The Pearl Theatre Company revives Shelagh Delaney's groundbreaking drama about a working-class English teenager in the '50s trying to control her own destiny. More…
In 1959 at age 18, playwright Shelagh Delaney rocked the theatre world with a play that both defined and defied her generation. Not seen on a New York stage for 35 years, 'A Taste of Honey' is the clever, passionate, and poignant story of a young woman facing an uncertain future in a hostile world—and learning to trust that love, messy and heartbreaking as it is, will see her through. Directed by Austin Pendleton.
"It is a marvelous piece of work, at once devastatingly blunt and uncommonly poignant. Austin Pendleton, the director, and his five-person cast have done right by Delaney’s play...Pendleton has given 'A Taste of Honey' a staging that serves the play with scrupulous, self-effacing care...At a moment when Broadway has next to nothing to offer in the way of straight plays, Mr. Pendleton now has two shows running on 42nd Street. They’re both excellent." Full Review
"‘A Taste of Honey’ has endured the test of time both for its strikingly evergreen themes as well as its powerful, well-constructed monologues…Its central themes are as alive today as they were almost 60 years ago…Director Austin Pendleton’s smartly-crafted staging allows the play to easily transcend its era and present an immediacy to the audience…Seeing 'A Taste of Honey' is an opportunity to see, in a beautifully written play, that the more things change, the more they remain the same." Full Review
"It’s a mystery why Shelagh Delaney's funny, touching and extraordinarily prescient 1958 play has sat on the shelf for so long...Director Austin Pendleton has done audiences a favor in dusting off the stage play...This story feels surprisingly contemporary...Although Rachel Botchan, as hard-partying Helen, comes across as just a bit too chipper (she could use a dash more slattern), Rebekah Brockman is a revelation in the role of quirky, outspoken Jo." Full Review
"Delaney’s a perfect storm for a director like Austin Pendleton...She forces Pendleton to keep up with her in his staging...They both win..."Botchan deploys dainty savagery and, even for those who know the play, this can seem unexpected. Impressive also is Rebekah Brockman, who gives us Jo’s poignant side, which would be expected. However, despite the weight of the milieu, she allows Delaney’s wicked humor to come through...Highly recommended." Full Review
"Dialogue is effective, characters well drawn...Though director Austin Pendleton does a superb job with natural characterization, pacing, and stage visuals, he makes, to my mind, two mistakes that annoyingly interfere with dramatic impact...It’s as if Pendleton were insecure about the piece standing on its own...Acting is wonderful. Accents are excellent (and intelligible, not a given.) Unique physicality is well crafted." Full Review
"The production is long overdue, though Botchan is initially too perky, before settling nicely into the role. But Brockman is pitch-perfect as Jo, capturing her anger, vulnerability and spirit. And her friendship with Geoff, thanks to Reese’s calibrated performance, is seriously touching...Delaney had a genius for mixing a miserable set-up with humor, which keeps 'A Taste of Honey,' aided by an onstage jazz trio, an intimate, moving show." Full Review
"The work surprisingly resonates with our contemporary culture and social issues today...The acting is mostly effective...Theatergoers who have never seen this play should take advantage of this opportunity to see it staged with sensitivity by Pendleton. Pendleton, who has made a name for himself for his treatment of the classics, proves once again that he can dust off an old play and make it come alive for a new generation." Full Review
"'A Taste of Honey' caused a considerable stir on the English stage in 1958. But in 2016, The Pearl has to reach for something more penetrating and insightful. The production boasts an impeccable cast...If The Pearl’s revival cannot shock us, it can certainly help us make sense of the pain, rejection, hopelessness and anger engendered when love is scant and sporadic." Full Review
"The dimensions of the Greater Manchester dialect, not an easy undertaking, are accomplished at a pace that while occasionally wandering into Scotland via Liverpool, hook onto the pivotal cadence of the wittier exchanges, of which there are plenty...Botchan plays Helen with a likability that is less apparent on the page...Director and all-rounder Austin Pendleton, together with a great cast, have successfully revitalized a time and a place that prefaced the ‘British Invasion.'" Full Review
"Even a director as capable and well versed in every theatrical style as Mr. Pendleton can't make this 57-year-old play send even a ripple of shock waves through contemporary audiences who've had plenty of exposure to working-class settings, about interracial romances, single mothers and gay men. But don't write this revival off as dated just yet...Under Pendleton's direction the actors have for the most part brought Delaney's characters to refreshingly authentic life." Full Review
"The kitchen sink drama is dated now and if it's lost much of its punch, the Pearl Theatre's admirable revival still manages to find resonance in its working-class themes...It takes a seasoned director to plumb the emotional layers in this complex work, and Austin Pendleton is just the man. His staging is naturalistic and a bit surreal...He also delivers with a strong ensemble nicely shading Delaney's grey landscape with dark and light hues." Full Review
"Jo’s fractious relationship with her mother is, in Delaney’s play, the fault of both characters...It’s a measure of Delaney’s maturity that she can create characters so complex and show the struggles of their lives so vividly…As a dream play, it’s not as easy to adjust to or as persuasive as, say, ‘The Glass Menagerie’…It has perhaps frayed a bit at the edges, but it’s still a work that continually surprises with its modern feel. The Pearl’s season opener is a welcome opportunity to see it." Full Review
"The fascinations of watching Jo make a case for why this play—which is both a revealing document of its era and at times maddeningly repetitive—deserves attention today…In Brockman's hands, Delaney's heroine is stubborn, unsentimental, and fascinatingly difficult to read…The secondary characters, though, don't offer the same intriguing complexities…Still, 'Honey' justifies its revival, offering a perspective we don't often see onstage: a working-class-female struggle to survive." Full Review
"The play may indeed make you gasp not from shock, but because of Delaney’s astonishing ability to be smart, fair-minded and even prescient...Pendleton steers his five performers into displaying the best kind of acting – which seems like no acting at all...He brings the musicians into the apartment and has two of them sit on the couch...It’s distracting — and the musicians look none too pleased to be there." Full Review
"While sprinkled with humor and heart, the play feels untethered to structure and a bit too sentimental at moments—perhaps typical of a young writer (Delaney was 18 when she penned it)...Directed by the accomplished Austin Pendleton, there is a strong sense of honoring the playwright’s intentions within his direction....Overall, while the pace and dialects are uneven at times, the Pearl's production of 'A Taste of Honey' is a fair revival of a rarely produced play." Full Review
"The play may have the occasional dated reference but the issues and urgent voices within it remain vital and moving. However, Pendleton’s uneven production does not offer the best showcase…In this production, there’s a self-consciousness to the performances that holds them back…Nevertheless, Delaney’s audacious writing still thrills. This rare revival offers an opportunity for the voices of these complicated women in messy relationships to, at long last, be heard." Full Review
"'The Pearl' production...adequately conveys Delaney’s world but there’s very little about it that’s distinctive. For one thing, the actors’ regional British accents are too notably inconsistent to create a truthful North English atmosphere. For another, despite the energy expended, most of the actors are unable to convincingly embody their roles, making the play’s two hours and twenty minutes feel much longer." Full Review
“Director Austin Pendleton made some choices which don’t help the now creaky play. Although Peter is described as younger than Helen, Pendleton has cast Bradford Cover who looks to be Helen’s age or older. While the apartment is described as dirty, Harry Feiner’s set is spotlessly clean. Pendleton has several of the characters occasionally speak directly to the audience which makes this play more surreal. All of this makes the revival much less affecting than it might have been.” Full Review
"'A Taste of Honey' feels quaint around the edges; once-unconventional modes of living hardly raise an eyebrow these days...This is a frustrating production. Ms. Botchan gives an erratic performance, while Mr. Cover seems unsuited to his role...The rest of the cast does beautifully, and the jazz trio brings a comfortable charm and a lovely sound to the proceedings. But these fine parts can’t be removed from the whole. There remains a nagging sense of a play only partly revived." Full Review
"The script vibrates with life, energy, and the will to persevere with laughter in the face of massive social obstacles. Sadly, little of that spirit is present in Pendleton's workmanlike but unremarkable staging…The production benefits from a stellar leading lady…Her primary costars are also excellent...Still, none of them are able to pep up the proceedings…‘A Taste of Honey’ is a thrilling and unconventional work of theater, but you wouldn't really know it from this sleepy revival." Full Review
"'A Taste of Honey' has everything it needs to be a galvanizing show...However...this show lacked the electric anger and the gritty desperation that was integral to the culture at the time and is much needed to energize this production...It’s frustrating to see such a miss. If you want to see an unchallenging production of a great play, this might be for you. You might even have a few chuckles. But you won’t leave the theatre changed." Full Review
"The cast here is uneven, and in particular the British accents come and go as they please..In 1958, 'A Taste of Honey' must have surely struck audiences as fearless...[but] the work has not aged especially well: nothing of what remains is particularly striking or moving." Full Review
"This is a rather prosaic, shapeless piece of work, a series of comings and goings that don't add up to a fully realized drama...This mother-daughter dynamic is probably the element that could speak most directly to today's audiences, but somehow the furious cycle of dependency and abandonment, of love and rage never really comes to life...If this sometimes-powerful piece is to regain its place in the repertory it will need a far more original and visionary production than it gets here." Full Review
"'A Taste of Honey' is no longer revolutionary; it is almost 3 hours of boredom...For some reason, Mr. Pendleton likes to draw out his plays and the end result is just tedious. What makes this show worth watching is the lead actress. Brockman is a spitfire whose vulnerability and strength shines through...'A Taste of Honey' needed to be cut, re-shaped and seen in a different light. Under this light it just pales." Full Review
See it if comedic, witty, Irish period piece is of interest. Fantastic acting with beautiful instrumental accompaniment adds to the brilliant writing
Don't see it if You want something quirky or current.
See it if You like to classic plays and terrific acting by Brockman as Jo. Unllikely to be revived again so catch it before it closes. A brave show.
Don't see it if You don't like long dramas about working class England that features a very unsympathic mother. The other actors not as great as Brockton.
See it if You're in the mood to see a period piece with a little music and real relevance and freshness.
Don't see it if You don't want to hear a British accent. Actually, I can't imagine why a person wouldn't want to see it.
See it if you want to see a piece of theater history performed by a strong cast with haunting jazzy music. Still amazingly relevant.
Don't see it if you like action packed shows, you can't accept the 4th wall being broken or you're bothered by musicians oddly juxtaposed into the action.
See it if You want a glimpse into working class lives. This was written by an 18 year old playwright and the writing is masterful. Excellent acting.
Don't see it if You want a light hearted romp with butterflies and daisies. It is somewhat bleak and very haunting.
See it if You enjoy historical British theater, want to see two breakout performances - Brockman and Reese, understand how edgy the play was in '59.
Don't see it if Can't tolerate inconsistent North English accents, feel that racism and homophobia no longer relevant themes, don't like 4th wall broken.
See it if you enjoy a show that examines family dynamics interlaced with social issues in an earlier time.
Don't see it if you have a short attention span, as the play is two and a half hours long.
See it if you like dramas mixed with comedy and a bit of music, honest portrayal of broken mother-daughter relationship & a teen asserting herself.
Don't see it if you don't like English-accented dramas, stories of dysfunctional mom-daughter relationships, portrayals of unwed pregnancy amidst poverty.
See it if you want to learn what the fuss is about. It's not drop-dead wonderful, but its subtle charm is that I can't get it out of my mind.
Don't see it if The Glass Menagerie is not your thing. This is almost a memory play, or at least feels like it, and for all the sorrow, the hope is there.
See it if you like realist dramas that played an important role in theatrical history. Rebekah Brockman is touching and convincing in the lead role.
Don't see it if you're looking for something light or fantastical. The play has a gritty edge, but is not without humor.
See it if A classic play written about a mother and daughter in an industrial city in Northern England in the late 50's.
Don't see it if You don't like classic theater! It's brilliantly staged, performed and acted! The subject matter would have been considered quite racy!
See it if you like plays set in 50's London. With live music. If you want to see a terrific actress in her breakout role- she brings ease and magic.
Don't see it if you don't like defiant love, blustery mother-daughter relationships, biracial love. Or not open to new ideas like a live jazz trio on stage.
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