Angel Reapers
Closed 1h 15m
Angel Reapers
65

Angel Reapers NYC Reviews and Tickets

65%
(35 Reviews)
Positive
60%
Mixed
17%
Negative
23%
Members say
Great staging, Original, Disappointing, Ambitious, Thought-provoking

About the Show

Signature Theatre presents a blend of Shaker songs, modern dance, and theater about forbidden sex and unchanneled lust in New England’s 18th century Shaker community.

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Member Reviews (35)

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77
Ambitious, Slow, Quirky, Visually thrilling, Fascinating

See it if You are a fan of contemporary dance, are a bit curious about the Shakers, like stories told thru dance and exciting images

Don't see it if You expect shows to be meaty and content-filled, you expect a clear through line and is easy to follow, are bored by chanting and ritual

59
Dance 10 play 3: dance without compelling dialogue or songs fails to shed light on inner life of shaker characters

See it if you enjoy inventive choreography, skilled dancing and dresses designed to billow out to make the women look like angels

Don't see it if you want to see dance integrated into a show that provides insight on individual Shaker characters, to engage audience; this doesn't

Critic Reviews (25)

The New York Times
February 22nd, 2016

"Dialogue is spare here, and plot even more so. Ms. Clarke’s choreography takes precedence, along with traditional Shaker songs, sung a cappella...There is transparent beauty to the choreography...It’s hard to overstate the importance of design in this production, where Christopher Akerlind’s clear, soft lighting does some of the work of exaltation...It’s the twinning of euphoria and anguish that makes 'Angel Reapers' quietly glorious."
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Time Out New York
February 23rd, 2016

"Martha Clarke's movement-theater portrait of 18th-century Shakers arrives in a storm of stamping dances and lovely a cappella song...Clarke seems a strange match for the puritanical Shakers, but the sect's celibacy actually stokes her flames...The ecstatic dancing turns, in her hands, into repression-mad frenzy...This physical conviction utterly overwhelms storytelling and even history... We leave 'Angel Reapers' sure that the underlying impulse was somehow erotic."
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Theatermania
February 22nd, 2016

"Experimental choreographer Martha Clarke and Southern playwright Alfred Uhry may sound like an unlikely pair of collaborators, but Clarke's eye for abstract movement blended with Uhry's sense of Americana well suits their hybrid piece 'Angel Reapers'...More an atmospheric piece than a plot-driven play, it can be fatiguing in its most abstract moments...Clarke and Uhry have alighted on an interesting common space that holds a wealth of artistic potential."
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BroadwayWorld
February 24th, 2016

"At seventy minutes, 'Angel Reapers' is light on drama and conflict, save for making the point that the separation of the genders works against the natural urges some would consider another gift. Clarke's mix of contemporary dance with traditional Shaker movement is finely showcased, but while the piece may strike curiosity about the sect, it's hardly a satisfying exploration."
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Lighting & Sound America
March 3rd, 2016

"The company goes about its choreographed movements with a sense of pounding rhythm and untrammeled joy, often accompanied by a couple of dozen Shaker hymns...'Angel Reapers' blends words, songs, and movement in a way that allows us to get close to a vision that will seem staggeringly foreign to many, if not all, audience members...The entire company performs with admirable conviction."
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Talkin' Broadway
February 22nd, 2016

"A rich but flawed dance-theatre piece...Murphy's portrayal [of Mother Ann Lee] you won't soon be able to forget. Unfortunately, 'Angel Reapers' loses a great deal of this sharpness when it's exploring her ten acolytes. They integrate, gorgeously and hauntingly, into the dances, but they're less people than they are points to make...Clarke and Uhry have guided 'Angel Reapers' to take many good steps, but it stops just short of the brilliance for which they yearn."
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TheaterScene.net
March 6th, 2016

"'Angel Reapers' is a success on almost every level. These two award-winning artists have found a way to make their subject matter profoundly meaningful and ultimately heartbreaking...All the cast members were terrific, totally immersed in their characters through movement, acting and beautiful singing. Scenic design and costume design combined with lights to produce one perfect stage picture after another. Ms. Clarke directed with an eye for every telling detail."
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Theatre is Easy
March 1st, 2016

"The dance movement is beautiful, but the pas de deux pairings, which occur periodically throughout the piece, are exquisite. They evoke longing, confusion, and conflict which estranges these worshipers from their own humanness...A spirit of connection and collaboration is deftly depicted on stage in the performances as well as evoked in almost every component of the production’s other creative contributions."
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CurtainUp
February 22nd, 2016

"The other performers come from the dance world. All are engaging and often mesmerizing to watch...The cast also does well singing the Shaker songs that are skillfully arranged...However, it takes a true hymn enthusiast to not tire of 70 minutes of this a cappella music...The nude scene that vivifies the struggle with lust seems Ms. Clarke's acknowledgement that all that stomping and gesturing will eventually feel too repetitive without something drastically different."
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Front Row Center
February 23rd, 2016

"Much of this piece is about the longing to connect, but refreshingly it also reflects their belief in connecting, however structured and strict — they lived, worked, danced and worshiped together and as much as possible drew these elements into a communal life...I would not even consider missing this. It’s not only a fully realized piece of history, it’s dance at its best. At its best dance talks to us in ways nothing else can. There is no other way to tell the story of the Shakers."
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T
February 23rd, 2016

"The welcomed revival of 'Angel Reapers' is an important and engrossing study of the dynamics of the theological matrices of the Shakers and other faith systems...The outstanding ensemble cast of actors, dancers, and singers, under Martha Clarke’s inventive and assiduous direction, rehearse with chilling authenticity just how sublimation fails to keep at bay the repressed id...If there are answers, they will be addressed in the remarkable and must see 'Angel Reapers.'"
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New York Theater
February 22nd, 2016

"Derived from the ecstatic nature of Shaker worship, the dancing involves lots of impressive stomping and whirling and shaking. To the extent that there is a plot – and there isn’t really — it’s presented through movement...Still, one can enjoy Martha Clarke’s choreography, and respect the effort of the creative team and performers, but nevertheless feel let down that the result is not a more layered and informative work."
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Broadway Blog
February 22nd, 2016

"‘Angel Reapers’ is slow warming up as the performers demonstrate their worshipful behavior in dance and movement; there are periods where the sameness of the visual elements and music, while lovely, grows dull...Happily, despite the lack of a plot, drama eventually appears, in relation to frustrations inspired by the sect’s sexual restrictions...A male homoerotic attraction as well as a lovemaking sequence involving partial female nudity offer brief, if questionable, transgressive moments."
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Times Square Chronicles
February 28th, 2016

"What is wonderful about this piece is the rhythmic stamping feet on bare floorboards. Ms. Clarke’s choreography is inventive, interesting and simple, but never reaches a climax...The dancers are uniformly wonderful and the direction by Ms. Clarke well done...For me separation between church and theatre is blurring this year and watching sex in what is supposed to be a service is a turn off."
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Upstage-Downstage
March 3rd, 2016

"There is no central plot to the piece. This is a work that celebrates the visceral–religious fervor, spiritual strife, and, yes, furtive sexual coupling...It is the dancing that carries the story...All of it is performed with sublime skill by the six women and five men in the cast. The production is greatly enhanced, as well, by encapsulating set, costume design, and lighting, all of which serve the dance elements splendidly and pull the audience into the heart of things."
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T
March 6th, 2016

"Clarke devises fascinating moves of longing for her company of 11 actor-dancers. Bodies twist around each other and explode in rhythmic outbursts. There is a thin sliver of narrative with bits of storyline...The company is intensely fluid and expressive, employing scant back history to convey three-dimensional people...'Angel Reapers' is a mood piece more suited for dance fans than theater aficionados who expect a more robust story with their choreography."
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Manhattan Digest
February 25th, 2016

"Signature Theatre is currently exploring this fascinating religious movement in playwright Alfred Uhry’s 'Angel Reapers'...the piece beautifully delves deeper into the basic human nature of repression and the darker manifestations it can bring…What makes this 70-minute piece so interesting is the glimpse into their collective psyche and the beauty in which Clarke stages this work. The physicality demanded of the cast is fluid and jaw dropping, and there is a purity in their voices."
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TheaterScene.com
March 6th, 2016

"The ballet–drama that Martha Clarke and playwright Alfred Uhry have fashioned adheres to her vision, his gifts added to hers...The frenzied dances and grapplings, driven by the Shaker faith, [are] transmuted into rapturous choreography, passionate singing. But Martha Clarke’s vision is still aborning. Since their last staging five years ago, the dance drama has grown and deepened...We have been introduced. We are left wanting more.."
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Edge New York
February 22nd, 2016

"The intense 70-minute piece powerfully imagines a window into the Shakers' world…The excellent cast of dancer/actors realizes Clarke's vision captivatingly, while also beautifully singing lovely arrangements of an array of Shaker spirituals. 'Angel Reapers' is by no means a biography of the Shaker movement, but it does offer a kind of baptism into the sect's idiosyncratic lifestyle, creating a collage of words, images, melodies, and rhythms that you won't soon forget."
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NY Theatre Guide
February 28th, 2016

"'Angel Reapers' is an impeccably mounted production with stark sets and moody lighting. The cast of five men and six women are uniformly fine...I only wish the play had allowed us a deeper glimpse into Ann Lee’s nature and those of the individuals who followed her. Movement overwhelms meaning in this piece and, with a playwright as gifted as Mr. Uhry on hand, that seems a pity. 'Angel Reapers' is an arresting play, but not a truly enlightening one."
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The New York Times
December 1st, 2011
For a previous production

"While the purity-carnality dichotomy is an understandable draw for a director, it’s a rather obvious and reductive one, lending itself to overwrought dialogue and overheated emoting. Passions run high, et cetera. Far more engrossing and nuanced are Ms. Clarke’s movement investigations...The body works out — or at least gets closer to — what the mind cannot. Ms. Clarke’s choreographic interpretation of a community of striving people, by turns supportive and vicious, is a stirring one."
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Theatermania
November 30th, 2011
For a previous production

"Clarke runs out of choreographic ideas for refreshing the group's foot-pounding and human whirligigging long before the 75-minute exercise is done. But what becomes a larger problem is Clarke's take on life among the Shakers. Rather than giving over any time to suggest some of the endlessly lauded ways in which the Shakers contributed to arts, crafts and agriculture, she and Uhry zero in on the sect's troublesome celibacy vow."
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T
November 16th, 2011
For a previous production

"We feel their frustration, their religious zeal, interdependence, fears, and longing as they dance...Clarke’s troupe of professional dancers at times are breathtaking, their movements naturally fluid, interlocking in slow motion or frenetically jerky. They’re individually expressive or communally syncopated while making individual pronouncements and vows...The only drawback in 'Angel Reapers' is with its structure, making it difficult to distinguish specific individuals."
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A
November 21st, 2011
For a previous production

"There are a number of inaccuracies in this production and it appears that the research gathering was highly selective and sloppy...The best part of the whole production was the singing which is strong and convincing...If only there was a more positive story in 'Angel Reapers' to go along with the intricate, well executed footwork and the sensitive singing. Then the Shakers would have been portrayed with less 'suffering' and more 'redemption' in addition to all that foot-stomping."
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T
November 19th, 2011
For a previous production

"The world premiere production of 'Angel Reapers' is an electrifying paradox: it ignites a winter-hued tableau of calm and silence. This vibrant, disquieting blend of modern dance, theater, and a selection of traditional Shaker hymns is fueled by the repressed sexuality of the righteous 'Shaking Quakers'...The result is an artful evolution from the sedate to the galvanic: dancers end up jolting and sizzling like live wires against an ideological gray expanse."
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