A Brief History of Women
Closed 2h 30m
A Brief History of Women
77

A Brief History of Women NYC Reviews and Tickets

77%
(46 Reviews)
Positive
80%
Mixed
13%
Negative
7%
Members say
Great acting, Entertaining, Clever, Funny, Great staging

About the Show

Part of 59E59's 2018 'Brits Off Broadway' series, Alan Ayckbourn's new, gently touching comedy in four parts follows a man's romantic progress over 60 years.

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Member Reviews (46)

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81
Entertaining, Great acting, Clever, Funny, Sentimental

See it if you want to see a not-so-brief history of a man (& his relationships w/women), sharply written & superbly acted in a new Ayckbourn dramedy.

Don't see it if you expect the biting satire, acerbic wit & absurdist twists of Ayckbourn's best-known works. [This is AA at his more sedate & conventional]

82
Ambitious, Great acting, Funny, Intelligent, Touching

See it if you're a fan of Ayckbourn, enjoy plots that occur over 50+ years, like comedies with a serious heart, enjoy tales set in rural England

Don't see it if you don't like plays set over multiple years or touching comedies that aren't hilarious, actors in multiple roles is confusing,

Critic Reviews (32)

The New York Times
May 2nd, 2018

"'A Brief History' can at times feel as broad and overstated as the children's Christmas pantomime that figures crucially in one of the plot lines. Yet just when you start to think that the old master is on autopilot, he turns a sharp corner with a wrench that surprises you into spontaneous tears or giggles or, as often as not, both....The second half features an absolutely heart-rending moment that sounds as if it should be merely silly...Be warned: It is likely to induce stifled sobs."
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Time Out New York
May 2nd, 2018

"The title of Ayckbourn's wistful comedy...is a bit of a trick. The play isn't brief and its barrels of history are not exactly of women...Ayckbourn is past master of theatrical innovation...One of the key pleasures of 'A Brief History' lies in admiring a peak craftsman at work. Everything fits together beautifully, from the third-person limited perspective to the graceful counterbalancing of scene against scene...A strong cast, particularly the superb ranter Dixon...and Shuttleworth."
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The Wall Street Journal
May 8th, 2018

“As usual with Ayckbourn, ‘A Brief History of Women' arises from an ingenious structural premise...Ayckbourn compresses each ‘episode’ of his complex plot into a single scene that plays out in something close to real time, thereby intensifying its emotional impact. A few of the plot lines are explicitly farce-flavored, but shadows of melancholy are rarely far from view...Ayckbourn’s direction is understated and discreetly effective...Madly funny and touching enough to draw tears.”
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Theatermania
May 2nd, 2018

"This one feels comparatively dashed off. It may look and feel like an Ayckbourn play, but it doesn't have the same impact as his brilliant, genre-bending works...For starters, the play is neither brief nor about women...As a director of space, Ayckbourn is eternally skillful...As a director of actors, Ayckbourn is less skillful...Feels a lot like a school assignment where a young dramatist was tasked with writing a play in Ayckbourn's signature style, and walked away with just that, a shadow of a work."
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BroadwayWorld
May 7th, 2018

"This production is brilliantly written and directed by Alan Ayckbourn and features a superb cast...Each of the four parts in the play is wonderfully executed with seamless transitions...Ayckbourn's richly crafted dialogue is delivered with impeccable timing...'The Brief History of Women' is a completely entertaining show while it provides a significant perspective of humanity. This is an important time in society to explore the roles of women and what affects them. Don't miss it!"
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Lighting & Sound America
May 3rd, 2018

"I wouldn't call it one of Ayckbourn's first-rank works -- the scenes, especially the alternately farcical and macabre girls' school sequence, are too uneven for that -- but, overall, this is an unusual and compelling work that makes use of an almost novelistic structure to neatly encapsulate half a century of social upheaval before concluding on a surprisingly moving note...This is an imperfect play, but it's the work of an artist who, in his eighth decade, is still growing."
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Talkin' Broadway
May 2nd, 2018

"A delightfully clever and intricately designed sweet-sad-comical-romantic work...Performed by the tight-knit collective of six splendid actors...Not about anything grand and important. But it is a sublimely realized juggling act, in which the seemingly random juxtaposition of the characters turns into a perfectly arranged set of falling dominos. Likewise, the tone moves effortlessly between the wildly comic and heartfelt tear-inducing moments."
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New York Stage Review
May 2nd, 2018

"It will not go unnoticed that the women are defined largely in terms of their personal relationships with men...But there is something to be admired, even now—particularly now, in fact—about a work that reflects unselfconsciously and with genuine appreciation on a journey apart from one’s own, even in as modest and unabashedly sentimental a spirit as Ayckbourn furnishes here...The play’s easygoing wit and unapologetic tenderness are refreshing."
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New York Stage Review
May 2nd, 2018

"Lacks some of the author’s usual substance, though certainly none of his trademark style. While he has, per usual, landed on a clever conceit...The female characters get short shrift—and that’s not like him at all...Perhaps the 60-year period ultimately proved too restrictive. It’s tough to dig deep—and Ayckbourn is the deepest comedic playwright you’ll ever encounter—when you’re traversing such wide terrain."
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Theater News Online
May 29th, 2018

"The overall effect is both epic and blushingly slight. In other words, perfect Ayckbourn...Directed with unfussy warmth and efficiency by Ayckbourn...The ensemble juggles its diverse characters with elegance and wit...'A Brief History of Women' is an old-fashioned comedy from a master of middlebrow farce, but there’s something to be said for its humble, humane craftsmanship. Fans of Ayckbourn and British class humor should leave fairly satisfied. They can’t all be wild, hot-blooded affairs."
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TheaterScene.net
May 18th, 2018

"In 'A Brief History of Women,' the brilliantly inventive Alan Ayckbourn has created a story which covers the entire life of one man but also delineates the changes in Britain over 60 years, a fateful period of time when life changed a great deal from an aristocratic society to a more democratic and equitable one both for men as well as women who were under the husbands' thumbs when the play begins. Though Ayckbourn's hero Anthony Spates react little to the forces that buffet him ..."
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Theater Pizzazz
May 5th, 2018

“A profound and humorous delight. Its symbolic nuances surprise and its deep parallels of characterization with casting weave magnificently. The play which is comedic yet poignant reminds us that our arc of personal history is often crafted into a tapestry of subtle wonder...We witness the humorous and poignant evolution of protagonist Spates (a stunning performance by Anthony Eden whose process of aging is seamless and stealthy)....The cast rounded out by the excellent Pears is fabulous.”
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CurtainUp
May 4th, 2018

"Has a familiar undertow of darkness beneath its comedic surface. The first parts reveal marital abuse beneath the jazz age glitter and the lingering distrust and pain of war...As usual the playwright, wearing his director's hat, has assembled a splendid team...This cast is more than up to providing the audience with the fun of spotting a previous character's next incarnation...Expect plenty of surprising turnabouts."
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Front Row Center
May 11th, 2018

"A master wordsmith and plot crafter, Ayckbourn pulls us ito this 4 chapter story and weaves his magic well before we figure out exactly what he is up to...The performances here are all exceptional. These are actors who have worked with Ayckbourn before and they know the drill. You will be asked to suspend your own belief and enter into the Ayckbourn world...Another treasure of an evening at the theatre thanks to Alan Ayckbourn."
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Front Mezz Junkies
May 6th, 2018

"A sweet-natured and enjoyable play in four parts...It’s a thoroughly inventive fun game from this sly craftsman, and instead of the layering of a time frame, Ayckbourn creates a construct that jumps forward twenty years with each and every part...The production serves up its frivolous fun fabulously and joyfully as if they don’t have a care in the world...It’s not as dynamic as a few of my favorites, but he manages quite well to keep us thoroughly entertained and satisfied."
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Theatre's Leiter Side
May 9th, 2018

"For all the feminist vibrations suggested by its title, 'A Brief History of Women' isn't interested in polemics…The tone is consistently comic, sometimes bordering on farce, yet the smiles induced only now and then erupt into loud laughter...Ayckbourn consistently makes what everyone says interestingly human. In fact, you're likely now and then to feel a tug at your heartstrings…Changing costumes and wigs to reflect the…years…they conjure up a panoply of precisely calibrated British types."
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Times Square Chronicles
May 2nd, 2018

“Ayckbourn, who writes about the English’s divide between class and gender, misses the mark here...Though the actresses are all talented, they are surpassed by their male counterparts. Eden is likable and charismatic, but it is Russell who steals the show with his over-the-top hysterical performance...Unlike 'The Norman Conquests' and 'How the Other Half Loves,' which seemed like a rollercoaster ride, 'A Brief History of Women' drags on. Ayckbourn’s direction is skillful.”
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Gotham Playgoer
May 8th, 2018

“Neither brief nor a history of women...One of the pleasures of an evening of Ayckbourn is relishing his superb actors in the multiple roles they are called upon to play...While the roles are juicy and the dialogue entertains, there are a few dry spots along the way. You may find the ending predictable, but you will likely still be moved by it. Ayckbourn is one of the few playwrights who does well directing his own work. Even when he is not at the top of his form, he is worth seeing.”
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Wolf Entertainment Guide
May 3rd, 2018

"What you will get is a helping of Ayckbourn’s gift for creating amusing and sometimes poignant characters and putting them in odd situations that can be entertaining as well as meaningful...An excellent, versatile six-member cast...While it is not the best among the 80 or so plays Ayckbourn has written, it does have the sort of entertaining ingredients, including witty and sometimes broad comedy, and penetrating dialogue that one so often finds in his work."
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Village Voice
May 14th, 2018

“An easygoing comedy-drama...Unashamedly schematic, carefully written...An ably composed piece of mid-twentieth-century boulevard-style theater of the traditional kind...Neatly staged by the author himself, this production is modestly designed and agreeably acted. While the play is a mostly straightforward ho-hum affair, it probably will amuse people who like to see in the theater the same sort of show they already know from the telly."
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Broadway & Me
May 12th, 2018

"Tends more toward rueful chuckles than the out-and-out guffaws that so many of Aykbourn's other plays elicit...Hasn't lost his knack for poking behind the stiff-upper-lip facade of Britain's middle and upper classes...It is Antony Eden's quietly understated performance as Spates that anchors the play and sent me away thinking back over the places I've lived and the people who filled those empty buildings and also my heart...Even generic Ayckbourn has what it takes to hit the spot."
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Off Off Online
May 5th, 2018

"Alan Ayckbourn’s latest play has the hallmarks of the best plays in his vast repertoire...Six actors play all the parts, and they are superb, although more successful in some roles than others. Dixon’s wildly fey dramatics teacher is terrific...Pears is full of vigor whether he’s the kilted war hero or a 1960s antiwar rebel...Even if at times it feels a tad schematic, ‘A Brief History of Women’ is a delightful entry in the playwright’s extraordinary body of work. There is no one like him.”
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BlogCritics.org
May 3rd, 2018

"Brilliantly written and beautifully acted, 'A Brief History of Women' engages both heart and mind...There is an organic wholeness to the production, especially remarkable given the time-shifting structure and the persistence of only one character. The cast quickens the colorful personalities they play even though each figure has only one (albeit meaty, except for the last) scene."
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scribicide
May 2nd, 2018

"The country house has loomed large in British literature for centuries - as a symbol of English continuity as well as one of aristocratic decadence - and the success of this play lies in its ability to balance quite effortlessly the sentimentalism of Mansfield Park with the cynicism of the Tallis estate."
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Manhattan Digest
May 2nd, 2018

"Though the entire cast hails from England, there is little authenticity to be found...Frequently, much of the scenery is chewed to the nub and is played as though it were an unfunny Saturday Night Live sketch...Ackybourn's decision to invite negative commentary on homosexuality...Fails to land well with modern audiences...There are a few poignant moments. Yet they are lost amidst the rambling and unfocused dialogue."
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Epoch Times
May 6th, 2018

"Eden does a fine job as Anthony. He’s a sort of everyman...Unfortunately, while doing quite well in the later scenes, Eden is unable to play a 17-year-old convincingly...The rest of the cast is also very good...Ayckbourn’s directorial choices, other than as mentioned above, are pretty seamless. The segments and accompanying through-lines flow nicely from one scene to the next."
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Film Festival Traveler
May 10th, 2018

“Not quite farce or satire but pitched somewhere in between...The glory of Ayckbourn’s writing is that, even when it’s a minor work— there’s always an especially felicitous observation or an empathetic moment that tears your heart out...Playing two dozen characters, the formidable cast of six keeps the play shuttling forward, even when Ayckbourn himself nearly sabotages it with a drawn-out third episode...The occasional hiccup can’t erase another noteworthy Ayckbourn stage event.”
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The Stage (UK)
September 5th, 2017
For a previous production

"As both director and writer, Ayckbourn is a dab hand at solving theatrical puzzles, orchestrating the action in several locations at once...Dysfunctional marriages, as is so often the case with Ayckbourn, feature prominently on the dramatic menu, but here there’s also a poignant re-awakening of romantic possibilities...There’s a lot of loss and longing in this journey, but the play’s elegiac, reflective tone proves both moving and liberating as it reaches an ending of haunting beauty."
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The Telegraph (UK)
September 7th, 2017
For a previous production

"It’s so sketchily written and baldly schematic that, for all its underlying ambition and innocuous entertainment value, it put me in mind of that gag in 'A Midsummer Night’s Dream' about the 'tedious brief scene of young Pyramus and his love Thisbe'...Yet despite itself, simply because it attests all the same to Ayckbourn’s own story of tenacity, longevity and attachment to place, it stirs something like gratitude and admiration...There are worse ways of wasting an evening."
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T
September 13th, 2017
For a previous production

"The history is indeed brief, but the accumulative effect is for Ayckbourn's play to acquire a tragi-comic depth...At 78, he is writing and directing with as much wit, insight, originality and mischief as ever, still surprising, still setting himself theatrical puzzles, still so spot-on about the arts, education, marriage, romance, loss and life's vicissitudes for men and women, but now with added reflection and humane sagacity. Play number 81 is a brief history of Ayckbourn in one play."
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T
September 7th, 2017
For a previous production

"Ingenious, mischievous, and ultimately humane...Ayckbourn is still able to find new ways of entertaining us for two hours and making us think a bit as well...There is some unevenness of tone but the character of Anthony Spates makes the whole thing believable...Ayckbourn creates a character of breath-taking normality, kindly, rational, and self-effacing...Throughout he is the epitome of unselfish decency – and, oddly enough, not at all boring."
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The Sentinel
October 13th, 2017
For a previous production

"There’s no denying that Ayckbourn knows how to write a cracking play. And I doubt 'A Brief History of Women' will leave even the most seasoned of theatre-goers disappointed...Ayckbourn does an incredible job of portraying some boisterous, bigoted beliefs about feminism, homosexuality, socialism, and everything in between...I can confidently say that I’ll be remembering that house, and this play, for years to come as well."
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