Fuzzy gavel show score
New York | 2h 10m | Already closed

Beneath The Gavel

From 11 critic and 41 member reviews
Members say: Entertaining, Clever, Quirky, Confusing, Ambitious

About the show

Bated Breath Theatre Company presents an immersive physical theater piece exploring the rise of branded art in the collision of high art and high finance. More…

Based on stories from auction world insiders, 'Beneath the Gavel' gives audiences an inside look at the only market—besides the stock market—to show up on the front pages of every major newspaper. The show includes opportunities for the audience to bid on and take home works of art. Not a Rockefeller? Bated Breath Theatre Company provides the (fake) money although the art is real!


"This fascinating, fast-paced production is a rare glimpse into the art world...Not only vastly entertaining but realistic and informative...'Beneath the Gavel' has a multi-talented troupe...The cast deftly also assumes multiple roles to create the mood and setting for the show...For the cost of a show ticket, you'll be able to experience the thrill of being a part of a high-end art auction the likes of Sotheby's or Christie's. This is an enthralling piece of finely tuned theater." Full Review


"'Beneath the Gavel' is a fascinating interactive performance piece about the world of Modern Art from the points of view of the dealer, the collector and the artist. The audience gets to bid on masterpieces as well as watch a painting being created. Not all of it works and some of the avant-garde effects are rather obscure like the symbolic ballet. However, give the Bated Breath Theatre Company an A for effort as the evening is unique in its way." Full Review


“An innovative production...The ensemble, directed by Lieberman, does a fine job in representing Ziegler’s difficulties in New York, with various interesting bits to represent the art icons, the insider business of the art world, and more. The music selections are excellent and the production employs the talents of the cast in dance, movement and mime; their skills are obvious…The themes about contemporary art examined in ‘Beneath the Gavel’ are excellent and leave one thinking." Full Review

Times Square Chronicles

“Fun. This immersive theatrical experience takes you inside the art world and gives you a chance to bid on art using paddles and play money…The show also attempts to unmask the art world, as they give facts about the ins and outs of art auctions…This show only skims the surface. ‘Beneath the Gavel’ offers a rather entertaining evening without much substance. At times the text is confusing as well. The cast are all extremely talented...The design elements are all well done.” Full Review

Manhattan Digest

"There are glaring omissions of female representation, many of whom were contemporaries of the aforementioned artists...In a male-dominated profession, Lieberman may wish to consider including them in future rewrites of her play. Lieberman, who also directs, has assembled an able cast who keep the action brisk and lively. There are no real stand-out performances but collectively, this ensemble is able to deliver the goods." Full Review


"Conveys something of the electricity, adrenaline rush, and energy which invariably accompany evening sales at such institutions. Equally, it deftly skewers trendy downtown culture vulture types...Of course, nothing attracts moss faster than the avant-garde, and parts of the play feel instantly dated...By the third ‘auction,’ the joke has worn thinner than Pollock’s paint...On balance, however, 'Gavel' does a decent job at conveying the madcap antics of an endlessly fascinating milieu." Full Review

The New York Times

“An ungainly hodgepodge of a play…The auctioneer (Missy Burmeister) does a fine job with the set pieces. She’s got the timing and the patter down…Ms. Lieberman directs this art world roundelay with vigor, and pricey artworks flit by in zippy video projections...But both Weisenberg, the collector, and Zeigler, the artist, are underdrawn, and much of the second act is devoted to an Art History 101 costume party…The dialogue is riddled with commonplaces and groaners.” Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

“A disorganized collage of scenes and styles, all of them deployed to make the same rather obvious point…There's not enough narrative to hold it together and it's a stylistic mishmash. It also seems to think portraying the art world as populated strictly with phonies and pretenders is the freshest of ideas…I do wish everyone involved had employed more stylistic rigor and aimed for sharper satire." Full Review

Off Off Online

"Offers a mêlée of perspectives on the visual art world...While each one of these approaches would make for an interesting and meaty show, 'Beneath the Gavel' tries to treat them all, and suffers because of it...Unfortunately, many moments of humor rely on gimmicks...'Beneath the Gavel’s' other flaw is that it tries to do too much...'Beneath the Gavel’s' saving grace is that it does offer documentary-like moments of exposing the fast-paced world of the billion-dollar art industry." Full Review

Theatre Reviews Limited

"One is subjected to a convoluted 'lesson' on the art of making a deal in the 'art world'...Although the fictional account of artist and his subject has some moments of fun, and 'mocking' the art world can be the subject of a play, the effort does not coalesce here in 'Beneath the Gavel.' The piece is perplexing and overwrought, and the dizzying dance of actors climbing ladders and bouncing on trampolines simply does not add anything to the weak dramatic arc." Full Review

The Middletown Press

for a previous production "If you’ve ever imagined what it might be like to play with the big guys at an auction house like Sotheby’s or Christie’s, this is your golden invitation...In pantomime, with dance and movement, in scenes of a behind-the-canvas look at art auctioneers, the art world is revealed, warts and all...Grab your paddle, don the fancy patron of the arts glasses as a gift, collect as much fake moola as you can, and enjoy the theatrical endeavor that is the creative whirlwind 'Beneath the Gavel.'” Full Review

Absorbing, Intelligent, Resonant, Great writing, Great staging

See it if you are familiar or just fascinated with art auctions and finance and yearn for behind the scenes lessons and insight with a touch of charm

Don't see it if you prefer action to "talky" and didactic drama and do not appreciate dance interspersed with dialog and flash forwards and backwards

Edgy, Intelligent, Interactive, Strong ensemble

See it if you enjoy interactive theater; if you have an interest in art and artists; if you appreciate ensemble acting & interpretive drama.

Don't see it if you're looking for a linear plot; if you want light entertainment

Interactive, Entertaining, Fun, Talented cast, Innovative

See it if you're interested in interactive theater, a great ensemble and a sarcastic view of the art world. Have fun with those sitting around you.

Don't see it if you take the business of the art world so seriously you cannot laugh at it. The shenanigans get a little tedious by the end of the play.

Clever, Thought-provoking, Entertaining

See it if You're interested in what art auctions are all about, and how they influence art itself. Fine acting by this cast set in a fascinating world

Don't see it if The world of auction is not interesting. This show had a avant-garde moments that might be a turn off

Delightful, Refreshing, Entertaining

See it if You are ready to participate and enter the world of art auctions. Most fun I've had at a show in a while.

Don't see it if You can't get behind interpretive dance and art history lessons scattered throughout

Clever, Quirky, Confusing, Disappointing, Entertaining

See it if you're interested in the art world and like interactive theater. Very creative staging, decent acting.

Don't see it if You want a fully fleshed-out drama. Would have liked fewer artsy dance pieces & more scenes explaining the relationships. Confusing ending.

Also This piece could have been more powerful if they had shown a connectio... Read more Read less

Educational, entertaining, participatory, thought provoking

See it if You are interested in art and its creation, valuation, and collection, focussing on art auctions.

Don't see it if You dislike participatory theatre, even if your participation is not actually required.

Also Using the Big Mac scale of valuation, you may see a demonstration of h... Read more Read less

Funny, Clever, Quirky, Indulgent, Entertaining

See it if You like art auctions. You like shows with audience participation.

Don't see it if You don't like gimmicks. You don't like shows that pander to the audience.

Quirky, Banal, Disappointing, Insipid

See it if You have nothing else to do. The play has little structure and terrible flow. Even if you are involved in the auction world it is boring.

Don't see it if I would say just don't see it. Theater 59E59 offers many great productions. This is not one of them.

Ambitious, Clever, Intelligent, Quirky, Entertaining

See it if you know little about the art world and auctions; you want to spend time being amused; enjoy unusual choreography, audience participation.

Don't see it if you prefer a serious play without a lot of clowning around and audience participation; the art world doesn't interest you.

Sometimes entertaining

See it if you are knowledgeable about the art auction market. Too many insider references ruin it for the uninitiated. Some fun moments, though.

Don't see it if you are not privy to the art world.

Ambitious, Informative, Confused

See it if ..you need 101 class in contemporary art and art dealing world. If you enjoy elements of interactive theatre and want to play the "auction".

Don't see it if ..you expect a fully developed narrative. If you don't like physical theatre and can't stand sloppy and cluttered set design.

Funny, Ambitious, Disconnected

See it if you'll have fun with the occasional bidding, you'll enjoy laughing at the art world's absurdities.

Don't see it if you're looking for plot, or depth. There are lots of disconnected scenes, many are done well, but no time for develpment.

Clever, Disappointing, Slow, Great staging

See it if ...you don't know anything at all about the art auction world, but would like to; want to be disappointed with the art world

Don't see it if ...you simply love art for art itself, or don't care at all about art.

Clever, Disappointing, Entertaining

See it if You want to learn more about how art is valued and how to run an auction. Not very effective as a play. Not much of a story.

Don't see it if You don't care about paintings and auctions.

Quirky, Confusing, Disappointing, Cliched

See it if This show says it will 'expose' the art auction business. Well not so much. It has a bewildering back-story and hokey pretend auctions

Don't see it if You like plays that you don't have to ask yourself, 'What is happening here?' The cast is clever, perhaps too much so.

Ambitious, Thought-provoking

See it if you enjoy the contemporary art world and pseudo-immersive theatre.

Don't see it if half baked execution of a pretty good idea frustrates you.

Delightful, Great acting, Must see, Entertaining, Educational

See it if you want to have some fun and participate in the experience. Smile. Learn about the art world.

Don't see it if You're expecting a traditional theater experience.

During previews
Absorbing, Delightful, Confusing, Entertaining

See it if You want to be involved in a real live art auction (with play money). You might learn a little something, too.

Don't see it if You are clueless about modern art. This was a two hour show that could have gone two more.

During previews
Funny, Great acting, Refreshing, Hilarious, Entertaining

See it if you want to see a unique and interesting play/dance show

Don't see it if you are looking for a serious play.

During previews
Absorbing, Thought-provoking, Quirky, Entertaining, Great staging

See it if If you're looking for something interesting and new. The work is well done and the concept is fresh and interesting. I really enjoyed myself

Don't see it if You want a more traditional theatre experience or hate audience interaction.

During previews
Ambitious, Clever, Delightful, Edgy, Intelligent

See it if you have any interest in painting, galleries, artists, etc. Part dance performance, part play, part auction, part educational venue, all fun

Don't see it if you are not ready to have a good time and enter into the fun. Be prepared to bid on the artwork and everything that goes with the auction

During previews
Inventive, Quirky, Great staging, Immersive

See it if You want to go behind the scenes of the art world. You want to participate in a live art auction. You like to see inventive theater.

Don't see it if You don't like pieces breaking the 4th wall. You like straight plays. You aren't interested in learning about the art world.

During previews
Funny, Ambitious, Clever, Great acting, Entertaining

See it if If you are interested in what happens at auctions. It is educating.

Don't see it if If you are not in this subject or in art.

During previews
Ambitious, Delightful, Great acting, Indulgent, Entertaining

See it if you enjoy the art world. Enjoy an immersive theater experience with a touching story. The actors are committed and fun to watch. Fun night.

Don't see it if you are looking for a traditional theater experience. You don't enjoy a more thought-provoking experience. You don't enjoy being part of it.