Balls NYC Reviews and Tickets

73%
(102 Reviews)
Positive
77%
Mixed
16%
Negative
7%
Members say
Great staging, Clever, Entertaining, Ambitious, Relevant

About the Show

It's 1973, and Houston's Astrodome is playing host to one of the biggest cultural events of all time as Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs face-off in the Battle of the Sexes tennis match.

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Member Reviews (102)

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86
A '70s spectacle with astonishing stagecraft

See it if you can appreciate the impact of '70s cultural icons like Billie Jean King and Helen Reddy. Open to an evening leaning more to a spectacle?

Don't see it if you need a traditional evening of a linear play. This is an event with depth mixed with frolic. The angling of the net is a brilliant effect

25
At 80 minutes, "balls" is way too long, Banal, Cliched, Excellent staging, Insipid

See it if you want to see some clever staging by Ianthe Demos and Nick Flint.

Don't see it if you want to be hit over the head with the play's themes. You enjoy plays with well-developed characters, and has an arc.

Critic Reviews (22)

The New York Times
January 24th, 2018

"Though this action is cleverly devised...and executed perfectly...it is neither tennis nor theater but a kind of hysteria. The whole play seems to be constructed backward, starting with a concept requiring a full 85 minutes of athletic representation and ending with the maddening question of how to fill all that time...Never gets anywhere near an insightful gloss on the battle of the sexes, writ large or small...As intellectually underfed as it is imaginatively overindulgent."
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Theatermania
January 24th, 2018

"A play with so many colliding spheres...While Armento and Lavery manage to juggle a lot in their idea-heavy and plot-light story, quantity ends up burdening a play that could have used a far more delicate touch...Stories circle King and Riggs like satellites...We're led down a rabbit hole of questions...There's not nearly enough time to focus on any of these questions, but they're valuable topics to walk out the door pondering."
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BroadwayWorld
January 26th, 2018

"An exciting and ingenious production...A stunning show that creatively portrays the infamous tennis match...The show presents an energetic, realistic depiction of this 'Battle of the Sexes' match point by point. The narrative cleverly integrates other characters...While the production is colorful, lively, and entertaining, it also does an excellent job of exploring the serious topics...The company of 'Balls' is a dream team."
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Lighting & Sound America
January 26th, 2018

"It's a heady mix, filled with fascinating and evocative details...Despite the richness of its themes, the play is not always successful...Sometimes too much happens at once...At times, King and Riggs end up seeming like supporting characters in their own drama...Still, 'Balls' is never dull...And, in its eccentric way, 'Balls' makes its case that the Battle of the Sexes provides a window on issues that continue to rattle us to this very day."
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Talkin' Broadway
January 24th, 2018

"There is much more here than the re-creation of the match, itself so marvelously choreographed...'Balls' is a work of consummate collaboration that not only immerses us in the sights and sounds we would have encountered at the Astrodome, but also places that singular moment within its historic context...An exceptionally well-wrought ensemble piece...You'll be hard pressed to find a better retelling of a story that has obtained near-mythic status as 'The Battle of the Sexes.'"
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TheaterScene.net
January 26th, 2018

"An overblown and hollow spectacle...Nothing registers as organic or significant, and it all comes across as meaningless filler. The talented cast is spurred on to deliver exaggerated characterizations...When it focuses on these simple human elements, 'Balls' has sparks of interest. However, it goes off on inane tangents with the aim of connecting the events to a contemporary cultural sensibility and is a crashing bore."
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Theatre is Easy
January 24th, 2018

"Riggs' persona is well-written, nuanced, and complex. King's character, however, is less developed and her internal struggles with heterosexism, professionalism, and sexual desire are hinted at but never fully revealed. I found this disappointing. At the same time, there is much to recommend in this production...Movement director Natalie Lomonte has done a stellar job of choreographing...All told, it’s a gripping work. Timely and provocative."
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Theater Pizzazz
January 24th, 2018

"Straightforward depictions tossed together with inventive departures not only forfeit the zeitgeist that defined the times, they marginalize a significant part of recent history and the result is confusion...As flawed as it stands, 'Balls' has a cornucopia of advantages: readily available, vibrant material, excellent staging, sleek choreography and a talented cast. Assiduous editing might take care of the play. The fine team behind the production can certainly take care of the rest."
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CurtainUp
January 24th, 2018

"You don't you need to be a tennis player to see and enjoy 'Balls'...Tamaki and Carren...indeed move around the stage-cum-Astrodome court and hit their pretend balls so that it all feels like the real thing. Though the script doesn't give either Tamaki or Carren much to do in the way of nuanced acting, it does take us through the entire game, and does so within the time that the match lasted...Admirable as the performers are, the staging is the big star of this production."
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Stage Buddy
January 25th, 2018

"Hits you on the head with a racket over and over with its constant repetition of its themes. In fact, it’s the playwrights’ predilection of delivering a theme rather than a thesis that makes the 90-minute play feel as endless as a baseball game...The play fails to turn Riggs and King into flesh and blood characters...The play is so obsessed with delivering its pro-equality message that it makes what should’ve been a simple, yet complex, allegory become convoluted and confusing."
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Theatre's Leiter Side
January 24th, 2018

“'Balls'…uses the famous match to create a phantasmagoric, nonlinear blend of athletic staging, comedic acting and mime, and historical information tying the significance of the…story…to national and world events, many connected to issues of…gender…parity…Tamika and Corren make their serves and returns so palpable you can practically see the invisible spheres…The dynamics of the game serve as a vibrant metaphor for the forehands, backhands, lobs, and overheads that make up the volleys of life.”
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Times Square Chronicles
January 25th, 2018

"Direction is exquisite and makes this 'battle of the sexes', oh so watchable...Unlike most PC correct, contemporary pieces, 'Balls,' does not shove it’s agenda in your face...Kevin Armento and Bryony Lavery’s script asks us to contemplate where the lines are drawn. Thankfully they let us draw our own conclusions...'Balls' is clever, intelligent and so far one of the best plays of the season."
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Broadway & Me
January 27th, 2018

"A highly-stylized stage version of the event...However, the show has more on its mind...It seeks to work on a metaphorical level and to make points about the gender politics of the past four decades...None of the revelations are particularly fresh or insightful...Although, the diverse company of actors...is energetic, it's also uneven...Perhaps the problem may be that there were too many hands involved in the creation of so small a show."
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TheaterScene.com
January 26th, 2018

“True, tennis has its serious fans, but it’s a challenge to present it on stage as a dynamic set piece. That the show achieves a you-are-there feel is thanks to Lomonte’s clever movement direction…Privilege, inclusion, and women’s rights are all on the agenda. And those big-picture concerns are neatly played out before our eyes...'Balls' has a credible cast, interesting staging, and sometimes fun, even heartbreaking moments."
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Off Off Online
January 28th, 2018

"'Balls' asks how society has changed since the unsavory display at the Astrodome and whether the changes are for better or worse. Some answers may be evident, but the actors don’t ram them home. Mindful of recent disclosures regarding outrages to civil liberty, including sexual misconduct and coverup, playgoers may find 'Balls' disheartening, but their spirits will be buoyed by the energy and resourcefulness of this highly theatrical escapade."
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Z
January 25th, 2018

"This production, with Ellen Tamaki and Donald Corren as the leads, is marked by bursts of intense physicality and madcap energy...The sheer number of disparate threads shoehorned into a discursive script does make one pine for the laser focus that King brought to her matches...'Balls' nonetheless has much to recommend it. Olivia McGiff and Richard Saudek merit special mention as court jester clowns...Many of the equality issues from 45 years ago clearly remain relevant."
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Pop Culturalist
February 1st, 2018

"There are a whole host of topics and plot points that, if curated a bit more and whittled down with more of a focus, would make this production more precise and polished. While the play itself needs more work, other parts of the production were solid...The movement direction was spot-on...Despite 'Balls's' shortcomings, it is definitely a play that will make you think a bit about how far we've come with women's rights…and how far we've yet to go."
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Plays to See
January 29th, 2018

"A thrilling, inventive, physical, breathless re-telling of the Battle of the Sexes...The play smartly moves away from the heaviness on and off the court...Told with impossibly tight choreography, funny interludes and unabashed energy, directors Demos and Flint have taken an already creative script from Armento and Lavery and fashioned it into an innovative, ambitious, unforgettable performance."
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HoustonPress
October 14th, 2017
For a previous production

"Central to the match was the backdrop of the feminist movement...And it’s addressing this movement and its aftermath that 'Balls' serves up and often aces...Without question it’s the depiction of the match itself that’s the main accomplishment and joy of the show...We never really get to know Riggs or King, other than some brief insight into why each is playing...No question we’ve been given a theatrical spectacle. A damn good one at that."
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Birth Movies Death
October 17th, 2017
For a previous production

"This unique production delivers one of the most technically impressive reimaginings of a historical event while delving into the deep emotions behind its social context...An innovative play with the most impressive level of technical precision. It’s rife with humor, poking fun at the very concept of the battle of the sexes. Yet it gets reflective in ways I never expected, offering stark criticism and authentic heartbreak that blurs the lines between the gender wars."
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The Theatre Times
September 25th, 2017
For a previous production

"'Balls' fully captures the circus atmosphere of the most well-known—and absurd—tennis match of all time...Aside from fast-paced direction by Ianthe Demos and Nick Flinte, Natalie Lomonte’s movement direction is a triumph in and of itself...So perfectly captures the circus that was the Battle of the Sexes...As a tennis fan, I was impressed at the accuracy of both story and execution. As a theatre fan, I was blown away by the theatricality of the performance."
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CultureMap Houston
October 23rd, 2017
For a previous production

"The play embodies all the audacity, daring and a dash of recklessness, that its title connotes, but it also possesses such sparks of life...'Balls,' ever kinetic, allows a multitude of other points of views to give voice to the event...The stellar performers move beautifully together...While 'Balls' tends to play more cerebral than visceral, it ultimately wins its match made in theater, as one not to be missed."
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