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 (385)
Preview swal1
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

Preview cmm1
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

Preview myfairlady
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

Preview aa3
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

Preview choirboy
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

Preview rm1
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

Preview fabulation
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

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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

Preview tcs2
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

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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

Preview kong
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

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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

Preview thunderbodies 4 1
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

Preview pposd1
70
The New York Times

"It seems for most of its length to keep present-tense emotion at bay, as if in some kind of exercise...They tell stories that describe, as the flat-footed title suggests, the high and mostly low moments of their sex lives to date...These stories feel overworked to me, amusing enough but too neat for their own good...Even when it stares hardest at its navel, it’s never less than intriguing...Lovely performances...make time slow down and give the story body." Full Review

Preview lif p140 logo 4x6 300 l1
80
The New York Times

“There used to be a genre of Broadway comedy meant to be topical but not emotional...But ‘The Lifespan of a Fact’ clearly wants to be more than that, even if its raw material isn’t strong enough for drama...'Terrifically engaging but not as smart as it thinks.' That this doesn’t much matter as the play pingpongs along is the result of a terrific comic staging by Leigh Silverman. With its cast, its dead-on timing...it would probably nail its laughs even without the dialogue." Full Review

Preview oklahoma mobile 04
90
The New York Times

"Brantley: 'What’s so thrilling about this exposure of what lies beneath is that you feel it was always there, waiting to be excavated'...Green: 'This has always been a very American story, of course, but has never felt like so much of one until now...Mostly Mr. Fish is audacious in ways that feel dead-on and delightful'...Brantley: 'The casting is spot-on and often illuminating...Green: ''Oklahoma!' is a rollicking good time: The jokes have never been funnier, the merry songs merrier.'" Full Review

Preview only 2
80
The New York Times

"Chaotic yet profound...Aside from the beauty of the signing actors’ delivery, they provide, even for a hearing audience, a channel of information that sometimes feels deeper and more direct than the spoken one. Supertitles provide yet another. But it’s a lot of information to process, and the play’s fracturing of time does not make it any easier...It has always been Mr. Lucas’s gift to reveal the awfulness behind things that look charming and to make that awfulness compelling." Full Review

Preview therevolvingcycles web
65
The New York Times

“In both style and content Payne tries to do too much, even though his chief concern, the hole left in society when its young black men disappear, is important and powerful...Audience participation is like plutonium; it needs to be handled delicately. Ideally, it is narrowly tailored to drive home the point of the play...The metatheatrics of ‘Revolving Cycles’...do the opposite: They undermine...That’s a shame because the scenes that don’t try so hard to be clever are so good." Full Review

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90
The New York Times

“If you’re wondering whether you’ll enjoy the revolution, Silverman’s 'Collective Rage' makes an excellent (and hilarious) test case...For all its political and aesthetic cred, the production is entirely a delight...A trenchant and snappy production; even the props get laughs. The best revolutions are, after all, clear of purpose and expertly timed...The same could be said of the cast, which radiates the kind of gusto that actors working with enjoyable material don’t need to fake." Full Review

Preview bandbacktogether
30
The New York Times

"Empty-headed entertainment...Originality isn’t novelty, and the show is such a calculated rehash of a million tired tropes that it can best be described with Broadway math: 'School of Rock' plus 'The Fully Monty' divided by 'The Wedding Singer' — and multiplied by zero...Here the obviousness of the characters and the outcome of the plot give the songs almost nothing to do, and here I’m able to say that Mark Allen, who wrote the music and lyrics, is equal to the task." Full Review

Preview swm poster
80
The New York Times

"Under Ms. Lee’s direction at the Public, the play was shaggier and, paradoxically, more coherent; something about this knotty material, with its complex point of view and shifting tonalities, benefits from a crude attack. In the current production, I missed the brutality of the final confrontations, which now seem to pass in a haze of tough love. That said, 'Straight White Men' is still an exceedingly odd — and thus welcome — presence on Broadway. It remains undeniably powerful." Full Review

Preview mpm2
80
The New York Times

"Gripping...Some of those moments flirt with inconsequence or facile symbolism...Another confidently expressive staging by Neugebauer, makes it coolly legible...On-the-nose moments...sometimes left me feeling that 'Mary Page Marlowe,' however gorgeously acted, might not be hiding much of anything in the switchbacks of its distorted chronology. But with patience, and some unscrambling to restore the story’s natural order in your head, you may find a few powerful American themes arising." Full Review

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55
The New York Times

"Marginally less homogeneous than the traditional gay play. Unfortunately, it’s also less coherent...To keep the discussion going he is eventually forced into plot improbabilities and surreal workarounds...It’s a shame that the powerful ideas Mr. Harrison means to conjure about mainstream gay people’s 'failure of empathy' are trivialized and in some ways negated by his own failure of empathy: his failure, that is, to make his characters human." Full Review

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85
The New York Times

“Though the play lands somewhat uncomfortably in the gap between simulacrum and satire, it includes scenes that are moving, exciting and profoundly eye-opening for audiences just beginning to see disabled actors onstage...Whenever Lew’s update questions or complicates Shakespeare’s assumptions, it is riveting...When the play tries to shift gears into a high drama of violence and self-violence, it quickly overheats...Still, I found the play exhilarating.” Full Review

Preview catprint 1 788x1024
85
The New York Times

"A funny, strange and provocative new play by Angela Hanks, a living — and promising — young playwright from Dallas...The director Margot Bordelon draws out everything zany from the story’s incongruous juxtapositions while maintaining a fleet pace, and has cast the play with actors who straddle the 'provocative' line gracefully...Despite its bright cheer and generally happy ending, 'Wilder Gone' really does fulfill the 'provocative' part of Clubbed Thumb’s mission." Full Review

Preview fls1
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

Preview ssart
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

Preview tc4
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

Preview m9
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

Preview nsmc1
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

Preview tkam 06 07 show score 800x1200
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

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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

Preview kingkongtmtshowscore
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

Preview acl1
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

Preview cohen
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

Preview capture
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

Preview 800x1200  1
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

Preview lc2
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

Preview gloria 800x1200  1
70
The New York Times

“Something powerful is happening at the Daryl Roth Theater — but it isn’t so much the play as the audience...A paint-by-numbers portrait of Gloria Steinem...For those who already know the story... from Steinem’s memoir...the play itself — as opposed to the experience of it — does not have much new to add...We get something of a historical pageant...These powerful stories get short shrift in Paulus’ staging...This gives ‘Gloria: A Life’ the wedged-in, medley feel of a jukebox musical.” Full Review

Preview fireflies2
70
The New York Times

"I was moved by Mr. Love’s willingness to imagine, amid the terror of the times...other kinds of lives than the ones that history books offer. And as embodied by the fine performers here, those lives really do seem alive...But every time the play began to engage me through character it disengaged me through plot contrivance...What the actors can overcome, the story often cannot...The language, too, can seem awfully rich, perhaps deliberately in a play about oratory and faith." Full Review

Preview bh showscore 800x1200
85
The New York Times

"Rebeck’s new play is so clever it uplifts, so timely it hurts...As Bernhardt locates the heart of Hamlet, Ms. McTeer the comedian becomes a riveting Shakespearean...But in the second act, after the big decision, the play loses some of its internal logic...'Bernhardt/Hamlet,' directed with wit and verve by Moritz von Stuelpnagel, is a deep-inside love letter to the theater as a kind of laboratory in which experiments in both art and equality are possible. " Full Review

Preview the true for website 1 orig
75
The New York Times

"Put some snappy dialogue, a bit of skulduggery and a stellar cast led by Edie Falco in one end and get a damn good time out the other...Whenever Ms. Falco is bringing these themes to the fore, especially in her scenes with rival politicians played by Mr. Fitzgerald and John Pankow, 'The True' is riveting...But in Polly’s more domestic scenes, with Peter and Corning, the play sometimes bogs down...The lack of drama — or rather the subduction of it — may be what’s most interesting here." Full Review

Preview tfana emperor 691x400px r1
55
The New York Times

"Journalistic virtues are not necessarily theatrical ones. What’s compelling in newsprint, or for that matter in life, does not always scintillate when turned into a play. That is but one of the problems...It is informative and clever, and features a notable performance by that shape-shifter Kathryn Hunter. But as drama, it’s dead...There is little dramatic shape to ‘The Emperor.’ Stating and restating the same proposition for 70 minutes...it comes off as a well-meaning stunt." Full Review

Preview hershey felder poster
25
The New York Times

"Felder plays no version of Berlin the world might recognize or wish to...Felder’s acting is as broad as a silent-movie villain’s, except that he’s talking. And talking. Or, too often, singing...Felder delivers them all in a weird, unpleasant vocal style that manages the difficult trick of making the songs seem both unvaried and unmelodic...So much is wrong with ‘Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin’ that I eventually started to wonder whether it was actively passive-aggressive.” Full Review

Preview dbmicc1
85
The New York Times

"Ms. Grant’s eclectic music is virtuosically ingratiating...Though the stage is in constant motion throughout, Mr. Glover forbears to knock our socks off or upstage the material with the pyrotechnics we know he is capable of...Not all of his staging concepts are convincing...But the overall effect is never less than delightful...And it is never less than instructive, too, about the way musicals, bookless or not, can turn even the saddest history into beauty." Full Review

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85
The New York Times

“Though it features a Broadway-quality Tevye...and, for Off Broadway, a high level of professionalism throughout, the Folksbiene production cannot achieve the status and polish of mass entertainment. Rather, it offers a kind of authenticity no other American ‘Fiddler’ ever has: It’s in Yiddish...Couldn’t sound more right...Outside of the big numbers, it is not as suave as it might be...But when the production hitches a ride on the astonishing craft of the original, it is often thrilling." Full Review

Preview onaclearday
70
The New York Times

"It can’t be fixed. The pleasures of 'Clear Day' are so intertwined with its absurdities that no theatrical version can separate them. You have to enjoy it for what it is, or not...'On a Clear Day' doesn’t want your helpful interpretation. It’s truly about what it says it’s about. Nor does the Irish Rep’s version, staged and adapted by Moore, make a bid for a charitable deep read...If everything is flat-out, that doesn’t mean it’s unpleasurable. Any chance to hear Errico sing is a chance wort... Full Review

Preview st plum 800x1200
65
The New York Times

"You anticipate a sleekly enjoyable romp: well made, sexy, with a bit of substance yet light enough for a summer evening. A low bar, perhaps, but 'Skintight' clears it...But something’s off, and it’s not the cast...The smoothness of the staging, by the director Daniel Aukin, will keep you from noticing that more and more of those stretches are stretching by without much build...'Skintight' stops well short of exploring, let alone indicting, its characters’ vapidity and historical amnesia." Full Review

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85
The New York Times

"Despite its grim relevance, 'Pass Over' creates a vivid world of injustice while riffing on earlier ones...This is daring dramaturgy, requiring the utmost in tonal control to keep it from tipping into righteous bathos. Danya Taymor’s thrillingly tense LCT3 production mostly succeeds. Technically, it is ideal...Within this prison, Ms. Nwandu has been careful to particularize and humanize her main characters so that the tragedy is not just theoretical or surreal." Full Review

Preview dancodysyacht
45
The New York Times

“If the setup seems a bit reductive and possibly condescending, just wait...Means to be a truth-telling thought experiment about wealth and opportunity but never gets close to a credible argument. Worse, it seems to have caught a bad case of entitled obnoxiousness from its main character...It would be hard to overstate how unlikely this plot is...Logical holes in the plot, so gaping that they make you wonder whether ‘Dan Cody’s Yacht’ is meant as satire.” Full Review