Closed 2h 0m
Boesman and Lena
Midtown W
79

Boesman and Lena NYC Reviews and Tickets

79%
(90 Reviews)
Positive
80%
Mixed
16%
Negative
4%
Members say
Great acting, Absorbing, Intense, Slow, Great writing

About the Show

In Athol Fugard's "Boesman and Lena," the human need for kindness, hope and compassion is on display in the struggles of abusive Boesman and his long-suffering wife Lena, who encounter a stranger while wandering the South African wastelands.

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Member Reviews (90)

85
Intense, Brooding, Resonant, Slow, Great acting

See it if Two discarded apartheid slum dwellers trudge through life, angry at the world and each other. Haunting poetic language.

Don't see it if You don't want to stew in desperate abandonment. I was mesmerized & saw the human condition in them. Read more

81
Great acting, Resonant, Intense, Slow, Thought-provoking

See it if Fugard's poetic prose & dynamic lead performances make this bleak existential drama bearable Apartheid is just metaphor for its universality

Don't see it if Overwritten (about 20 minutes worth) w/political themes becoming a little forced Lena feels a bit more complex (character-wise) than Boesman

Critic Reviews (24)

February 25th, 2019

"Farber’s staging seems to complete this metamorphosis, clearly placing itself within the tradition of existential rather than political drama...In Farber’s unrelentingly bleak staging — time disappears...we could be in any era, ancient or modern. So too with the characters, whose specific plight is sanded so smooth we barely see them as an estranged couple anymore...They are solo archetypes of the broader human condition, regardless of race or poverty."
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February 25th, 2019

"Farber...emphasizes its timelessness...While the production is powerful from an intellectual perspective, it can be emotionally numbing...Only when Boesman and Lena's routine is disrupted do they start to tear at your soul...'Boesman and Lena' may leave you impressed at the resilience of the spirit or depressed by the revolting way people continue to treat each other. Either way, it is a challenge to endure."
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February 25th, 2019

"It's a tough play to watch, and at times, Farber takes things a bit too far. But with its three virtuosic performances and brilliant staging, this two-hour journey is unquestionably worth taking...Farber's production captures the appalling injustices and cycles of abuse perpetuated by apartheid...Though 'Boesman and Lena' shares some of the existential themes of 'Godot,' it has none of its humor...Fugard shows us a world of intolerable iniquity with little room for that kind of joy."
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February 27th, 2019

“As written fifty years ago by the now-celebrated 86-year-old, the refugee couple, played with stark sensitivity by Ngaujah and Jah in director Farber's exquisitely somber production, are carrying everything they own as they seek a spot in the mud flats of the river Swartkops to settle for the night...Forgoing a linear plot, ‘Boesman and Lena’ is a study of how inhumane treatment can transform those who lose their identity by systematic abuse.”
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March 12th, 2019

"As a portrait of life on the outer margins of existence, without a drop of mercy and absent any hope other than managing to live another day, 'Boesman and Lena' can be difficult to watch...But time and again, the play -- especially in Yaël Farber's majestic production -- delivers blazing insights into these characters...Farber has gotten superb work from her two leads...'Boesman and Lena' is, functionally, a two-hander, and Farber has cast the roles brilliantly."
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February 25th, 2019

"Bleak, angry, and violent, 'Boesman and Lena' is a difficult play to watch, and director Yaël Farber does not make it any easier in her production choices. The two-act play is performed without intermission, so it is an emotionally draining two hours...As Lena, Jah is utterly and scarily convincing...Ngaujah is equally strong."
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February 25th, 2019

"A formidable sense of doom hovers over Yaël Farber’s demanding production of 'Boesman and Lena'...Ngaujah turns in a frighteningly good performance as the bullying Boesman, all fire, fists, and fury. Meanwhile, Jah is every inch his match and more."
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February 25th, 2019

"Jah - a standout in such works as 'Eclipsed' and 'Venus' - gives one of the season's most extraordinary performances as Lena, a woman who should be utterly defeated by everything life has thrown at her: dead children, poverty, body aches and the now-perpetually angry Boesman. Still, she rails and wails, often without making much sense. Yet it's always clear she's talking just to make sure she's alive."
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March 12th, 2019

"All the performances are brilliant-although Ngaujah, the original Fela in 'Fela!,' tends toward monolithic machismo-but Jah's work is extraordinary in its total immersion in the character: Lena's voice, her stance, her pained movement and her ability to find every grace note in Fugard's dark language take the play to unimaginable heights. She is worth a visit to the Signature to see acting at its finest and most heartbreaking."
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March 6th, 2019

"A timeless and nuanced look at the need for compassion...Signature Theatre’s production of this enduring drama resonates deeply on an intellectual and emotional level; the play's central pair can be everyone and no one. Empathetically directed by Yaël Farber, it is an unrelenting two hours of stunning imagery and cyclical dialogue...You can’t help but notice the parallels between this play and every recent story of homelessness and the plight of refugees on the news."
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March 5th, 2019

"Stunning revival...Its themes and deep meanings seem to have expanded with time to encompass human suffering everywhere in the world today...Zainab Jah is magnificent in the role of Lena...Boesman – the powerful Sahr Ngaujah – rails against his fate...The beauty of Fugard’s classical plays lies in metaphor. The road from apartheid to freedom will be a long one (as we know, in retrospect), but Boesman and Lena are fated – or determined – to walk the walk."
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February 28th, 2019

"That 'Boesman and Lena' tested my endurance is not necessarily a complaint as the drama itself is purposefully calculated to do just that...Fugard's characters in general are known for lengthy speeches that tend toward the extraordinarily lyrical and colorful. Some of this becomes wearying even as we marvel at their stamina. But it's also poignantly relevant as we identify with their plight."
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February 26th, 2019

“A brilliant play...The production exposes yet another level of universality and humanity that underscores Fugard’s literary genius and shines a spotlight on the extraordinary talent of the cast and creative crew behind it...Farber has created a stunning production that is at once so familiar and yet on the passing edge of understanding that we sit breathless, like the characters, unsure of what the next moment will bring."
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March 11th, 2019

"'Boesman and Lena', written with grit and determination by Athol Fugard...Within this rough and dirty play, as directed by Yaël Farber with tenderness and forcefulness underneath the bruised skin of these wanderers, a subtle elegance of unrelenting authenticity can’t be extinguished...It’s as existential as Godot...The silhouettes and the dynamic staging shatter our senses and muddy our souls.”
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February 27th, 2019

"Unlike Beckett’s play, its dramatic tension goes slack for long sections and it’s difficult to jump back in when it ramps up again...Farber’s production creates an intoxicating atmosphere that immediately transforms the theatre into its location visually, aurally, and even olfactorily...In its repetitiveness, the play is wont to fall out of the taut, attention-grabbing moments of its best sections, but Jah’s performance is so alive that it is a constant pleasure to watch.”
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March 2nd, 2019

"This 'Boesman and Lena' comes off largely as allegorical, a 'Waiting for Godot' with African characters. At two hours long without an intermission, this abstracted and depressing 'Boesman and Lena' is easier to respect than to sit through...It was apartheid that victimizes Boesman and Lena a second time...This feels less understood in this production...But other recent productions of Fugard’s plays at Signature seemed more clearly rooted in their specific time and place."
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March 2nd, 2019

“A heavy dose of bleak, nearly humorless drama requiring…patience. Its language, spoken in the heavy accents of poor South Africans, is abundantly rich and provocative, and the performances of all three actors are excellent, but the material is relentlessly depressing. There are verbose monologues…and lots of angry shouting...Much of the play moves slowly, repetitiousness is evident, and dramatic developments are rare. Its two uninterrupted hours…can wear out even the most sympathetic listener.”
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February 28th, 2019

“Written fifty years ago ‘Boseman and Lena’ is meant to show the effects of Apartheid segregation and displacement. What it shows how differently men and women see life...The cast has a lot of lines that at times seem a little too high pitched or under breath but these are still wonderfully enriched characterizations...Farber’s has you entrenched into their hellish world...This play will make you grateful...despite any troubles and compassionate for those who have lived this hell.”
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February 27th, 2019

“The main strength of this production is the acting. Zainab Jah is superb as Lena and Silcott is haunting as the old man...Ngaujah is a bit problematic; his Boesman is so relentlessly unpleasant that there is no inkling of why Lena would ever have been drawn to him. I don’t know whether the problem is in the script or in the performance...The play is all too timely. It is also one of the most depressing plays I have ever seen.”
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March 2nd, 2019

"Jah is a joy to watch as she moves effortlessly from the puckishness of taunting Boesman...Ngaujah is given a more limited palette to work with but he digs deep...Farber, herself South African, emphasizes the bleakness of these character’s lives with an intentionally hermetic production...Some people I know have harrumphed that her approach is too unrelentingly grim but I think it perfectly captures the anguish that millions of refugees around the world continue to experience."
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February 26th, 2019

“Under Farber’s vision, the mis-en-scene brings Beckett to mind. Indeed, the sparse, staging with a naked, dead tree reminds specifically of ‘Waiting for Godot’...Jah’s performance as Lena is as gripping and masterful as any that I have seen or expect to see on stage this season. Ms. Jah defines ‘Boesman and Lena’ as Lena’s tale of oppression and survival.”
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February 25th, 2019

"In director Yaël Farber’s deliberately discomfiting new revival the drama plays less as history than as allegory...Jah and Ngaujah are fully committed to these roles, and they don’t let anyone off the hook — not each other and not the audience, whom they stare down at several points in the intermission-less production, even during the curtain call."
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February 27th, 2019

“The first half of the play is a steady slow burn – which some may find tedious – that’s heavy on atmosphere and limited on plot. But when an unforced interloper enters the scene, deep-set emotions are triggered, resulting in a series of confrontational scenes that combust. The production is directed...with a solemn, bleak severity that befits the play...Ngaujah and Jah are superb, paradoxically delivering their lines with lilting musicality and furious intensity. It all makes for riveting theater.”
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March 13th, 2019

"Written in response to South Africa's apartheid laws, the play has only become more powerful and sad since apartheid ended. There's just so much need in the world...This is a deeply unsettling and moving piece of immersive theater that's not easy to sit through and that you should nevertheless try your damnedest to see. I haven't stopped thinking about how painful and dignified it is, how beautifully performed, how shattering."
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