New York | 2h 15m | Already closed

Marvin's Room

From 49 critic and 445 member reviews
Members say: Great acting, Slow, Thought-provoking, Disappointing, Funny

About the show

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. More…

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?

2h 15m | Already closed | American Airlines Theatre (Midtown W)


"'Marvin's Room' is a terrific piece of writing—smart, funny, and offering little in the way of easy uplift...The new Broadway revival, superbly directed by Anne Kauffman, does 'Marvin's Room' extraordinary justice—it makes the case that a mostly forgotten play might just be a modern classic...Kauffman handles the broader aspects of the play with a gentle and warm touch. The characters in this show aren't defined by their quirks and eccentricities. They are deepened and humanized by them." Full Review

Theater Life

"I loved Roundabout’s production of 'Marvin’s Room'...The show is about characters I care about, good people who at times lose their way because, like all of us, they are all too human...Kauffman has assembled a cast that makes these ordinary people and their ordinary lives meaningful. Taylor and Garofalo clearly get the fraught relationship of sisters. DiFalco and Padovan are gut-wrenching...It taught me lessons, not new ones, but ones we have to learn over and over again." Full Review

Indy East End

"Rediscovering Scott McPherson's iconic comedy is eventful in and of itself. Writing during the AIDS epidemic, McPherson captured catastrophic times with a sense of levity, demonstrating a bountiful gift for writing natural dialogue and unique, well-rounded characters...Brilliantly cast with Lili Taylor as Bessie and Janeane Garofalo as her sister, Lee...McPherson whimsically juggles the real and the unreal, the sick and the inane." Full Review

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

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

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

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


"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

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

This Week in New York Blog

“A touching and funny production directed gracefully by Anne Kauffman…For its Great White Way bow, it has enlisted a pair of fab actresses to portray the sisters…Kauffman moves the story at a calm pace despite the occasional fireworks…‘Marvin’s Room’ is a tragicomic story that boldly addresses the question of what happens when a caregiver needs a caregiver as well as a bittersweet reminder of the weight of family responsibility and heartbreaking loss.” Full Review

Simon SEEZ

“With leading roles played by the equally outstanding Garofalo, Taylor and Weston, the sad/funny play isn’t the downer you might expect…Neither depressing nor altogether absurdist with its assertively comical tract, ‘Marvin’s Room’ welcomes the gently empowering lift it gets from Kauffman’s unforced direction and from a cast that doesn’t miss a heartbeat of the play’s inherent poignancy or the compulsively funny sick room jokes. Taylor is wonderful.” Full Review

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

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

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


"This is not a morbid play; it's a very human one, told with humor, resignation, and greats gobs of empathy...A most gentle and obviously personal story of the power of love to transcend life's dark turns. Under Anne Kauffman's sensitive direction, the pacing is slow at times, though McPherson's wonderfully low-key humor, particularly in the first act, enlivens the sad story line. And the cast is excellent." Full Review


"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

The Wrap

"McPherson had a keen sense of family dynamics and the need for pitch-black humor in the face of tragedy—a balance that's finely maintained in the hands of director Anne Kauffman in this revival...Taylor is the rare actor who seems to shrug off her charisma while never actually letting it go...And Garofalo brings a spiky energy to her performance that’s just right." Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

"A staging that's eminently praiseworthy but for one major, surprising flaw...The production could scarcely be bettered in terms of its cast...It's hard to imagine why set designer Laura Jellinek decided to use virtually the entire width, depth, and height of the American Airlines' large stage...A considerable amount of intimacy is needlessly sacrificed, despite the actors' noble efforts to maintain it under direction by Kauffman that's strong and sure in every other respect." Full Review


“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

DC Metro Theater Arts

"McPherson’s captured them in all their tawdriness and their shining humanity...They are so specifically drawn, they become universal...Kauffman has staged it smoothly, and the eight actors are each stunningly on target. For some reason I can’t fathom, this very intimate glimpse at the interactions of eight very human beings is being played in the much-too-large American Airlines Theatre and, as a result, much of its impact is diminished...A rewarding place to be this summer." Full Review


"But what strikes me most about 'Marvin's Room' is its perceptiveness about the sick, about how we treat them and how they feel about it ... I deeply admire how it becomes demystified here, returned to the realm of the mundane and the slightly funny, where it always belonged." Full Review

Stage and Cinema

"The story is straightforward, told simply, about real people with real problems. We empathize with the characters and sympathize with their plight. Kauffman’s tempered direction brings us gently into the show’s world, and unassailable performances from the excellent cast keep us immersed in its details...A tasty stew of family drama. Though I prefer my drama with a bit more spice. 'Marvin's Room' never transcends its everyday realism and never really puts any of its characters to the fire." Full Review

Edge New York

"Some of the humor is overly broad, but even when the characters seem a little much, there is a kernel of reality in them. One of the pleasures of the play is that it is about regular folks dealing with real-life struggles—but without any of the self-consciousness...You couldn't have asked for a more perfectly cast pair of sisters...Overall, this is a great cast taking on a 'pretty good' play. 'Marvin's Room' is not a classic, but it is an often touching and funny drama." Full Review

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

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

Great acting, Entertaining, Absorbing, Great writing, Intelligent

See it if If you can find comedy in Serious topics such as health and illness. Also- the acting is amazing and it is filled with a strong cast.

Don't see it if If you do not think trying to find a little happiness in a serious situation as this is appropriate.

Great acting, Great staging, Great writing, Intelligent, Resonant

See it if You like plays that deal with serious family issues

Don't see it if You want to see an uplifting piece of theatre

Clever, Masterful, Intelligent, Profound, Resonant

See it if You enjoy masterful writing & acting that moves you from laughter to tears on the turn of a dime, brilliantly juxtaposing comedy and tragedy

Don't see it if you aren't comfortable dealing with a tragically realistic portrayal of death

Absorbing, Hilarious, Great writing, Great acting, Resonant

See it if You love shows about the inner workings of family. If you love dark comedies. And if you enjoy watching three brilliant actresses own it.

Don't see it if Family issues upset you. Or if you are sensitive to material revolving around terminal illnesses. If you don't like plays.

Clever, Funny, Exquisite, Great acting, Delightful

See it if you are looking for a fabulous play that is heavy with a lot of humor. If you enjoy a classic play well-done, this is definitely for you!

Don't see it if you are looking for something lighter. The play deals with some heavy topics and plot lines, despite its wonderful use of humor.

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

See it if want to explore serious topics and watch people wrestle with hard life choices. Acting was fine.

Don't see it if want something light.

Funny, Great acting, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Profound

See it if You like stories of families coming together through hardships

Don't see it if You're looking for belly laughs or something to entertain the kids

Great acting, Entertaining, Enchanting, Absorbing, Must see

See it if You want to see your favorite actors together on one stage. The movie was adapted well for the play. You will feel the actors emotions.

Don't see it if You don't want to feel the actors emotions as the story line progresses continues.

Absorbing, Great acting, Relevant, Thought-provoking, Riveting

See it if you're looking for a true slice of life play with incredible acting and striking realism. Beautiful set, and so heart-wrenchingly real.

Don't see it if you're looking to escape, or parent caregiving is a tension point for you. This is a look into a very real situation facing a real family.

Also This is such a wonderful play, beautifully written, beautifully acted,... Read more Read less

Great acting, Absorbing, Intelligent

See it if You want to see some amazing acting including Lilli Taylor, who I would pay to see to read the phone book.

Don't see it if You don't want to deal with old age, sickness, and slice-of-life family drama tonight.

Absorbing, Funny, Great acting, Great writing, Intelligent

See it if You like dark comedies with a well written script and a great ensemble cast. All leading ladies and sons were outstanding.

Don't see it if You aren't interested in topics related to death and dying

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

See it if you want to see terrific acting in a play that is honest and real.Characters are mildly exaggerated but still believable.Very interesting

Don't see it if you want froth.This is a story about strong women doing what they have to in order to be true to themselves.

Absorbing, Entertaining, Great acting, Funny, Great staging

See it if You like well-crafted characters and superb acting

Don't see it if Dealing with themes of illness is disturbing to you

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

See it if to see these fabulous actresses at the top of their game.Beautiful show produced exquisitely.Young DiFalco who plays Hank is wonderful.Bravo

Don't see it if You dislike intense family dramas.Or if difficult themes on disease/death are a trigger.Otherwise, run to see this before next weekend close

Absorbing, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Masterful

See it if you enjoy heartfelt comedic dramas. Cast is flawless.

Don't see it if can't handle serious subjects.

Also Jack DiFalco as the young kid with mental issues is an actor to follow... Read more Read less

Cliched, Great acting, 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

Funny, Great acting, Intelligent, Thought-provoking

See it if You're in the mood for an extremely well-executed family drama.

Don't see it if You get bored by plays or find dying family members triggering.

Absorbing, Entertaining, Great acting, Great staging, Relevant

See it if you enjoy emotional stories with great acting.

Don't see it if you want an escape from real-life issues.

Absorbing, Thought-provoking, Profound, Great acting

See it if You like well-acted drama with moments of comedy

Don't see it if You want spectacle or fancy staging.

Exquisite, Great acting, Masterful, Relevant, Resonant

See it if You want to have a good cry, watching a family go through one of the hardest things a family can go through, masterfully written/acted

Don't see it if You want something cheerful, you can't sit through something slow and quiet, you'll be triggered by storylines about cancer

Also It's a real shame this is in such a big theater, because it's a very i... Read more Read less

Great acting, Profound, Thought-provoking, Slow

See it if you like realistic family dysfunction and interaction. This was well-done and moving and thought-provoking. It was sad overall.

Don't see it if you are looking for fast-paced or dynamic or exciting style of theater. It was slow-paced and a lot of talking.

Absorbing, Intelligent, Relevant, Thought-provoking

See it if you appreciate the difficulties that family problems initiate.Sensitively written and acted

Don't see it if You have problems confronting family difficulties

Absorbing, Entertaining, Great acting

See it if You want to see great acting, and want your family drama with a little comic relief. Great writing, crisp direction and interesting sets.

Don't see it if Dysfunctional family dramedy is not what you're looking for. Or if the subject of a parent or sibling dying is not for you.

Absorbing, Relevant, Hilarious

See it if you appreciate finely tuned performances from some of the greatest living actresses.

Don't see it if you need a spectacle or are triggered by themes of death and illness.

Clever, Entertaining, Great writing, Intelligent, Profound

See it if You liked the movie, if you are interested in a play about living and dying

Don't see it if You are not interested in a play about family relationships

Cast & Creatives (15)