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Our Mother's Brief Affair
Midtown W
66

Our Mother's Brief Affair NYC Reviews and Tickets

66%
(161 Reviews)
Positive
52%
Mixed
31%
Negative
17%
Members say
Great acting, Disappointing, Funny, Slow, Clever

About the Show

Manhattan Theatre Club presents the NY premiere of Richard Greenberg's new play starring Linda Lavin as a mother with a shocking secret that threatens her children.

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Member Reviews (161)

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35
Banal, Slow, Disappointing, Annoying, Unimpressive

See it if you love Linda Lavin and can't miss anything she does. The play itself is awful, but she tries to make the most of it.

Don't see it if you value you time at the theater. A silly, uninsightful, clunky script.

70
See the incomparable linda lavin albeit in an unconvincing vehicle

See it if you enjoy seeing the master of Jewish mother comic timing (Lavin) delivering some deliciously sardonic rejoinders

Don't see it if you don't enjoy a play where the playwright had a clever idea but did not know where to take it in second act

Critic Reviews (52)

January 20th, 2016

"An untethered play about unmoored lives...Throughout this production, directed a shade too tentatively by Lynne Meadow, Ms. Lavin’s poses unfailingly match, and even amplify, Mr. Greenberg’s exquisite prose...I wish the play that surrounds her were more compellingly realized...As a mystery drama, 'Our Mother’s Brief Affair' never acquires much urgency, despite the fretful, fine-grained ambivalence of all the performances."
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January 20th, 2016

"Greenberg’s writing is elegant and keenly epigrammatic...'Our Mother’s Brief Affair' leaves you to wonder how much this scandal has been retouched. But there is no doubt as to the casual mastery that Lavin, at 78, brings to the part. Shifting in and out of the past, elevating one-liners to three-dimensionality, she brings a lifetime of command to the stage."
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January 20th, 2016

"The moral balance fails, making 'Our Mother’s Brief Affair' seem uncharacteristically cheap or desperate, a way of cribbing drama from an impeccable source — history — instead of growing it natively. Greenberg seems to sense this, or at least his characters do, because he and they spend the rest of the play scrambling to absorb the blow by making excuses where possible and, where not, trying to top it with a secondary secret."
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January 20th, 2016

"It takes some doing to stifle the prickly humor of Linda Lavin, but 'Our Mother's Brief Affair' makes her character both an unreliable narrator and one who's astringent to the point of unpleasantness...While Meadow's actors are all quite accomplished, they struggle to find any heart in characters so unrelentingly 'written' that it sucks the life out of them, giving us no reason to care."
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January 20th, 2016

"Greenberg’s laugh-filled but insubstantial new comedy...Late in the play, Greenberg rewards Lavin with a meaty memory-within-a-memory monologue. But such sudden, overwhelming sadness is too much, too late. A Richard Greenberg play is theatrical comfort food; this is his 11th MTC production. Somehow, 'Our Mother’s Brief Affair' got overcooked."
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January 20th, 2016

"Not even the sainted Linda Lavin can save the deeply unpleasant character she plays in 'Our Mother’s Brief Affair,' a lazy play by Richard Greenberg. Stubbornly lacking in dramatic tension, the uneventful narrative features a mean-spirited woman who may or may not be on her deathbed, recounting a closely held secret to her disagreeable grown children."
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January 21st, 2016

"Mr. Greenberg has engaged with his material in an unequivocally personal way this time around...While the results are flawed, I was never bored and some parts are quite moving…Unfortunately, 'Our Mother’s Brief Affair' slithers off the track at midpoint...It runs for two hours and would be far stronger had it been cut to an intermission-free hour and a half...It is, however, very well staged by Lynne Meadow and persuasively acted by all hands."
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January 28th, 2016

"The play has two things going for it. In addition to the revelation inherent in discovering Ms. Lavin’s extensive gifts, there is the lively art of playwright Richard Greenberg...It’s a winning combination. This is not his most flawless play…It’s an extravagant ruse, bogged down in contrived exposition, that doesn’t quite work. Richard Greenberg always amazes with his precise selection of words and images, and Linda Lavin serves him well."
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January 20th, 2016

"With signature style, wry wit and an irresistible glint in her eye, Lavin makes Anna Cantor a force to be reckoned with. Lavin can do that in her sleep. Even so, the play is a snooze...Greenberg writes sharp and smart dialogue. Lynne Meadow is an efficient director. The cast is fine, but can only do so much with a script that is undercooked and overwritten at the same time."
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January 20th, 2016

"An underwhelming dramatic comedy...The play has witty lines and a few surprises, but it’s also sluggish, messy and short on plot. Greenberg’s attempts to play with time and dramatic structure come off as labored. Meadow’s staging is generally flat."
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January 21st, 2016

"All four performances are quite strong but it is Lavin's show. In addition, while Greenberg's dialogue is predictably glib and witty, the play's darker tones allow Lavin - known for her comic skills - to flex her dramatic chops here. And she is sublime. Director Lynne Meadow's subtle and sensitive direction can't quite overcome the play's structural flaws."
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January 20th, 2016

"It's disappointing when a play that is intelligently written and generally well-acted just doesn't coalesce. It's especially disappointing when the dramatist is Richard Greenberg, a premier theatrical chronicler of the Jewish-American family. His latest, 'Our Mother's Brief Affair' will no doubt appeal to certain people, especially with the sublime Linda Lavin in the title role. But even a performer as watchable as Lavin can't elevate this sluggish play into a compelling evening of theater."
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January 21st, 2016

"The playwright probably has something to say about forgiveness or the allure of bad boys, but while there's a decent amount of cleverness in his lines, the story never amounts to anything of significant consequence. Director Lynne Meadow's production is fine and neither she nor her actors should be blamed for the overall sluggishness of the overwritten proceedings, but aside from Lavin, 'Our Mother's Brief Affair' is hardly one to remember."
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January 21st, 2016

"In the early stretches of 'Our Mother's Brief Affair,' I thought, Linda Lavin should be grateful for playwright Richard Greenberg. A little later, I realized I had it backwards… Lavin commandeers a role that fits her as snugly as the classic Burberry coat that is the character's fondest possession…'Our Mother's Brief Affair' is a situation in search of a play, or perhaps the material for a striking short story stretched thin over two full acts."
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January 20th, 2016

"Curious and frequently flavorless confection by Richard Greenberg...What does the alternately leaden and breezy piece mean when they're combined within the ripples of memory? There's no easy way to tell, and without Linda Lavin at the helm, there wouldn't be an especially compelling reason to investigate."
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January 25th, 2016

'Our Mother’s Brief Affair' has some structural problems, including the central surprise which takes the plot into too much historic nattering, but it does provide a juicy role for one of our great stage actresses, Linda Lavin."
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February 17th, 2016

"The cast deals with the text in a nimble manner that keeps the audience engaged in the story as it finds its footing until its less than fulfilling conclusion. Lavin is the glue holding everything together. Her performance switches from heartbreaking to hysterical without skipping a beat...Unfortunately though, the play is flawed. While it speaks to the universal issue of aging parents and the mystique of their lives while their children grow up, it doesn't go much farther than that."
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January 20th, 2016

"Too much of the play is repetitive or unfulfilling; there’s perhaps 60 minutes of really fine writing within these two hours, no matter how hard director Lynne Meadow tries to distract us."
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January 24th, 2016

"Unfortunately, the playwright seems to have left it up to Lavin and director Lynne Meadow to move this play into my list of prime-Greenberg plays…Though Lavin is still at the top of her game there's so much she can do with what's been given her. The zingers are often not up to Greenberg's sharpest. And the big secret about the other party of that brief affair just doesn't add up to a really well developed, provocative plot development."
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January 26th, 2016

"Not only does Richard Greenberg wander the fields with this tale – the direction and staging are confounding. The staging of park bench, hospital room, hotel room and other locations are confusing...This is a story that lacks purpose and drive. We are never let in far enough to connect with these characters. People talk about events, and reveal little. The 'story' and it’s ultimate twist and revelation is intriguing, but we discover the truth too late."
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January 29th, 2016

"The play allows all of its characters at one point or another to become narrators, the problem is, none of them are very reliable, so who we believe is strictly up to us...A warm, intellectually complex essay about the difficulty of forgiving ourselves for our sins...The play can be enjoyed as a light comedy with charming performances from its ensemble."
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January 24th, 2016

"I only wish the story was either more compelling or better told in the play’s direction, use of space and stage, and in Greenberg’s writing. The story has all the ingredients of a captivating one, but it feels messy and flat...The actors do there damnedest to draw us in and almost succeed but the writing style seemed a bit too poetic...This is a play to watch a pro at work. Lavin is wonderful but deserves a story that is stronger, better written, and over all, more intricately constructed."
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January 20th, 2016

"Ultimately, Anna delivers a lengthy monologue, which allows Lavin her big moment as she explains the guilt that drove her into the affair, but it’s just as contrived as the affair itself. Only Lavin’s performance keeps the entire enterprise from disintegrating before our eyes. For those attending to see a star performance they’ll certainly get one...Her costars, sorry to say, are unremarkable,...further demonstrating why ‘Our Mother’s Brief Affair” is, for better or worse, a star vehicle."
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C
January 26th, 2016

"It becomes a thoughtful exploration of the ramifications of our ability to blame and forgive ourselves, but along the way it’s can be a choppy, laborious two-hour journey...Lavin brings beautifully muted passion to a woman Seth describes as 'warm-cold' — and makes this an 'Affair' worth remembering."
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January 22nd, 2016

"The biggest surprise is how much the play feels like a first draft for a better play…or notes for several other plays...The play feels as if it was written too quickly, that it is a work in progress...Only about half of these jokes land — the others simply are neither funny nor even smart – and this is a symptom of the problem with the play as a whole...If the play is undernourished dramatically, it also feels overstuffed with (underdeveloped) ideas. At the same time, too much comes off as filler."
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January 22nd, 2016

"I found this quiet play so moving...Mr. Greenberg's play is not perfect, but it is thought provoking and contains one terrific performance by Ms Lavin. Santo Loquasto’s beautiful set is wonderfully lit by Peter Zaczorowski."
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January 20th, 2016

"The playwright Richard Greenberg has a flair for middle-class aphorisms...If this were enough to sustain the two-hour’s traffic of our stage, then 'Our Mother’s Brief Affair' would be scintillating stuff. It is not. Unfocused, anemic and astonishingly trivial, this drama of family and memory has somehow found its way to Manhattan Theatre Club’s Broadway berth...It’s hard to imagine an affair torrid enough to shake up a play this smug."
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January 20th, 2016

"Richard Greenberg’s new spin on a dysfunctional family, 'Our Mother’s Brief Affair,' isn’t brief enough. It’s so far below the level of his other plays that the mind nearly boggles...I need to state that in order to specify how boring — not to say barely this side of reprehensible — 'Our Mother’s Brief Affair' is, I’m going to have to cough up a major spoiler in a few paragraphs. I don’t see any way around it. For that, I offer the apology that Greenberg should offer us."
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B
January 31st, 2016

"No one knows how to pander to a MTC audience better than Richard Greenberg. String together some witty one-liners, throw in a Jewish matron, add a few Yiddish words, mention Great Neck at least once and, voila, MTC awaits with open arms...And so we now have this strange lumpy play...Anna is so unsympathetic and her adult children so emotionally stunted that it is hard to develop much concern for them."
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January 20th, 2016

"Another geriatric comedy--of the genre popularly known as 'the Linda Lavin play'--pleasantly steaming along, courtesy of heavy lifting by Linda Lavin herself. Suddenly, a big mystery emerges; without said big mystery, there'd be little upon which to build the second act...If Mr. Greenberg was attempting to give us something with socio-politico-historical import, he has not convincingly done so. Seekers of Jewish mother comedy, though, should be more than content."
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January 20th, 2016

"Neither the petulant performances by Kate Arrington and Greg Keller nor the arch writing by Greenberg is compelling. The five-minute history lesson, however, mesmerizes because the bare facts continue to astound more than a half century later...Likewise, character traits are thrown out and dismissed...'Affair' is nearly a drama-less drama. Nearly every conflict presented is resolved by someone on stage telling us how it is resolved."
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January 24th, 2016

"As much as I enjoy watching Linda Lavin, whose performances bring a glow to whomever she portrays, she cannot rescue the dopey play that Richard Greenberg has written...It’s one thing for Anna to want to be close to history, but it is quite another to be on the wrong side of history. And it is yet another for a playwright, however well-intentioned, to come up with such a muddled piece of work."
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W
January 24th, 2016

"Richard Greenberg is a smart, articulate, entertaining author whose specificity enriches his plays. 'Our Mother’s Brief Affair,' however, is less successful than most I’ve seen...While one understands the need to explain something of which few of us were aware, this is so detailed it veers on polemic...Director Lynne Meadow has kept transitions fluid from period to period. Two-handed scenes with Anna and Phil are sensitively realized."
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January 24th, 2016

"You can hear the proverbial pin drop as Lavin carefully takes the audience into Anna’s mind...It’s a beautiful, heart-stopping moment, but it’s not enough to save an otherwise meandering, anemic work...Greenberg spends too much time telling rather than showing...MTC artistic director Lynne Meadow gives the play an efficient but passionless staging."
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January 21st, 2016

"What both tips 'Brief Affair' off-balance and makes it strangely fascinating is a bizarre plot twist, near the end of the first act…Lynne Meadow's thoughtful direction culls affecting performances from Greg Keller and Kate Arrington...But Lavin's richly nuanced performance is the production's anchor and its treasure...We may never get to know her fully, any more than her children do, but we leave grateful for the time we've had."
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January 20th, 2016

"Like so many of Greenberg’s chamber-sized social studies, 'Our Mother’s Brief Affair' is witty and elegantly precise about funny, flawed individuals with a sense of history beyond the latest headline...Greenberg takes us on unexpected turns in what sound at first to be ordinary family secrets. Meadow brings a tender mercilessness to the style."
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February 1st, 2016

"It's all delivered in such familiar detail...you wonder what if anything of interest could be on tap...In a show this diffuse, this uncertain as to what it wants to say, everything remains fuzzy, from the direction of Lyne Meadow to the lighting and costumes. The actors never exactly stumbled or dried up on their lines, but even seeing it after the show had opened, they felt tentative. When the story doesn't ring true, it can be awfully hard to remember your lines and even harder to bring them to life."
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January 21st, 2016

"Greenberg reverts in 'Brief Affair' to an old problem: going for erudite witticisms at the expense of creating characters...With little effort by director Lynne Meadow to filter the author's voice, his word intoxication reduces Seth and Abby to mouthpieces…My wild guess is Greenberg started writing two different plays that weren't going anywhere, and decided to weld them together. Just for the heck of it."
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January 20th, 2016

"The play ought to be an intricate study of personal and political betrayal but, though ably directed by Lynne Meadow, never quite delivers on the promise of its material...Greenberg’s inexhaustible supply of polished one-liners makes this an enjoyable evening nonetheless — as does Lavin’s performance, which culminates in a monologue that captures truths about love and death at which the rest of the play merely clutches."
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January 20th, 2016

"It’s routine theater fodder, until the first act skids to a halt, lights come up and the kids break the fourth wall to explain that, to the best of their knowledge, the man their mother was caught up with was of some historical significance...It takes the generic, and I daresay hardly earth-shaking knowledge that a parent had an affair, and throws it up against a specific political event...It’s a beautifully performed play."
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January 25th, 2016

"It has enigmatic hints of Harold Pinter in it as well, though Mr. Greenberg’s ear for his New York upper middle class and blue collar characters is alluringly accurate...Director Lynne Meadow has staged the free-flowing material neatly and clearly...I would have preferred more of a catharsis for her Anna, but that cannot diminish the great pleasure I experienced from the first-rate support she received from the other three actors."
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January 25th, 2016

"Always up for a challenge, Linda Lavin can be relied on to embody a character with rich humor and exquisite timing...As for the play itself, Greenberg doesn’t pander or write cozy moments, especially since moral ambiguity is at the core of this story, but the end result feels like a witty doodle rather than a substantive affair worth remembering."
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January 29th, 2016

"Any opportunity to see Linda Lavin on stage is one worth seizing and although her latest Broadway project may not be the most riveting piece of theater, it shouldn’t be disregarded. 'Our Mother’s Brief Affair' is a quiet and profound glimpse into the layered complexities of human interaction...The play tends to drag in places, leaving one to wish that this affair were even more brief. By the end however, questions of truth, ethics, and life validation will inevitably unfold."
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January 20th, 2016

"The affair is quite a shocker. Well, it's a shocker only after they employ a theatrical device to turn up the lights break the 4th wall and have the two children explain to the audience what their mother just admitted to...Tender, tough, heartbreaking, funny, and warm all at the same time. In the end, the message is summed up by Anna to her son by explaining all she ever wanted was to be remembered."
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January 20th, 2016

"Shifts, reversals, and twists are all fine and can be thrilling when done right. This didn't work for me...It all felt entirely contrived. With a moment of non-fiction interpolated into this work of fiction, 'Our Mother's Brief Affair' seems more like a writing exercise (for the playwright) or a brain teaser (for the audience) than a well-crafted play."
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January 22nd, 2016

"The densely constructed piece also happens to be frustratingly sprawling, nevertheless it has the ability to amuse and stir hearts...They are all performances to savor, and oftentimes they are enough to help theatergoers overlook the moments when Greenberg attempts to make his play more grandiose than it probably needs to be."
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January 22nd, 2016

"Paper-thin new drama...Ms. Lavin is so outstanding in both her command of the stage and razor-sharp delivery of lines that we almost overlook Mr. Greenberg’s hollow, uneven narrative...It’s a tough slog to sit through, especially since act two is completely unnecessary. Ultimately, this is one tepid 'affair' that’s mostly forgettable."
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E
February 17th, 2016

"Richard Greenberg’s take on end-of-life issues offers a refreshing lightness and honesty…Under Lynne Meadow’s smartly understated direction, the actors paint a convincing portrait of a family facing down a conundrum…Greenberg endows his characters with an engaging intelligence and originality, but he could get even more out of them if he would find more spots in the script where ideas could be conveyed through dramatic action rather than commentary."
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February 2nd, 2016

"So far this is cut and dried and not that out of the ordinary. What stokes the proceedings with suspense is playwright Greenberg’s elegant use of language and metaphor. He is a master of the well-placed quip and withering aside. His unerring understanding of these characters and their inner lives makes the truth be told; ‘we have heard all this before tale’, completely fascinating."
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January 21st, 2016

"The characters of Seth and Abby are not as well developed or interesting as Anna, and it isn’t clear why it matters that Seth can’t find a partner or Abby is toying with leaving hers...Lavin always is a pleasure to watch on stage, and while this may not be as successful as Greenberg’s last play, 'Our Mother’s Brief Affair' delivers a lot to enjoy."
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January 23rd, 2016

"The play serves as an enchanting excursion into a dying woman's sensual psyche, as well as a brilliant vehicle for one of the more masterly female players gracing our stage today, Linda Lavin…The puzzles Mr. Greenberg provides regarding what actually took place, when, and with precisely whom, mount from moment to moment. Laughs are numerous and assist an avid interest from the audience…Lynne Meadow accomplished the staging with a fluidity that did not intrude on the story."
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January 20th, 2016

"The audience responded actively to the comical prompts of mainly Anna and her lover, as Linda Lavin and John Procaccino’s performances were the most relatable…The 'less is more' format under Lynne Meadow’s direction worked well for the play and helped eliminate excessive distractions…For a play which at first glance appeared to be reserved for highfalutin’ idioms, in reality the word choice and language was authentic and of great value."
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