Building the Wall
Closed 1h 30m
Building the Wall
77

Building the Wall NYC Reviews and Tickets

77%
(133 Reviews)
Positive
81%
Mixed
17%
Negative
2%
Members say
Relevant, Thought-provoking, Great acting, Absorbing, Intense

About the Show

New World Stages presents Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Schenkkan's new play set in a not-too-distant future when Trump's administration has carried out his campaign promise to round up and detain millions of immigrants.

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Member Reviews (133)

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81
Those who think trump is leading us to disaster will find this play a disquieting confirmation, others ...

See it if powerful case TRUMP launching events sliding country into "final solution" 4 immigrants; James Dale terrific lead showing banality of evil

Don't see it if play provides no new insights 2 rise of Trump; not subtle theatrically, in this 2 hander, Tunie as questioner not effective foil 2 Dale Read more

79
Great acting, Intelligent, Relevant, Resonant, Thought-provoking

See it if You're interested in extremely current, topical plays about societal issues & what our future might look like under a Trump administration.

Don't see it if You're already seething about Trump and need theatre to de-stress you instead of reminding you of his agenda.

Critic Reviews (31)

The New York Times
May 24th, 2017

“Slick and dispiriting…The dialogue, and even the thinness of the characters, are not the core problems here. Both are, in any case, mitigated by the director Edelson’s production, which is expertly paced, beautifully lit and perfectly cast…‘Building the Wall’ might as well be called ‘Building the Shelving Unit,’ for all the tension it produces...There is no complexity...‘Building the Wall’ is too becalmed to be agitprop. It’s just propaganda—by which I mean that it soothes instead of arouses.”
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Time Out New York
May 26th, 2017

"The rough first draft of a journalistic play...A sloppy soup of factoids, clichés and dire portent, the show may elicit standing ovations from those who already share its fears, but they’re only standing in place...Exposition doesn’t come much balder than it does here...The characters and the history they lay out in retrospect are generic and implausible...The subject requires more than propagandistic alarm. It’s too easy to be incendiary when what you’re burning is a straw man."
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The Hollywood Reporter
May 24th, 2017

“A solid reminder of how quickly and effectively theater can respond to what’s going on in the world…‘Building the Wall’ contains passionate anger and urgency and, despite the occasional didactic exchange in which the characters all too obviously serve as mouthpieces for political arguments, it’s extremely well written…Despite its predictable aspects, the play still emerges as powerful political theater. It never feels static, thanks to Edelson’s taut staging and the gripping performances.”
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Variety
May 24th, 2017

“A powerful dystopian drama…The work is sure to provoke shock, awe and much talk…A hot-off-the-laptop scorcher of a play…The play’s schematic structure has overly familiar elements of conversational confrontations…But it’s gripping storytelling, and powerful performances trump any sense of an overworked template. Under director Ari Edelson’s well-measured direction, Tunie is cool and focused…Dale is riveting as Rick.”
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The Wall Street Journal
May 25th, 2017

"Politics makes artists stupid...'Building the Wall' is the dumbest play I’ve ever reviewed...There is nothing remotely subtle or intelligent about 'Building the Wall,' which is both dramaturgically inept and simple-minded well past the point of unintended comedy...Mr. Dale is unexpectedly plausible as Rick. Not so Ms. Tunie, who is stiff and self-righteous, though I doubt that’s her fault, since Mr. Schenkkan wrote her part that way. Ari Edelson’s staging is numbingly static."
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New York Daily News
May 24th, 2017

“Written in just a week before the election, the play seeks to push buttons and on that level succeeds. It’s also fast moving and credibly acted. Dale’s performance is strong and believable. Tunie's take on an academic could use a bit of fine-tuning. Dramatically, it’s a mostly static hour and a half…And details nag…Despite weaknesses, the play has an ace up its sleeve — and it saves it for last.”
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AM New York
May 24th, 2017

“An absorbing and unapologetically disturbing drama…An intimate and tight staging directed by Ari Edelson…With dystopian thrillers now in vogue, ‘Building the Wall’ gives yet another perspective on how ordinary individuals can be swept up by history, either willingly or unwittingly. In writing ‘Building the Wall’ and getting it produced so quickly, Schenkkan has initiated a conversation about where the country is heading.”
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Theatermania
May 24th, 2017

"Rather than helping us better understand and resist the Trump administration, ‘Building the Wall’ merely reinforces what we already know…It's a lot of tell, with very little to show. You may find yout mind wandering from this somewhat dull staged conversation…Dale does a fine job coloring Schenkkan's sketch of a Texan good old boy…Tunie is also believably human…A C-minus stab at dystopian fiction from a politically engaged playwright still burning with anger and confusion."
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Lighting & Sound America
May 31st, 2017

"James Badge Dale and Tamara Tunie, solid pros both, do their very best...But Schenkkan's play, written no doubt in good faith following the shock of Trump's election, is a hysterical, not to say irresponsible, piece of work...Ari Edelson's direction is pretty snappy, given the circumstances, although he doesn't shy away from the script's heavy solemnity...The best thing you can say about 'Building the Wall' is that it is sincere."
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Talkin' Broadway
May 24th, 2017

"He's clearly concerned with how things are going...But he's gone about it in a curious way, one that doesn't resonate as strongly as he probably wanted it to...Schenkkan reveals vital information more slowly than he has to, and leaves out some salient facts...A more widescreen view of the current political landscape might make it feel more like a play and less like a screed. What 'Building the Wall' does do is humanize the voter base that fueled the electoral upset."
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TheaterScene.net
May 31st, 2017

“While the story is absorbing and pulls the viewer into the events being described, the very lack of heat in Edelson's production is problematic. Though the day-to-day events at the El Paso facility become more and more disturbing, the temperature never rises as it is all told on the same level. Dale and Tunie are convincing in their roles but there is no chemistry and little interaction between them. This tends to dissipate the appalling events that Rick finally gets to.”
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Theater Pizzazz
May 23rd, 2017

“By the end our souls are wringing wet, our feelings numbed by the unimaginable, which echoes the haunting realities that happened...during the Armenian Genocide in 1916, during the Holocaust of the second World War and every genocide that followed…Directed with relentless precision…These incredibly complex themes are established concept by concept…With ‘Building the Wall,’ Schenkkan reminds us to open our eyes to the present in a play you cannot miss.”
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CurtainUp
May 25th, 2017

"A classic case of preaching to the choir...This big theme is realized quite successfully with this small-scale production. However, despite Ari Edelson's steady direction and the Class-A performances, it's too obvious that the initial business is a device to put forth a few background clues before heading into more chilling territory...Bravo to Mr. Schenkkan for managing to produce a coherent play even while the events that prompted him to write it continue to change every minute."
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Front Row Center
May 23rd, 2017

“We should be on the edge of our seats, but somehow with this production I was comfortably sitting back waiting for the shock that never comes…There is opportunity for sympathy from the audience for these characters, but this presentation is too preachy...This production loses its way...The entire production has the feel of holding back…This politically ‘NOW’ piece feels rushed and weakened by a direction taken that serves neither play nor actors.”
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Front Mezz Junkies
May 25th, 2017

"A disturbing yet powerful play...Directed impressively by Ari Edelson...'Building The Wall' feels very important. The conversation between these two solid characters, both intensely and purposefully played by these two fine actors, feels true and real...If you don’t think about the artificial setup too much, and just accept that this is where we are, the rest of the play drives forward like a landslide turning into an avalanche. And it’s frightening to listen to or imagine."
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New York Theater
May 24th, 2017

“There’s no question that Schenkkan is a political playwright, but he is also an adept dramatist…'Building The Wall,' written quickly, may not win the playwright any more of those big prizes; it is comparatively modest, even restrained. Yet it is also an intelligent, well-played and ultimately potent drama...Building the Wall’ is terrifyingly plausible…It helps that James Badge Dale and Tamara Tunie so capably inhabit their characters, under the assured direction of Ari Edelson.”
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Broadway Blog
May 30th, 2017

“For all its irritating familiarity, hearing the issues bantered back and forth between two solid actors has a certain fascination…Riveting as much of this is, it fails the credibility test. It's impossible to believe that the ‘truth’ of an incident that makes Abu Ghraib sound like kindergarten hazing is being revealed only in a prison interview with an academic...Although neither character is fully believable, Dale does a good job at humanizing Rick's jittery combination of defiance and guilt.”
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Times Square Chronicles
May 21st, 2017

"A bleak and terrifying look at the immigrant situation...An urgent cry of warning...Dale’s performance doesn’t make amends, he accepts his responsibility. Director Ari Edelson lets us see his humanity, his pain, and the out of control situation he has been placed in...This play is hard to take and in all honesty, I just wanted to throw up after seeing it, but it needs to be seen."
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The Clyde Fitch Report
May 24th, 2017

“An 80-minute shocker of a play…The thing about ‘Building the Wall’ is that the drama is contained in the gathering horror story told — but not necessarily in any mounting tension between the two characters conveying the story. Indeed, there is not very much of that…Under Edelson’s economical direction, Dale and Tunie are perfectly fine as Rick and Gloria…If ‘Building the Wall’ is more like reading a story than attending a theatrical production, it’s a mighty scary tale at that.”
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The Wrap
May 24th, 2017

“‘Building the Wall’ is powerful in its preposterousness. Just when you think the revelations can’t get any darker, they turn another, deeper shade of black…Gloria never changes…In a better, even more disturbing play, she might also be shown to bear some responsibility for what went wrong in America…Dale rivets in his evolution and manipulation of Rick’s many faces. It’s a performance unlike any other on stage right now...What Schenkkan puts in Rick’s mouth is unforgettable.”
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Wolf Entertainment Guide
May 26th, 2017

"You can call the situation dramatized far-fetched but, nonetheless, it makes for an unsettling projection of events in this tightly presented two-hander, grippingly performed by Dale and Tunie...I was thoroughly riveted by the talk between Rick and Gloria as a result of the convincing acting by Dale and Tunie and the issues that the playwright puts on the table...Schenkkan, his cast and director Edelson, whose staging is admirably taut, do a service with this riveting dramatic warning."
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T
May 30th, 2017

“Edelson gives the work a taut edge. Dale makes Rick a believable three-dimensional being…Tunie imbues Gloria with individual details. But neither character changes or learns anything new. Much of their dialogue consists of previous actions, statistics, headlines, and talking points…Yet despite the shortcomings, our interest is held for its 80 minutes..Schenkkan has allowed his passion to overrule his dramaturgy and we get the theatrical equivalent of a hastily drawn political cartoon.”
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Financial Times (UK)
May 26th, 2017

"Under Ari Edelson’s direction, the ensuing dialogue, though an effective plot device, can feel a bit formulaic...James Badge Dale more than makes up for such deficiencies with his all-too-human portrayal of Rick...Schenkkan conveys a grimly persuasive message: Yes, it could happen here...'Building the Wall’s' dire prophecy may prove unfounded in literal terms. But its parting shot will surely continue to resonate, whatever happens."
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City Cabaret
May 21st, 2017

"The play is timely and relevant...Yet, Schenkkan's idea of rapid response to current events through theater is also risky. 'Building the Wall' is basically preaching to the choir, repeating old facts without the drama and insight of new ideas...The actors in this two-hander are credible....Unfortunately, in 'Building the Wall,' Schenkkan does not present analytic insight of where we are as a society, just a horrific hint of where campaign slogans like 'build a wall' can lead us."
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T
May 25th, 2017

"Dale is electrifying as a prisoner in 2019 telling his story to a historian in Schenkkan’s gripping, of-the-moment 'Building the Wall'...Schenkkan and director Ari Edelson slowly unfurl the narrative to make it all wholly believable rather than the ranting of a liberal sore loser...Dale is intense and affecting...Tunie cannot quite keep up with Dale, her delivery too static, unable to get past the expository nature of some of her dialogue, something that Dale pulls off in the meatier role."
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TheaterScene.com
May 25th, 2017

“As a piece of dramatic writing, the suspense ebbs and flows in a welter of exposition, but in the overall it does build—if in a formulaic way—to a shocking conclusion and makes its point unabashedly. The play is a two-hander, tautly directed by Ari Edelson and performed with mounting intensity…The plotting becomes clamorous with uncomfortable echoes of the Holocaust…Within the parameters of Schenkkan’s screed-like storytelling, the actors perform commendably."
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DC Metro Theater Arts
May 21st, 2017

"Out of his imaginative mind comes another powerful theatre piece by Robert Schenkkan...As played at fever pitch by a remarkable James Badge Dale, and as questioned by the formidable reporter played by Tamara Tunie, the play is fiercely committed to calling us to arms...Edelson is certain to receive nominations for his work on this current offering; it’s relentlessly gripping. It is particularly timely."
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scribicide
May 21st, 2017

"I already have Facebook, Twitter, the New York Times, and MSNBC if I want my opinions confirmed...It feels like watching an op-ed."
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Edge New York
May 24th, 2017

“Occasionally, the arguments sound like a list of talking points straight out of a Facebook comment war…Some of those moments almost sound too scripted, until you consider that maybe we really are starting to communicate like that in our hyper-polarized political environment…It feels more like a warning parable than a carefully crafted drama. But it is engaging, and plays like this can have real value in times like these.”
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Z
May 25th, 2017

"Director Ari Edelson and his superb two-person cast bring this disturbingly plausible play to life from its tension-filled opening moments all the way through to the charged, final line that sent chills down my spine...Dale turns in a magnificent performance...Tunie delivers an incisive performance...The level of detail that Schenkkan includes is absolutely enthralling...An extraordinary political play, designed for our current moment in time. It is urgent, vital theatre."
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Village Voice
June 6th, 2017

“For the majority of its performance, ‘Building the Wall’ feels less like a drama than the fever dream of a horrified citizen who has absorbed too much campaign coverage…Thankfully, Schenkkan is not just any horrified citizen, and the searing dramatic intelligence that once earned him a Pulitzer reasserts itself by play’s end…If the play’s first hour is a somewhat stilted excuse for its final thirty minutes, these latter turn out to offer an artfully sketched warning.”
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