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New York | 1h 45m | Already closed

Antlia Pneumatica

From 32 critic and 79 member reviews
Members say: Slow, Confusing, Disappointing, Great acting, Absorbing

About the show

Playwrights Horizons presents the world premiere of Anne Washburn's new play about a group of old friends who reckon with their pasts as they bury a loved one. More…

In a ranch house deep in Texas Hill Country, a once tight-knit group of friends reunites to bury one of their own. Sadness and nostalgia go hand in hand, as they begin to reminiscence. But as they look back through their lives, it becomes clear they’ve lost more than just their old pal. The boundaries between then and now grow disarmingly blurry as these estranged friends confront their slippery past.

Time Out New York

"Washburn is not your ordinary playwright. The pleasures of her work are fugitive, sidelong and slippery...The dialogue is often glib, funny and heartfelt, making 'Antlia' a sheer joy as a listening device...Washburn’s witty, surprising language makes you laugh in self-recognition...I think everyone should see Anne Washburn’s plays, but those who demand familiar forms and takeaway messages be warned: all that’s needed here are your ears." Full Review

The Associated Press

"Anne Washburn provides a realistic, disarming ghost tale, invigorated with ruminations about time and space, in her new play. A quietly unsettling production directed by Ken Rus Schmoll...'Antlia Pneumatica' is a tender examination of everyday concerns...Scenes of shared memories between the friends are effectively given ritualistic, elegiac treatments...Schmoll has satisfactorily overlaid the realism and ordinariness with an atmosphere of mystery." Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"In its sly, sideways manner, it has something - a haunting sense of the passage of time, a feeling of wonderment at the mysteries of the universe…Nothing really happens and yet, as a meditation on middle age, mortality, the passing and rekindling of desire, and the sheer mystery of existence, 'Antlia Pneumatica' casts a certain spell that I found beguiling. It helps that Schmoll has assembled a company notably skilled at expressing the unsaid. Annie Parisse is first-rate as Nina." Full Review

Village Voice

"A typically elegant production by Ken Rus Schmoll…At first, Washburn seems to set the stage for wistful autumnal reminiscence, but she soon lights out for richer and stranger terrain…Amid such looming questions, Schmoll's production finds grace in the details…We're left retroactively wondering what was real and what was reverie, as that most basic of natural laws — the hard division between life and death — appears to dissolve." Full Review

Reviewing The Drama

"Washburn plays with time and memory so that even while we're watching 'Antlia Pneumatica', we are questioning what's real. As a theatrical experience, that's interesting...'Antlia Pneumatica' is a somewhat challenging play. As I was watching it, I didn't feel fully engrossed, but the more I think about it, the more I appreciate the experience..It's almost like you have to let this feast for your senses happen to you, and then let your memory take over." Full Review

Stage Buddy

"At its most compelling, 'Antlia's' concern is with mortality and what happens, at a certain age, when death becomes a normal part of life...When the themes turn cosmic, though, 'Antlia' loses its way a bit...Under the crisp direction of Ken Russ Schmoll, the play has the usual lived-in dialogue and lyrical tangents that color most of Washburn's work...There's so much good here, but maybe too much. By wrap it seems like it could have gone with one less metaphor or one less body." Full Review

Exeunt Magazine

"The play is a slippery thing happening in three different registers. Much of it is perfectly ordinary. But then it slips a gear, and turns into something darker, richer, and stranger: an invocation, an act of not-so-innocent eavesdropping, a ghost story about one’s own youth...It’s genuinely eerie and unexpectedly moving when the pieces snap together. The dogged literalness of the realist surface play is just a thin skin...the shape beneath is unsettling and magically strange." Full Review

Brooklyn Magazine

"'Antlia Pneumatica' is eccentric and difficult but rewarding, filled with tangents and blocks of unsteady information...This play is like an explosion of matter that cannot be put back into any proper order, and Washburn sees a freedom in that. She likes to have her characters speak of small things and large things but skips the middle ground that most plays reside in. This might be irritating to some, but to others it will be liberating: post-play, post-apocalyptic, lost in space." Full Review

New York Theater

"Characters recall events that they then dismiss as dreams. But the disorientation is not limited to the characters. Most scenes in the play occur on a stage that is lit too darkly to see clearly. In theory, this double disorientation of both characters and audience should be thought-provoking, the atmosphere intriguing. In practice, it comes off as vague...Washburn’s wit and ear for dialogue make attendance worthwhile even when she’s leaving you in the dark." Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

"While 'Antlia' works well as a low-key naturalistic play and fairly successfully as a more stylized one, the production doesn’t yet unite the two modes in ways that seem purposeful. Some of the disappointment is in the finish, where Washburn sets up a terrific conflict where diverging realities suddenly collide. But just when the nightscape threatens to become wonderfully mystifying, the play ends." Full Review

The Hollywood Reporter

"A supernatural twist is introduced that upends our perceptions of everything that's come before. The revelation is jarring, not so much for its spookiness but rather for the perfunctory manner of the storytelling. The proceedings are tonally inconsistent and the plotting full of holes only adds to the overall frustration. That's a shame, because the play is enjoyable for long stretches, thanks to its witty dialogue and well-drawn characterizations. The actors deliver fine performances." Full Review

Our Theater Blog

"In 'Antlia Pneumatica', language prevails– there are segments of it when the stage is dark and the characters barely visible...Watching the fourth wall crumble as characters challenge the audience directly is exciting. Is the oft glacial pacing necessary to make us listen more intently? There is wit and on occassional depth, even philosophy in what seems like a communal mid-life crisis...Ken Rus Schmoll directs the cast whose dry delivery is often very funny." Full Review

Theatre's Leiter Side

"Washburn plays with our perceptions of reality as her script slowly ambles, or, I should say, rambles, along, offering behavior that's sometimes conventionally realistic...and sometimes magically realistic. This being a play in which things are not always what they seem to be, the situation, for all its seeming ordinariness, makes it hard to become fully engaged with these shadowy characters...‘Antlia Pneumatica’ could stand to have some dramatic air pumped into it." Full Review

Bob's Theater Blog

"I did not have high hopes for Anne Washburn’s new play now at Playwrights Horizons. Alas, my low expectations were met...It has a major gimmick and a few minor ones, none of which worked for me...All this might have involved me more if the characters had been more interesting...Ken Rus Schmoll directs with a sure hand. Washburn is greatly admired by many in the theatrical community. I wish I could see what they see." Full Review

Broadway & Me

"Perhaps because I've been wrestling with some of the issues that Washburn is trying to work out, I was willing to forgive the play's considerable shortcomings...The acting is uneven...Parisse anchors this production with a smart yet heartfelt performance...But the real problem is that the play's aims are murky…In some ways, 'Antlia Pneumatica' seems like a draft instead of a finished play. As the characters nattered on about one thing after another, the audience got more and more restless." Full Review

Times Square Chronicles

"The plot you figure out almost instantaneously. The problem here is once you do, you don’t care...We get banal talk about the stars and our existence...Director Ken Rus Schmoll does not help make this piece any more palatable. The good news here is the actors all radiate warmth and a realness that makes this seem less like acting and more like peering through a slice of time." Full Review


"What we learn about the characters is too fragmentary to make us really care...Except for these occasionally engaging conversations, most of the table talk meanders along and leaves us wishing director Ken Rus Schmoll had trimmed it along with that interesting but overlong star-gazing scene in the dark. The actors' performances overall are fine. Too bad they're playing six characters in search of a play by Anne Washburn at her best." Full Review

The Wrap

"Beware of plays with coy, obscure titles that are clumsily explained shortly before the final curtain...Washburn captures the awkward humor of people trying to play catch up with their collective past. She and her director, Ken Rus Schmoll, are effective when scenes feature the witty banter between Nina and the other female characters...A not insubstantial amount of 'Artlia' unfolds like a radio play with voices amplified and/or taped as the audience sits looking at a bare stage." Full Review

The Huffington Post

"It’s rather frustrating to know Washburn could meet the demands of a more traditional play but wouldn’t commit. 'Antlia Pneumatica' is certainly well acted, well directed and given a handsome production. For a seemingly conventional play, it’s also rather bold and interesting in its sound design...Yet even here 'Antlia Pneumatica' falls a little short...ultimately not adding up to much. Just like, I fear, the show itself." Full Review

The New York Times

"'Antlia' has been directed with a mix of bright whimsy and dark portentousness by Ken Rus Schmoll and features a likable cast. It is definitely a downer to report that the play’s ghost story feels as leaden and unsurprising as its collective portrait of midlife doubts in the face of mortality...Washburn seems to have gotten lost between the traditional and experimental sides of her craft, never finding a comfortable voice that accommodates both." Full Review

New York Daily News

"A work about friendship and the impersistence of memory that starts out plump with promise but steadily deflates...Washburn has perfect pitch here when it comes to dialogue...Under Ken Rus Schmoll’s direction, the cast clicks. But for all of the convincing conversation, plus impromptu singing, these characters have as much shape and interest as empty balloons. The dramatic enterprise falls flat." Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

"Washburn crafts an evening that's at once quiet and disquieting, as beautiful for what it contains as unsettling for what it doesn't. But Washburn has trouble gauging when she goes too far. Eventually she hints at supernatural forces driving the action in ways that defuse the sparks she ignites earlier on...The pacing is Ice Age glacial...The actors, they're all decent, if overblown in one way or another...Memorable though this play may be, it has too much to hang on to." Full Review


"Washburn does a fine job posing intriguing questions about the nature of relationships. But the play feels more like a series of intellectual musings than a fully immersive world...We need more than just an eloquent metaphor to keep us attached to this story. We never learn much about any of these people — who they are now or who they used to be. And the more they seem to disconnect from one another, the more we disconnect from them." Full Review


"Anne Washburn writes weird plays, and 'Antlia Pneumatica' is no exception...Childhood friends who meet over a funeral feast waste considerable stage time catching up on other old friends we never meet...It sounds like an audience challenge, trying to identify the ghosts among the dreamers. But with the exception of Nina, the characters are so superficially drawn, there’s not enough substance to them to distinguish the living from the dead." Full Review

Front Row Center

"Director Ken Rus Schmoll’s staging is as static as it is pretentious…Ms. Washburn has taken a perfectly good idea for a play and loaded on so much artifice that it collapses under its own weight…The performances offer a glimmer of hope, but there will be no happy ending, just one final return of the poetry zombies, singing a dirge, turning at odd angles from each other for no apparent reason." Full Review

Absorbing, Ambitious, Enchanting, Thought-provoking, Profound

See it if you want to see a brilliant writer experiment with form and theatricality within a low-fi, gorgeously-designed production

Don't see it if you're less interested in something a little dryer, a little harder to hold onto-- ruminative, elliptical, and strange

Quirky, Great writing, Amazing use of off stage space, Great sound design, Flawless cast

See it if Anne Washburn continues to playfully stretch & prod theatrical conventions. Here she is aided by amazing production design & an able cast.

Don't see it if looking at an empty stage while listening to an epic dirge for a dead ant will not fill you with equal parts sadness and joy

Creative, Absorbing, Enchanting, Surprising, Subtle

See it if you like quiet, quirky theater that is subtle and beautifully staged with well-rounded performances and an unconventional script.

Don't see it if you find Washburn's work to be too weird/pretentious or have difficulty with slow-paced works with little plot.

Absorbing, Clever, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Great writing

See it if you like naturalistic dialogue and a clever story

Don't see it if you don't like ghost stories

Ambitious, Intelligent, Great writing, Slow

See it if you like The Big Chill. This show is a slow burn that requires you to think and just go with it. Great writing and acting make it worth it.

Don't see it if you want all he answers given to you and don't want to use your brain inside a theater. This isn't escapist at all.

Original, Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Thought-provoking

See it if You like new plays

Don't see it if You dislike plays that make you think

Funny, Absorbing, Enchanting, Thought-provoking, Resonant

See it if You're a fan of The Big Chill or are from The Hill Country of Texas or have a dear friend who has recently died or all three like me.

Don't see it if You're looking for a fast paced story that spoon feeds you all the answers. This one is going to make you think.

Absorbing, Clever, Intelligent

See it if you enjoy smart, captivating writing and are capable of really listening to long exchanges between characters without a lot of "action".

Don't see it if You are easily distracted. Her work requires (and deserves) your full attention at all times.

Ambitious, Great acting, Intelligent, Resonant, Slow

See it if you like ambitious, intelligent theatre even when it's not fully successful.

Don't see it if you have little tolerance for ambiguity and experiments with form.

Ambitious, Clever, Intelligent, Quirky, Resonant

See it if you want to think about the nature of life, love, death and the human condition. Like a confusing dream, and an hour later the meaning hits

Don't see it if you like straightforward plots with clear resolutions

Intelligent, Intense, Resonant, Slow, Great staging

See it if u like a v well staged new play by a young and very promising playwright. It's haunting, mysterious and goes its own way. I was fascinated!

Don't see it if Well...it is slow and somewhat etherial. But it's bravely -- and daringly -- written. Admirable...and Annie Parisse is tops.

Great acting, Banal, Confusing, Disappointing, Excruciating

See it if you're an Anne Washburn fan, like "Big Chill" style reunions, fans of Annie Parrisse and Rob Campbell who deliver, like out-there themes

Don't see it if you lack the patience to figure out how all are related and wait for key information, eerie mysteries and drawn out stories tax you

Great acting, Thought-provoking, Slow

See it if you like shows that require you to think and go with it. Great writing and acting especially by Annie Parisse.

Don't see it if you're easily confused

Enchanting, Quirky, Great writing, Confusing, Great staging

See it if you love Anne Washburn, clever sound & lighting design.

Don't see it if you love Anne Washburn (à la Mr. Burns). This does not match up.to some of her other works.

Insightful, Slow, Touching

See it if Thoughtful, psychological

Don't see it if slow pacing, extraneous dramatic devices

Original, Disappointing, Insipid, Slow, Entertaining

See it if Entertaining for awhile. Drew me in with engaging performances. Wasn't as weird as the author's other plays.

Don't see it if But ultimately added up to not much. Left with questions that I didn't care much about knowing the answers to.

Quirky, Confusing, Disappointing, Slow

See it if If you are an Anne Washburn fan or enjoy quirky dramas.

Don't see it if If you like clear, well crafted storylines.

Original, Great acting, Indulgent, Slow, Long

See it if you want to see everything this season - otherwise it is perfectly skippable.

Don't see it if you want the "must see" show of the season. It needs some work

Dizzying, Disappointing, Excruciating, Slow, Frustrating

See it if you don't mind unexplained and uncleared situations or see the always talented Anne Parrise.

Don't see it if You get frustrating by seeing a play that has tons of voiceovers and is incoherent.

Surreal, Disappointing, Slow

See it if you're an Anne Washburn completist or if you like ghost stories with obvious endings.

Don't see it if you're searching for an evening of compelling theater.

Boring, Banal, Confusing, Cliched, Insipid

See it if you have nothing better to do and have a subscription to this good theatre.

Don't see it if you are looking for a very interesting, exciting or deep evening or matinee at the theatre.


See it if you might enjoy a cool visual effect where the theatre is lit up like a starry sky. that's about it.

Don't see it if you don't want to be disappointed

Enchanting, Indulgent, Confusing, Disappointing, Slow

See it if You like thoughtful, enigmatic plays with strong performances.

Don't see it if You want a more cohesive story. The play never quite seems sure what it wants to be doing.

Great acting, Confusing, Interesting set

See it if you like odd shows that don't follow storytelling norms.

Don't see it if you get confused easily.

Funny, Edgy, Quirky, Confusing, Disappointing

See it if you like Anne Washburn or surreal plays that deal with the theme of death

Don't see it if you want a coherent ending, explanations, or something fun.

Cast & Creatives (15)