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"'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
"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
"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
"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
“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
"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
"These women have survived life and along the way protest marches, women’s liberation...now 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
"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
"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
“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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
“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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
See it if you like plays about women written by women. Many interesting ideas are brought up with many funny moments.
Don't see it if like fast moving plays and characters that are fully developed. The plot is obvious and the characters speak in cliched terms.
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
See it if You bemoan the lack of understanding about women and aging in theater and society; you enjoy depictions of women’s friendships.
Don't see it if You are bothered by a show overstuffed with ideas that might leave your head spinning.
See it if you want to feel like you're watching A Very Special Episode of a 90s sitcom.
Don't see it if you're frustrated by plays that should be essays--just a platform for the author's musings, at the expense of plot and character.
See it if If you like story’s about long term fiendships and women’s issues on getting older. Well acted and crafted it could have been a bit shorter
Don't see it if If your over 50 and feeling a bit tired of the aging process.
See it if You want good acting and a story about older women.
Don't see it if You want new territory. Nothing exciting. Author throws in a bit of everything...lesbian-transgender-adoption-Alzheimer's-newspaper decline
Also Covers too much so ends up not about much
See it if you want to see a funny, if somewhat overwritten, play about the passing of time, the changeover of generations, and the process of aging.
Don't see it if you really want to see something inventive and new. There are great moments, and the ending is touching, but nothing ground-breaking here.
See it if Tackles many of the issues one would and would not assume face those aged 50 and up; wonderful ensemble acting
Don't see it if Arguably tackles so many issues that the structure ends up feeling contrived
See it if you like sweet life spanning friendships played out via a common theme. 4 strong female actors bring this play to life. Timely
Don't see it if a bit slow wordy play about 40 years of life and friendship of 4 women is not for you.
See it if you love Polly Draper & intimate ensemble pieces with appealing actors delivering a mix of diverting, meandering, pat pseudo-confessionals.
Don't see it if looking for compelling, thought-provoking insights. This felt like a pastiche of relevant, women-centric themes but w/ clumsy transitions.
See it if You want talented actors working hard, even if nothing quite gels. I was struck at the absolute lack of chemistry between the leads.
Don't see it if You need a lot of action, don’t like older woman, are bored by stories of women and aging, or want coherence. Too much was going on.
See it if you are a woman of a certain age or would enjoy seeing different characters' experiences and how they handle it.
Don't see it if you have no interest in women issues, or ageism, or how a variety of women may handle the "after" years in their lives.
See it if You have wondered where are meaty, intelligent parts for older actresses. They are smart, warm, strong, angry, sexy and connected. see more
Don't see it if Talky is not your style, you do not want to consider life past 50,
See it if you like ensemble plays about women and relationships, with a great set, set in the right this minute.
Don't see it if you want a piece that packs an emotional punch or you have a problem with some rather artificial elements-the TED talk conceit doesn't work.
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.
See it if you're a boomer wondering where life went or what happened to societal change, enjoy reunion plots, the occasional joint and requisite dance
Don't see it if you're worried about the perils of aging, the loss of friends, expect plot and action, can't abide lengthy humorless stretches or PC moments
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.
See it if Nice portrait of boomer friendship. The shared history and issues resonated.
Don't see it if I like dialogue driven but found this needed some action. 2 actors were realistic, Polly D seemed to be acting. Too many topics thrown in
See it if You enjoy plays about women’s life experiences and friendship. It is not that fresh or new but still entertaining. Go with a good friend.
Don't see it if You want a fast moving innovative play. It’s a little overdone but still makes you feel something.
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...