Jesse Green

About:  Jesse Green is the co-chief theater critic for The New York Times, and the former theater critic for New York Magazine and its culture website, Vulture. You can follow him on Facebook (jesse.green.critic) or on Twitter (@jessekgreen).
Reviews (409)
55
The New York Times

“’Continuity’ never convincingly weds its airy approach to its heavy subject...The approach is almost whimsical, as if Wohl were setting a trap whose bait is comedy...The themes of the play never cohere except in the title...The comedy wilts and the drama, with no stageable crisis, fizzles...You’re left with little to do but admire Wohl’s clever connections and end-time puns...Only near the end of its 100 minutes does ‘Continuity’ find a way to weave its main strands together.” Full Review

85
The New York Times

"Aiming to be a raucous comedy of misbehavior and a quiet tragedy of mistreatment, it amazingly succeeds at both...It is serious and sad and profoundly human...Crowe-Legacy, Fuller and Gilbert are so delicate with the sadness that it keeps coming as a surprise how merciless they are with the comedy. O’Hara’s direction is key here...'BLKS' suffers from a familiar structural turbulence at the end, as if it’s too big a vehicle to land on a short runway. Still, it lands." Full Review

85
The New York Times

“Though it retains the premise of the original, it diverges smartly in both plot and milieu...Fontana gets just about everything right...Even though Horn’s book bristles with zingers, a lot of the humor is so rooted in story it doesn’t need words...Comedy rarely flows as smoothly as it does here. The secret is more than the book; it’s the songs...The staging and physical production of ‘Tootsie’ are so trite and vanilla...Happily, ‘Tootsie’ recovers, thanks in part to its excellent cast.” Full Review

80
The New York Times

"Where carnage and camp coexist — if not exactly in peace, then in a constructive dialectic...For me, at least, the most convincing and powerful moments came when the performances aligned with the gravity of the premise. Gary’s speech about the power of art to create new realities was one such moment for Mr. Lane: You could feel the hope in the hyperbole he spoke of...Strange bird or not, I’m glad it’s here. Not everything perfect is true, and not everything messy isn’t." Full Review

85
The New York Times

"Though not quite as emotionally powerful as its predecessor, it is just as funny and, in some ways, more momentous...How such minutiae mount into a crisis is a mystery built into the company’s method. Some of it has to do with the subtle, super-sharp direction by Mad Ones member Lila Neugebauer...Nothing is handed to you or signposted. The process of exposition is rigorous and ingenious, forcing you to become an active agent in the discovery of the play’s themes." Full Review

55
The New York Times

"The simplicity that has felt clarifying in Doyle’s best work feels stingy here. The piano accompaniment strips 'Cradle' of much of its sostenuto beauty; what’s left is further eroded by singing that sometimes grates the ears. The staging is largely static and, where musical theater razzmatazz is called for, totally underwhelming. Too much of the acting seems deliberately wooden....Just as you begin to fear that denying pleasure has become a point of pride, the production coalesces.” Full Review

85
The New York Times

“Ain’t No Mo’ is bumpy. It’s also thrilling, bewildering, campy, shrewd, mortifying, scary, devastating and deep...What Cooper has attempted, and director Walker-Webb has brought close to fruition, is nothing less than a spiritual portrait of black American life right now...The best parts of 'Ain’t No Mo’ master a complicated trick: pulling wrenching drama out of a party hat of borrowed theatrical attitudes." Full Review

55
The New York Times

"Not only does it provide an opportunity to watch the New York City Ballet star Sara Mearns perform the choreography of her husband, Joshua Bergasse, and to hear a Richard Rodgers score suavely reincarnated, but it also makes you think about the role musical theater has often played in maintaining odious social norms...Mr. Bergasse has neither the troops for spectacle nor the directing chops to keep the evening from separating like mayonnaise." Full Review

55
The New York Times

"A play that begins with a puzzle and willfully remains one...Despite some heavy pruning and reshaping since it was first produced at the McCarter Theater in 2012, it remains, in Jerry Zaks’s zippy, overbright staging for Lincoln Center Theater, both hermitic and hermetic: obscure and airless. That’s not a great environment for audiences — or actors — to thrive in...Still, you may get a shiver of the dark anxiety hiding in the writing as a ghost hides in a child’s crowded closet." Full Review

80
The New York Times

"Sampson makes a contemporary fable about the black female body and its discontents. She also makes, in the Playwrights Horizons production that opened on Sunday under the exuberant direction of Leah C. Gardiner, an auspicious professional playwriting debut...Sampson uses a refreshing palette of theatrical colors to fill in the story...Though the inventiveness does not always pay off Gardiner’s well-acted and swift-moving production usually picks up the slack." Full Review

40
The New York Times

"'A misfire. Authors with golden track records for serious work have somehow created a musical so lugubrious and underpowered that it never gets off the ground. The problem is built into the low-stakes, high-whimsy concept...Not even as allegory could the fantastical adventure that swallows the second act sustain my interest; its concerns are sketchy, as thin as comic book stock...It does not grant much to 'Superhero' to say that its leads manage to rise above it." Full Review

90
The New York Times

"An astonishing new play...Ms. George has fun with these women — or girls, as they call themselves — but does not mock them. Rather, with loving attention to sitcom rhythm, she gradually anatomizes the emptiness that animates their 'Golden Girls' chatter...Ms. Silverman’s control of the tone in the first half, along with the hilarious but grounded work of the cast throughout serves the play’s intentions beautifully." Full Review

80
The New York Times

"Beautifully acted double bill...The way Stephens lets dread creep into the story like morning light, and grow until it fills the otherwise nearly empty stage, makes this a ripping yarn in more ways than one...It may be that Mr. Payne was too close to the material to let it go where it needed to...But even if 'A Life' is a bit of a comedown from “Sea Wall,” the two make smart companions." Full Review

45
The New York Times

"The pulse-lowering Encores! production...Cusack, a strong performer in other circumstances — is overpowered here by material that, if it can work at all today, can do so only when rough-handled by a mauler....'Call Me Madam' can’t support much political reflection, or any reflection, really...The songs mostly backfire dramatically by forcing us to sympathize with characters, especially Adams, whom the book otherwise wishes us to treat as objects of surprisingly coarse satire." Full Review

90
The New York Times

“I mean no disrespect to Ambrose, who originated the role in this revival, to say that Benanti is a more effortless vocalist; she dispatches her very difficult and wide-ranging songs with glee...The show is lighter as a result, which is not to say it’s less compelling...But it is the recasting of the smallest principal role that makes the most touching difference, and like everything connected to Harris’s stage presence, her success as Mrs. Higgins cannot be pinned down.” Full Review

60
The New York Times

"The emotional terrain has shifted with the genre, so much that the restraint now feels like withholding. As a result, the dramatization...is sweet and mild and less emotional than the book, when what you want is for it to be more so...Not that the actors in any way fall short of inhabiting their characters...But creating these simulacra of the book’s characters is not the same as dramatizing them." Full Review

60
The New York Times

“It’s incredibly interesting. But also...aggravating...Main characters are played by several actors...With only a stole or a pair of gloves to hint at whom they’re playing, you can easily lose track. You don’t lose track of Greenspan though. Greenspan unearths laughs I’ve never heard Serebryakov get...But in keeping with the New Saloon aesthetic — I’d boil it down to twee with brains — more effort goes into feeding the stunt than nurturing the story. That’s a shame." Full Review

70
The New York Times

"Then comes the story, which Mr. Lynn rattles off in mile-a-minute haste and a confident actor’s control of the audience...As directed by Shaw, the story, captivating and sad and beautifully delivered, is leavened by its pacing and its charmingly low-tech special effects. But I couldn’t help feeling, as I have with other Rude Mechs productions, that the deliberately anti-theatrical mode of presentation has uncoupled itself from the powerful theme the show seeks to dramatize." Full Review

70
The New York Times

"Brantley called it a ‘busy, robustly entertaining comedy’. It still is, but the world around it has changed so much that the comedy feels...less robust...Only as Undine’s enamel shell dissolves — Boothe is especially good at rendering the change — do we begin to enjoy her and the surrounding characters fully...'Fabulation,' and thus Blain-Cruz’s production, feel most accomplished the farther away they get from spoof and closer to reality. But reality invites uncomfortable questions." Full Review

85
The New York Times

"Willfully provocative, gaudily transgressive, and altogether staggering...Its urgency and sheer cultural heft, deployed like weapons in a furiously entertaining production...Harris manipulates white discomfort expertly...Until I encountered his potent brew of minstrelsy and melodrama I hadn’t known it was possible to cringe and laugh and blush at the same time...It asks a lot of its superior cast, whose portrayal of arousal and fury and shame feels terrifyingly real." Full Review

45
The New York Times

"Except for the dozens of eye-popping outfits Mr. Mackie gorgeously recreates for the occasion, it’s all gesture, no craft: dramatically threadbare and surprisingly unrevealing...You can’t distinguish scenes meant to borrow comedy-hour elements from those meant to be taken at face value... It wastes so much time hammering its biographical bullet points and tunestack into place...that it never seems to notice the unintelligible result...At least the musical numbers are gleefully staged." Full Review

85
The New York Times

"Such a joyful hoot. With its kinetic dancing, broad mugging and belty anthems, it makes you believe in musical comedy again...As in many of the greatest Golden Age musicals, they latch onto a subject of topical importance, using its gravity to anchor their satire and their satire to leaven its earnestness...The ensemble’s big numbers, set to Glen Kelly’s dance arrangements, are a blast...It consistently delivers on its entertainment promises as well as its Golden Age premise." Full Review

20
The New York Times

"Green: A car wreck of clichés like that simply can’t put a feminist story across meaningfully. Or any story, really — and that’s a bigger problem than the bad score and sluggish 20-foot marionette...Brantley: The story — and the music and the dancing — are basically just filler until Kong shows up again...Brantley: I kept hoping a higher camp factor might kick in...Green: The camp here is all accidental...'Margaritaville,' which until now was my musical theater low point of 2018." Full Review

85
The New York Times

"This is the director Kenny Leon’s best work to date: incisive and breakneck...These are big but nuanced performances...'American Son' is not a subtle play; it barely feels like a play at all. With its unrelentingly high tension on every level — maternal, marital, societal — it’s more like a slice of a nightmare, with few contours despite its surprises." Full Review

40
The New York Times

"Stuffed with cute word twists and tiresome satire...But even if satire is your thing, you might like it to be funny or pointed. 'Thunderbodies' isn’t much of the first or any of the second. Its language is so promiscuous and its object so blurry it seems merely scattershot...Everything moves at the pace of a frantic party while also desperately signaling subversion...'Thunderbodies' certainly had me divided — between morbid curiosity and loathing." Full Review

60
The New York Times

“The monologue is delivered well...the circumstances that make it one are notably contrived...It does provide Pressley a rich opportunity to explore a complex, loquacious, if emotionally stifled, character...Hutchinson has hobbled herself by choosing a structure that starves 'Proof of Love' of live conflict...Carroll has done what she can to shape the script’s graceful paragraphs into a simulation of action. But her effort is undermined just before the end of the 75-minute play." Full Review

55
The New York Times

“It’s certainly not a conventional drama, any more than the real Paul Swan was a conventional artist...And though the fearless actor Torn doesn’t stint on the theatrics, his incarnation of Swan never quite comes to life...Though the monologues Kiechel has given him feel believable enough, there is a weird superstructure around them, as if to assert the play’s avant-garde bona fides. In a work about fustiness, such distancing effects seem like holding one’s nose.” Full Review

45
The New York Times

"O’Brien’s literal-minded production does not make a resonant case for the drama today...Ms. Bening goes deepest of the four leads in exploring the muck at the bottom of her character’s personality. She also has terrific technique...But the opacity of the production overall means we still can’t read her with any clarity, and the play acquires a weird wobble at its core...The production is almost never moving, except when Ann’s brother, George, shows up intending to expose everyone’s lies." Full Review

80
The New York Times

“The sumptuous, hypnotic and somewhat hyperactive musical...Chavkin and her creative team have saved ‘Hadestown’ on its way uptown by turning it into something very much warmer...The story is clearer...’Hadestown,' even with the heat turned up, is still a somewhat abstract experience...Mitchell develops her larger themes mostly through metaphor. This can get tiring; even though so much of what happens happens beautifully." Full Review

20
The New York Times

"Its distinguishing features included a hazy provenance; an obsequious, uninformative text; a lazily organized catalog of songs; and an unaccountable focus on an unknown performer. Also: holograms...The kind of show that makes you wonder if someone is secretly satirizing ambition. Certainly the spirit of the production and the spirit of the man it honors are at odds...Each song is sung exactly alike, with the same few gestures and vocal mannerisms." Full Review

95
The New York Times

"Nothing less than a chronicle of the legal subjugation of women by men...It is a tragedy told as a comedy, a work of inspired protest, a slyly crafted piece of persuasion and a tangible contribution to the change it seeks. It is not just the best play to open on Broadway so far this season, but also the most important...Schreck gives a real and wrenching performance, not a speech…‘Constitution’ is one of the things we always say we want theater to be: an act of civic engagement." Full Review

70
The New York Times

"Maddie Corman, giving a riveting performance, mostly as herself...'Accidentally Brave' does not offer answers...I wanted to see, rather than just hear as an anecdote, how Ms. Corman came to understand her husband as someone who isn’t evil but unwell, poisoned by pornography. And how she came to stand by him, as her wedding vows promised...The monologue form being what it is, Ms. Corman’s performance is more convincing with the negatives than with the positives." Full Review

45
The New York Times

“If it weren’t for the play’s ludicrous reversals and recurrent eddies of argument, it would last about 10 minutes instead of 85...You can’t blame the cast members, who ride the hairpin turns of their characters with nearly convincing finesse. Nor is the subject of gun violence and its aftermath unworthy...The story is too baldly engineered — too bullying, in fact — to engage the audience in the manner necessary to produce empathy.” Full Review

85
The New York Times

"The authors’ take on marriage is more complex and insightful than we may recall. And where they did wander into material now rightly seen as toxic, a few changes and one major revision allow us to enjoy it in a new light...Carlyle’s often thrilling choreography offers a bountiful assortment...That too many other numbers disappoint is a problem not just with the choreography but also with the overall staging, which by the middle of the second act seems to run out of invention." Full Review

65
The New York Times

"One of those 'issue' plays that goes down easy and leaves you undernourished...Whenever the play allows Della’s contradictions to flower, it feels dramatic, raising usefully unanswerable questions...These are stories that burnish the audience’s progressive credentials without really testing them against formidable opposition...Della — like 'The Cake' itself, if you can get past its cloying elements — is nevertheless trying to grapple with something quite complex for a comedy." Full Review

80
The New York Times

"Farber’s staging seems to complete this metamorphosis, clearly placing itself within the tradition of existential rather than political drama...In Farber’s unrelentingly bleak staging — time disappears...we could be in any era, ancient or modern. So too with the characters, whose specific plight is sanded so smooth we barely see them as an estranged couple anymore...They are solo archetypes of the broader human condition, regardless of race or poverty." Full Review

40
The New York Times

"Not so much stripped-down as emaciated. All of the contrasts of idealism and greed, gloss and substance so central to the story’s effectiveness are flattened under the pressure of forcing it to stand without enough legs...The songs, with all their polish removed, no longer reflect the coherent Broadway world of the story...Often radically reconceived, harshly truncated or left to dribble away, they no longer ennoble the characters or provide much pleasure for the audience." Full Review

90
The New York Times

“Mostly improvised and entirely delightful hip-hop musical...If the words and action are unfailingly surprising, the music is more predictable, mostly bluesy chords that allow the improvisers to spin out noodles of melody...’Freestyle’ paradoxically soared when it took a breather from its giddy high spirits...And yet it is within the limits of improv, extremely tight, so that you never worry you will wind up watching the cast fall...The real secret...is the cast’s commitment to deep attentive... Full Review

55
The New York Times

"A bumpy ride...She sets out not only to bust stereotypes about submissive Japanese-American women but also to rescue hick Kentuckians, intolerant Christians, ‘tiger moms’ and even the dying from the broad brush of caricature. Mission accomplished, though at a cost to coherence...An endless cycle of collision and regrouping, with pieces of plot hurtling at the characters from every direction...When it gets out of the way of its big agenda it has wonderful small things to say." Full Review

60
The New York Times

"As the play’s structure comes to resemble a reality competition with arbitrary tasks, the six pilgrims likewise come to resemble the clichéd characters in a lifeboat story...These questions remain crucial ones to ask, but Ms. Dickey’s round-robin structure diminish their impact. In a way, so does Mr. Talbott’s deluxe staging, by enhancing the play’s conceit at the expense of its characters...For me, the best moments of 'The Convent' are thus the quietest ones." Full Review

30
The New York Times

"Even that dry description is more exciting than what Ms. Wolf and her director, Donald T. Sanders, put onstage. The text is a clip job, consisting almost entirely of excerpts from Toscanini’s letters and other documentary bric-a-brac. As all of it comes from his point of view, we have no way to evaluate its validity — and the play has no way to spark any drama...The interludes add nothing to the story; indeed, they actively subtract from it by suggesting an overly literal link." Full Review

80
The New York Times

"When ‘Choir Boy’ sticks to that idea, focusing on Pharus’s discovery, through exuberant music, of the brawn inside his perceived weakness, it is captivating and fresh. The portrait of his adversaries — choral and otherwise — is less so...A production, that is far more powerful than its flaws might indicate. It is especially successful in suggesting how a victim of prejudice, blamed as the source of the problem instead of those who victimize him, may eventually come to see himself that way." Full Review

85
The New York Times

"Mr. Sher has made sure that every movement, every perfectly cast face, every stage picture and costume tells the story so precisely that it would do so even without words...Very effective; Mr. Sorkin apparently trusted that the actors, working with Mr. Sher, would fill in the blanks, and they do...It’s what happens in the gap between the old and new storytelling styles, as Mr. Sorkin tries to kill two mockingbirds with one stone, that gives me pause." Full Review

70
The New York Times

"Compelling and ambitious but also, under Joanna Settle’s direction, a bit blurry. With so much going on inside the title character, much of it contradictory, the audience may feel, along with her family, flummoxed by her whipsawing...Settle’s production is long on mood, short on clarity. Yet many moments are perfectly clear and stirringly powerful..It’s good that the best parts of 'Noura' aren’t easy. But a central performance as deep as Raffo’s can eventually become inaccessible." Full Review

65
The New York Times

"All of the gender and racial ickiness of the film is brought to the fore...Pope does a terrific job of keeping the satire afloat..Her mockery, deeply sincere, allows the character to comment on gender and racial stereotypes while indulging them for comedy. 'King Kong' lacks that tonal control...The result is a bit of an ideological free-for-all, with no clear upshot. Ms. Clair certainly raises the relevant issues but then seems uncertain how to corral them." Full Review

70
The New York Times

"In any reasonably faithful production, like the one that opened on Wednesday night...what’s thrilling about the show invariably remains so. But I wonder if the rest is beginning to get creaky...Assembling bodies into masses of light and dark, wiping the stage picture, irising in on an individual or panning the entire ensemble, Bennett creates a rhythm of revelation more akin to film than theater...But these stories are sounding a little trite in 2018. Even when sharply performed." Full Review

80
The New York Times

"If the songs never quite develop a signature sound, except for a few that aptly invoke Neil Diamond, they make up for it in their off-center point of view...The style recalls that of musicals like '[title of show]' and 'Spelling Bee,' with their apparently spontaneous digressions into the odd and outré...'The Other Josh Cohen' is a charmer, touching on real issues without pummeling them. It doesn’t need to push harder or further; in knowing itself, it has already found its beshert." Full Review

65
The New York Times

"Thanksgiving is not the only object of the satire, and to the extent the play sometimes seems to miss its mark, it’s because the mark keeps moving...That this aspect of the satire works as well as it does is a credit to the swift pacing of Moritz von Stuelpnagel’s production and the acuity of his casting...The problem for 'The Thanksgiving Play' is that, in splitting its satirical attention, it shortchanges the nominal subject." Full Review

65
The New York Times

“In some ways, Levenson’s disappointing play ‘Days of Rage’, is that good story, except turned inside out...The clash between heavy-handed satire and naturalistic conflict leaves ‘Days of Rage’ in a tonal muddle Levenson can’t resolve. The sexual turn that provides closure to many of the scenes begins to seem like a tic, and when that pales, the only option left is a generalized hysteria. At least the hysteria is effectively staged. The director Trip Cullman gets all the tempos right.” Full Review

85
The New York Times

"McCallum’s beautifully calibrated staging is so intimate it seems to implicate you in its themes...Intimacy compensates to some degree for a slightly abstract quality in ‘Lewiston’...’Clarkston’ is the richer drama, with themes that are more tightly bound to characters and a plot both surprising and inevitable..Hunter’s golden diptych, no less than McCallum’s spectacularly unspectacular production, suggests that small rewards may be the only kind available.” Full Review