlines stage...The performances help compensate for the outsize production." Full Review

85
Village Voice

"A gently wrenching, heart-wise story about dignity in the face of death and the ability of wounded families to heal. The 1990 comedy-drama blossoms and glows under the steady, surgical hand of Anne Kauffman in a long-overdue Broadway debut for both play and director...Staged too broad or too earnestly, McPherson’s delicate tone would wobble in the direction of either quirk-for-quirk’s-sake or weepie manipulation. But Kauffman keeps the needle flickering in the ambiguous middle." Full Review

85
The Huffington Post

"In the hands of director Anne Kauffman and a sterling cast, this Broadway premiere of McPherson’s sensitively raucous black comedy about death is most welcome...'Marvin’s Room' is as emotional as it is funny...Kauffman has a firm understanding of the play’s comic/dramatic pulse, and brings out superb performances all around...'Marvin’s Room' is certainly a room to visit. A rewarding and funny one at that." Full Review

85
Theater Life

"Kauffman has sacrificed some of the laugh lines for a more naturalistic tone. At first, this seemed to be an error...Gradually, the small scale of the performances draw us in, causing us to listen carefully and become more involved with the people onstage. Those characters are heartbreakingly sad and hilariously eccentric...The casting is another factor in the show’s success...All the choices in this tender revival reveal an involving and human story, unmarred by overdrawn theatrics." Full Review

80
New York Theater

"So much is so sad in the lives of Bessie and Lee as to make the audience fully justified in wondering: Should we be laughing at this? Yet laugh we do, thanks to the playwright’s subversive worldview, and a production directed with unflashy effectiveness by Kauffman. She steers the uniformly credible cast through a sometimes flighty comedy ultimately grounded in compassion...They get away with the wackier of these comic touches because they are counterbalanced by the more realistic ones." Full Review

85
Lighting & Sound America

"The sanity and understatement of 'Marvin's Room' feels like a cool breeze blowing across Broadway...A work that could have succumbed to all sorts of excess miraculously never puts a foot wrong...It comes at you low and outside, landing quietly, yet with devastating force…Thanks to Kauffman's assured direction, nothing is overstated and nobody presses for laughs...Taylor captures Bessie's extraordinary goodness without surrendering her broken humanity. The rest of the cast is solid.” Full Review

45
The Hollywood Reporter

"Yesterday's clear-eyed reflection on life's blessings and blights can be today's sentimental Lifetime movie manqué in the wrong hands. And director Kauffman's are definitely the wrong hands...'Marvin's Room,' for all its warmly humanistic strengths, is very much a work of its time, and the director seems unable to connect with its particular wavelength, or to navigate its relatively straightforward blueprint...The revival does eventually muster some poignancy...The cast is generally solid." Full Review

70
Broadway Blog

"The plot's principal drivers are…first, will the emotionally armored Hank agree to be a donor and, second, even if he does, will any of the candidates prove suitable? Two hours-plus, however, are simply too long to wait while these questions are answered. Under Kauffman's well-calibrated direction, the ensemble tempers its histrionics in favor of a natural matter-of-factness…As the play proceeds…the narrative and emotional energy lag…chiefly because of Jellinek's spare, monotonous set." Full Review

60
The Wall Street Journal

"Lots of laughs, lots of jerked tears, very little reality. Anne Kauffman, the director, stages the handful of serious scenes in 'Marvin’s Room' with sensitive simplicity and makes the others seem at least possible, if not truly believable...'Marvin’s Room' is a thickly sugared pill, glib and sentimental to a fault...Ms. Garofalo, who is new to the stage, proves to be fully at ease there, enough so that I hope to see her try her hand at a more challenging role." Full Review

45
AM New York

"An uneven production...Staging the play is deceptively difficult, as its slow pace and confessional mini-monologues can easily become tedious, and that is often the case with this production...'Marvin’s Room' stands out compared with so many other family dramas because of its refreshing optimism and love of life (even despite serious illness, physical disability, estrangement and the need to make major personal sacrifices), but its emotional reach mostly gets lost in this production." Full Review

40
Times Square Chronicles

"The play itself seems outdated and tame...The acting is uniformly good, but if you have seen the film version...it is hard to not compare. This is not the tearjerker the film was. As a matter of fact, the show barely manages to elicit much emotion at all. Anne Kauffman has under-directed this piece. Though there are honest and real performances, this production is just dull." Full Review

85
Deadline

"It’s a comedy, of course, and a very funny one...'Marvin’s Room,' exquisitely human and tenderly compassionate, doused with anarchic humor, lives, vibrant as ever, in Anne Kauffman’s wonderful revival...It’s to the credit of everyone involved–these committed actors, the sensitive director and most of all McPherson–that the connections slow to take hold are soldered like emotional strands that throw off sparks as they finally fuse." Full Review

55
New York Daily News

"While the acting is fine, the comedic elements of the story about the intertwining of life and death sometimes feel forced...Anne Kauffman’s staging for the Roundabout, moreover, doesn’t always maximize the material. The pacing is Valium-induced sluggish and the out-of-scale physical production is ill-suited to the intimate goings-on...The script occasionally works too hard for significance, but it also exerts a gentle pull." Full Review

70
CurtainUp

"As helmed by Anne Kauffman and as performed by an able ensemble, 'Marvin's Room' remains a moving, well-constructed portrait of a woman who has spent her adult life as the loving caretaker of a terminally ill father...The rather too-slow pacing is picked up by the heart-tugging emotional interactions...Even if all the comic business still landed throughout instead of rather sporadically, it's not as a comedy that 'Marvin's Room' survives but as a very human look at life, love and death." Full Review

70
Front Mezz Junkies

"The actors have it together, delivering their roles with truth and sincerity, but the staging is on less solid ground...They all come together well, especially with the assist from Weston and Taylor. The simpleness of their phrasing illuminates the piece, and DiFalco brings it home in the end. I almost cried. Almost...Directed well, although not inspiringly, by Anne Kaufman, she somehow finds traces of intimacy on the acres of open space." Full Review

80
Gotham Playgoer

"I was very curious to see how well it would stand up unsupported by the context of the early 90s. The answer, for me at least, is pretty well. Roundabout has assembled a strong cast...I wish they had chosen to mount it in one of their smaller venues. It’s an intimate story that seems a bit lost in the vastness of the American Airlines Theatre...Kauffman’s direction captures both the play's absurdity and its compassion." Full Review

60
Theater Pizzazz

"While the imbalance of emotions is undeniably inherent in the script, Anne Kauffman’s unevenly cast and directed production at the American Airlines Theatre further tips the scale towards lightness...After the nursing home scene, though, and for the rest of the play, Kauffman and the cast smartly probe the play’s depths, and the final few scenes are quite moving. Strangely, though, Kauffman lets the show end too abruptly." Full Review

35
Woman Around Town

"Pacing slogs and humor, though recognized, rarely elicits laughter. Respectable acting, especially that of Celia Weston and the brooding Jack DiFalco, can’t rescue a play where characters with a tendency to cliché indulge the aspect; where energy is so low, approach so monotone, you may fall asleep several times. Director Anne Kauffman leaves her cast to recite words. She attributes none of them with individuality past the page." Full Review

70
Wolf Entertainment Guide

"Anne Kauffman has directed this production with sensitivity to what must be illuminated in the characterizations and in the balance between the writer’s sense of humor and seriousness...The writing and acting call for intimacy, which often gets lost against the gigantic background of the set...Even within the framework of this staging, the performances combine to bring the play to life and keep us focused, sometimes even amusingly, on their situations." Full Review

80
WNBC

"Gratifying and affecting...I particularly marveled at the way Taylor processed any bad news that comes Bessie’s way. She segues briskly from shock to resilience...It’s easy, as well, to empathize with Garofalo’s Lee...The American Airlines Theatre isn’t a particularly forgiving venue for a story quite so intimate, but designer Jellinek succeeds in taming the open space...'Marvin’s Room' is at its finest when reminding us that memory is a fierce, potent counterpoint to fear of the unknown." Full Review

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews
73
Avg Score

51
Confusing, Disappointing, Cliched, Slow, Dated

See it if you loved the movie.

Don't see it if you want to sit through non thought provoking story line

84
Funny, Delightful, Great acting, Great writing, Entertaining

See it if you like a good story that is funny and poignant.

Don't see it if you don't like a story that turns from humor to very serious at the end.

79
Funny, Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Profound

See it if You like good theatre!

Don't see it if You don't...

75
Absorbing, Great acting, Masterful, Great staging

See it if You enjoy thought-provoking work about family drama.

Don't see it if You like a lot of action.

58
Confusing, Slow, Dated, Fluffy

See it if you feel like seeing it

Don't see it if you'd prefer a plot that has more resonant or a smarter writing about family drama

60
Disappointing, Cliched, Slow, Dated

See it if you get a free ticket. Poor choices by Roundabout Theatre

Don't see it if unless you like long winded, whiny dialogue with little reward.

73
Absorbing, Delightful, Confusing, Entertaining, Great staging

See it if you enjoy stories about family problems, illness & other issues, mixed with humor

Don't see it if you don't enjoy laughter about illness & family problems

Also Show was good, keep me interested, but it was a bit confusing and I fe... Read more Read less

75
Great acting, Dated, Great staging

See it if I recall liking this so much when it first arrived. This version was well acted, beautifully staged but somehow it missed.

Don't see it if I still think it is worth seeing. It's a complex play about caregiving and choices. Always worth seeing.

3
Banal, Disappointing, Excruciating, Cliched

See it if you enjoy the movie and ONLY if you enjoy the movie

Don't see it if at all. It was pretty excruciating to have to sit through. The direction was as terrible as the acting going up on that stage.

76
Absorbing, Edgy, Great acting, Thought-provoking

See it if you are ready to have some nerves touched and exposed; you can laugh through your pain, humorous moments, but dark, insightful.

Don't see it if you are expecting an afternoon of laughs.

50
Disappointing, Cliched, Overrated, Slow, Dated

See it if you appreciate strong female characters and like work of the lead actors. The acting was strong but other productions aspects were poor.

Don't see it if you're looking for something new; want something with a clear staging or unique set; it was amateurish.

77
Ambitious, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Resonant

See it if Like thoughtful plays that deal wit dysfunctional families and horrible things happening but with a sense of humor. Wonderful acting

Don't see it if Want to see a light, fluffy show or musical.

75
Muted, distant and not fully imagined

See it if you're a completist or fan of the actors.

Don't see it if you're a fan of the play. The space was too large, the comedy was too soft and the point was lost.

85
Great acting, Intelligent, Intense, Relevant, Slow

See it if this play explores the challenges of elder care and teens gone arye. Although beautifully acted the director needed to pick up the pace.

Don't see it if If eldercare and sickness is a chalange in your life

49
Disappointing

See it if The acting is good and the play ain't bad.

Don't see it if The staging and directing of this play is killing the mood of the piece. Hence, the entire production, as well as the actors, feels lost.

70
Absorbing, Refreshing

See it if You Pick up the hearing devices because very often the actors speak towards the back of the stage rather then to the audience

Don't see it if You don't care for family dramas and illness

82
Funny, Absorbing, Great acting, Thought-provoking

See it if you want to see a thought-provoking play that resonates with a lot of people. Seeing the humor in a very sad situation was also interesting.

Don't see it if Sad stories really get to you. The play can feel a bit long.

75
Great acting, Intelligent, Quirky

See it if you want to see a great ensemble cast talking about family, taking care of family and overcoming illness.

Don't see it if you want a quick moving light play.

70
Great acting, Slow, Natural, Mild

See it if you are in the mood for easy-going theater. this isn't a high-stakes play with too much drama. the actors are great though

Don't see it if you want to go on a rollercoaster of emotions. you want something light-hearted or highly dramatic. this play is more middle of the road

75
Absorbing, Great acting, Resonant

See it if You want to see an excellent family drama with a number of strong performances.

Don't see it if It will bother you that the show would work so much better in a smaller space.

80
Funny, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Relevant

See it if Family dramas about what members owe each other is meaningful to you. Good mix of humor and angst in a dysfunctional family. Talented cast.

Don't see it if The challenges of caregivers and fraught family relations isn't your thing despite excellent staff

85
Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Resonant

See it if You like a contemporary, serious, straight play with solid acting and a solid plot

Don't see it if You want "lite fare" or fast paced action.

90
Great acting, Cliched, Slow

See it if If you want to see truly fine actors practicing their craft.

Don't see it if If you don't like plays about everyday problems.

Also I worked on this show many years ago at Playwrights Horizons. I felt t... Read more Read less

20
Boring, Disappointing, Excruciating, Overrated, Slow

See it if you want to see a very good performance from Jack DiFalco.

Don't see it if you saw the original or if you can see the film version, which is not good, but so much better than this production.

Also Putting a play like "Marvin's Room" in a large theatre with a large st... Read more Read less

80
Great acting, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Entertaining, Great staging

See it if you get a good deal on tickets. It's very different from the movie but a great show overall. Great content and very relatable.

Don't see it if you are looking for something light and a big broadway production.