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20th Century Blues

From 21 critic and 196 member reviews
Members say: Relevant, Great acting, Intelligent, Entertaining, Absorbing

About the show

This new premiere tells the story a group of four women whose annual photo shoot ritual keeps them together, until it threatens to tear them apart. More…

Four women. Forty years of friendship. One afternoon that could end it all. And a bond that connects these women who meet once a year to have their pictures taken in a ritual that chronicles their changing (and aging) selves as they navigate through love, careers, children, and the complications of history. But, when these private photographs have the potential to go public, relationships are strained, forcing the women to confront who they are, what they’ve become, and how they’ll deal with whatever lies ahead.

Talkin' Broadway

"A smart, funny, and touching ode to friendship and aging...It's hard to imagine anyone who would be immune to the love that infuses this first-rate, terrifically-acted production...Perhaps '20th Century Blues' is a bit overstuffed with plot...Yet the writing and the performances under Emily Mann's warm direction are so strong that only a real curmudgeon would quibble. There simply is not a misstep in the entire evening, and you are likely to leave the theater deeply moved by the experience." Full Review

New York Theatre Wire

"Charmingly played by Kathryn Grody, 'Gabby' is everyone's best friend and soulful listener...However it's Ellen Parker who breathes reality into this play...Director Emily Mann brilliantly moves these women through a night of pleasure, camaraderie and pain. '20th Century Blues' is very good theater. Warning: It's not television's 'Golden Girls' our mothers loved so much. Instead it's real women not afraid to live their lives in our ever-changing society. I hoped they would succeed." Full Review

Curve Magazine

"Miller's artful dialogue, embedded with witticisms and sharp observations, flows naturally as directed by Emily Mann. The action circuitously but beautifully delivers different levels of intimacy and conflict between women, who love each other in a unique way. There is never a dull moment...It’s fun and compelling viewing. Miller’s script is clever and wise, bursting with great lines and naked truths...'20th Century Blues' offers reflections of female existence that are usually denied us." Full Review


"Compelling new play...Marked by all the rhythms of conversations of women who have known one another for a very long time...While there is no mounting crescendo in this play, playwright and director have devised and highlighted a series of subtle explosions...If you have been in love with an idea, had a parent with dementia, or ever noted the quantum nature of relationships, then you will resonate like a Tibetan singing bowl, as this play thrums with surface and depth." Full Review


"Engaging...One of its main assets is that it gives four women over age 60 a chance to show off their considerable talents...Mann has guided each actress to present a unique, fully dimensioned personality and make their at once loving and tense interactions real and believable...While Dixon and Socarides play their limited roles beautifully, their scenes don't fit in as seamlessly as they should...Fortunately, neither do they detract enough from the play's otherwise substantial pleasures." Full Review

Gotham Playgoer

"The interaction of the four friends could easily have provided enough material to hold our interest. The level of the writing is uneven, incisive one moment and clunky the next...The topic of feelings of invisibility and obsolescence for mature women is one worthy of our attention. The treatment it gets from Ms. Miller is just good enough that I was left wishing it had been better. The actors work well together." Full Review


"The introduction of Danny’s addled mother (played by the wonderful Beth Dixon) and grown son adds unintended bathos. That this is familiar terrain, and Miller can lay it on thick, makes it no less timely, especially on the subject of invisibility as it applies to most female humans over, say, 30.... Miller has the grace to be empathic, something crucially and deeply felt in Emily Mann’s sensitive staging. I’m certain that’s why '20th Century Blues' grew on me, as it did." Full Review

Woman Around Town

"Playwright Susan Miller has the pulse of women at a certain age. Her characters are well drawn and not so obviously diverse that they feel like clichés. Humor is as spot on as insidious fears. We know these people...Director Emily Mann stages with comfortable naturalism. A few too many exits when things get prickly, however, seem like a way not to have to handle unspeaking characters. Timing is realistic. Physical characteristics fit personalities." Full Review

Motherhood Later

"How heartening to witness the love and backbone, and neuroses, among these complex women, reinforcing the vitalness of female bonds...Once we are in the company of these gals, we get immersed in their camaraderie and at times, clever and insightful banter...All the actors more than hold their own, and Emily Mann directs with a sensitive hand...An earnest and at times painful, yet comedic take on aging and lives lived fully with intent." Full Review

Times Square Chronicles

"These women have survived life and along the way protest marches, women’s they are trying to hurdle the road map of getting older...The direction by Emily Mann and the acting of these five fierce females, allows this discussion to take place...Miller dialogue is authentic and piercing, if not a little too talky, and with the addition of Danny’s mother and son, it seems as if there are too many subjects being discussed at once." Full Review


“There is nothing much very wrong with Susan Miller's ‘20th Century Blues’ that a few more revelations or dustups wouldn't solve. Beth Dixon, Franchelle Stewart Dorn, Polly Draper, Kathryn Grody and Ellen Parker play believable, recognizable women at a plateau in their lives when some taking stock is in order as they approach the age of being considered senior citizens. A pleasant evening in this form, but Miller's play gives an aftertaste that will leave you hungry for more.” Full Review

Wolf Entertainment Guide

"Reflects women in the face of how they are unjustly regarded in society. The portraits are effective, as the cast members are all excellent in their delineation of what is happening in their lives. The writing is crisp, and yet there is insufficient drama to make the work more dynamic. But what there is impresses, and one comes away with more awareness of what women go through and how they are affected by a society that prizes youth and beauty and instills fear of becoming over the hill." Full Review

Off Off Online

"The mood of the piece is easy if somewhat loaded; the conversations are clipped and swift, touching on but not touching down on anything too deeply or for too long...Theatrically, that is a lot of pressure on the final reveal of these images...It’s no surprise when Danny’s photographs don’t live up to such pressure...Although the fast-paced rhythm might be intentional, it is distracting...A slick, smart script that’s being given an enjoyable ensemble production." Full Review

The New York Times

"Does this smack of contrivance? It does. Though some contrivance is forgivable...These are fine actors, and if Miller’s dialogue is less than spontaneous, they speak it feelingly...'20th Century Blues' is genuinely sweet. But sometimes it is even sweeter than that, as though Ms. Miller has baked a chocolate cake and then frosted it with sugar cubes...Might be a better play if it were harsher, more naturalistic, its focus not so soft." Full Review

Front Row Center

"This is a well-intentioned play, focusing on a subject that is rarely seen in the theatre. Nevertheless the storyline is so contrived that it nearly doubles back on itself and in the process loses its hold on the point of the tale...The writing swirls around these women like so much chiffon yardage. There is no 'there' there. The actors try valiantly, but these characters are not firing on all cylinders, so there is little they can do other than be valiant. Ditto the direction by Emily Mann." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"The talk and banter doesn’t reveal anything new about women or aging but fortifies what’s been said on timeless occasions...However, there are abundant humorous lines to give it an easy conversational feeling and the audience some chuckles...There’s a lot of heart in Susan Miller’s writing, directed by Emily Mann, as the storyline picks up more emotion moving forward over the one hour, 40 minutes. But the theme is worn out and needs some new revelations." Full Review

The Clyde Fitch Report

“Playwright Miller and director Emily Mann pace the storytelling with the deliberate pause-and-reflect rhythm of a daytime serial...More a calibrated pastiche than a decisively constructed dramatic ride. There is little suspense, scarcely a story to unfold. We’re left with the charm of the characters to entertain us...The stakes and life events are very present, but the mode Miller relies on is sequential monologues, not crafted dialogue...It’s watching characters report, not relate.” Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"It offers a symposium dealing with issues of import for progressive women of a certain age...So much is brought up that, in a play running one hour and forty minutes, there's no time for anything to get more than the once-over-lightly treatment...Mann's direction can't really find a dramatic spine in all this girl talk...Miller's play seems mostly designed to make aging, disaffected liberals feel less alone...Everybody is so busy singing the blues that there is no time for drama." Full Review


"'20th Century Blues' is a warm play, but one that cares more about stating big ideas than theatricalizing them. It's a stage version of a think piece...Though the four protagonists are believable as friends, little about their performances are as real they need to be...Directed by Emily Mann with too leisurely a hand. The gentleness of the pacing, combined with the overall lack of discernible conflict in Miller's genial script, creates an evening that isn't particularly engaging." Full Review

Theatre's Leiter Side

“There's really not much here to chew on. The conversation, which occasionally stirs a ripple of polite laughter, has a biteless artificiality, the characters lack dimensionality, and dramatic tension is notably absent. Some of the dialogue…sounds more academic than natural; at any rate, it's hard to buy. And, like many playwrights, Miller has difficulty finding convincing reasons to get characters offstage so that others can be left alone to speak privately.” Full Review

The Huffington Post

"Emily Mann directs as best she can. The cast—four top-notch actors are the friends—attempt to give life to a drama that, since it deals with women of a certain age confronting their past and present, is a strong premise that falls far short of achieving the power it should." Full Review

Exquisite, Entertaining, Great acting, Great writing, Intelligent

See it if are seeking out an INTERESTING new play which deals with friendship, working on a passion project, and the ties which bind us all.

Don't see it if you think the examination of a forty year friendship and the pursuit of a passion project is simply not interested.

Also Playwright Susan Miller’s play is a love letter to friendship – highli... Read more Read less

Great acting, Great staging, Great writing, Resonant, Must see

See it if you respect the journey and explore changing/contrasting perspectives and relationships of/among women who age & adjust to family/externals

Don't see it if you do not care about the perspectives and challenges of Baby Boomer women in their various relationships/circumstances or can't sit 180 min

Absorbing, Great acting, Great writing, Relevant, Entertaining

See it if A wonderful story of long-term frienships

Don't see it if Don't like drama

Absorbing, Entertaining, Relevant, Resonant, Relatable

See it if you want to see an interesting play about women of a certain age, their friendships and their lives.

Don't see it if female friendships don't interest you.

Absorbing, Entertaining, Funny, Relevant, Resonant

See it if stories of friendships through the ages told in a Real setting is of interest. Very real, very touching and very enjoyable.

Don't see it if You aren’t interested in stories of friendship

Great acting, Great writing, Thought-provoking

See it if You'd enjoy hearing a good group of friends talk about their friendship, getting older, their deepest thoughts, and see them dance too!

Don't see it if You can't relate to the hopes & fears of everyday people.

Entertaining, Funny, Great acting

See it if you like reading books, are fascinated by human interactions, enjoy watching a play and don't get scared about a topic of aging.

Don't see it if you like actions and dramas and get scared by a topic of aging.

Intelligent, Resonant, Refreshing

See it if you enjoy productions about women in their 60s; you like relationship plays

Don't see it if you don't care about women's relationships over the years

Absorbing, Intelligent, Resonant, Thought-provoking

See it if You can appreciate intelligent, realistic dialogue among baby boomer women, and you don't mind being in touch with emotions.

Don't see it if You are looking for a fluffy piece of theater.

Delightful, Great acting, Absorbing

See it if You enjoy current topics presented in an ensemble piece. Women of a certain age can relate to the issues presented.

Don't see it if You can’t relate to aging women.

Clever, Entertaining, Intelligent, Relevant

See it if you are of a certain age. The performance just hit home with us It looked back at many common threads in our life and was right on target

Don't see it if you only need TODAY.

Delightful, Great acting, Resonant, Intelligent, Touching

See it if you've hit retirement age, or would like a taste of the fears & joys of this generation, still feeling vital but knowing it can't last.

Don't see it if the thought of anything older than disco makes your skin crawl.

Also I confess: I am a guy who is about the age of the 4 core women charact... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Clever, Great acting, Funny, Great writing

See it if If like smart plays about smart women who deal with real issues regarding friends, success and how to balance it all.

Don't see it if You want to see something with a light touch.

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

See it if you like to discuss more than the production value over your glass of wine

Don't see it if You can’t relate to long-term friends who can call you out when you’re wrong

Absorbing, Ambitious, Great acting, Great writing, Intelligent

See it if you can enjoy a deep exploration of friendships, life's highs and lows, disappointments and successes, and you like "real" conversation.

Don't see it if I can't fathom the criticisms of this ambitious, well written play. It's talky but deep, interesting & paced well. Reflections on life...

Absorbing, Clever, Great acting, Edgy, Profound

See it if you are interested in the concept of time and how we change

Don't see it if you want a big show with large numbers

Entertaining, Funny, Relevant, Thought-provoking, Great writing

See it if You are a woman of a certain age. See it if you like stories about friendships and urban life. These characters are real people.

Don't see it if I can't think of a reason not to see this play.

Absorbing, Intelligent, Relevant

See it if You want a show about friendship among four diverse women over forty years. Fine acting, interesting chatacters, excellent writing.

Don't see it if You are not interested in women and aging

Entertaining, Funny

See it if you enjoy seeing women "of a certain age" being fabulous!

Don't see it if ... no reason not to see it!

Entertaining, Funny, Great acting, Life

See it if I like this show, for it tells of four women who are friends for years. it about life. Subject about aging too.

Don't see it if Its as No singing, dance, just talking, about life.

Entertaining, Funny, Great acting, Resonant

See it if You enjoy a view into the bonds of friendship over 40 years with 4 excellent female actors.

Don't see it if You don’t like shows about the lives of women.

Absorbing, Clever, Funny, Edgy

See it if you are from the '60s generation -- or can relate to it.

Don't see it if you get bored by women talking among themselves or are not interested in shows about the over 50/60 crowd.

Also This is about long-time friendship with all the positives and stresses... Read more Read less

Well written, intelligent and rewarding

See it if You are a woman of a certain age, if you remember 70's, 80's and 90's and ponder on changing times, if you like Wendy Wasserstein, See it!

Don't see it if you are bored with talky, limited action/character plays, have no interest in the womens liberation movement. You want conclusive resolution

Absorbing, Clever, Entertaining, Great acting, Intelligent

See it if You are interested in the lives of contemporary women and their attitudes about aging, relationships (gay and straight), work, and family.

Don't see it if You are looking for great drama. These are four comfortable East Coast women reaching age 65, facing crossroads, but not hardships.

Absorbing, Funny, Great acting, Intelligent, Relevant

See it if You’re interested in changes in life for three three generations.

Don't see it if If you’re looking for bright and breezy

Cast & Creatives (12)