Lincoln Center Theater presents a history-inspired comedy about Mary Woolley, the early 20th-century president of Mount Holyoke College, and her long-time partner, Jeannette Marks. More…
Galloping through 40 years of history at the New England women's school, 'Bull in a China Shop' follows the pair as they reform and revolutionize women's education at the height of the suffrage movement. As evolving ambitions and desires strain the couple's relationship, this fast-paced comedy explores how we change the world, how the world changes us, and how we try to grow old together.
"A pugnacious, tender and gloriously funny new play...Inspired by letters between the real Mary Woolley and Jeannette Marks...'Bull in a China Shop' blows every last speck of dust off these two women and their compadres. Onstage in Lee Sunday Evans’s warm, lucid, handsomely designed production, they are radiant with life...The company of five is impeccable. Ms. Turner’s fusion of the historical and the contemporary doesn’t always result in alchemy, but nearly." Full Review
"With a light hand and welcome irreverence, Turner neatly dispenses with two hoary shibboleths: that history is perforce dry, and feminists unfunny...Turner limns the power issues that can persist, heteronormatively, in a relationship of presumed equals...Not only does Turner prove she has the requisite touch, the cast delivers fine performances all around: They do the sisterhood proud." Full Review
"Turner’s is a new voice and one worth paying attention to, even if this play has the didacticism and crudeness that betrays a writer still finding her voice...There’s a ratatat quality to the choppy scenes that undermines the story, as does a subplot involving a student with a crush. Still, I never lost interest in either of these uncelebrated (at least until now) women." Full Review
"Their exchanges about love and commitment, about courage and challenge, are constant if a tad pedantic...There are two riveting speeches...The first is capriciously funny; the second brought me to tears...While not a perfect play, it has several remarkable performances, two searing soliloquies, and some true dialogue...This play is not for everyone. But, if you are up for 'an odd little evening' with a piquant take on just how complicated it was to suggest women might be whole humans—go." Full Review
"Mary Woolley led such an interesting life that it is hard to imagine that it could be turned into a boring play, but playwright Bryna Turner has managed just that...What Turner has written came across to me as scattered chapters from a Cliffs Notes summary of a biography. There was very little enlightenment and not much emotional involvement...As I experienced the play, it shed little heat or light. I must confess that I had to fight nodding off a few times." Full Review
"It's all fascinating stuff. But it's also too much. 'Bull in a China Shop' might have worked better if, instead of trying to squeeze the full arc of Woolley's life into 90 minutes, Turner had focused on a particular moment in Woolley's life that revealed the essence of who this remarkable woman was...But don't let my quibbles put you off from seeing 'Bull in a China Shop.' Stories that showcase the lives of women, especially gay women, still rarely get told onstage." Full Review
“Ultimately, the play makes for an intriguing 90 minutes, and it introduces a voice that will no doubt go on to impress even further. But ‘Bull in a China Shop,’ vibrantly directed by Lee Sunday Evans, is crucially lacking in forward motion and character development. As a result, it never rises above feeling like a piece of fan fiction…We walk out yearning for a greater understanding of what made these two powerful, pioneering women tick." Full Review
“Turner and her director, Lee Sunday Evans, do sketch the outlines of a fascinating and important bit of pre-suffrage history...Whenever they drill down, though, ‘Bull in a China Shop’ strains to find and maintain its footing…For their parts, Graham and Qian are troupers, trying to make flesh-and-blood figures from lines and situations that aren't much interested in such things…The other actresses...keep switching between performance styles to find one that works, but none ever does.” Full Review
“Although Turner informs us that these women led surprising, exciting lives, we rarely glimpse these adventures. Instead, we're treated to lengthy monologues and repetitive dialogues parsing events that have already happened. A plot like this might still be theatrically compelling with a believable romance at its center, but onstage, it's tough to buy the idea that Graham and Qian share more than a halfhearted interest in each other's lives.” Full Review
See it if a smart & gutsy feminist history play, bruising & eloquent on love and politics. Wears its big heart on its impeccably-costumed sleeve.
Don't see it if don't go expecting kitchen sink naturalism. It's beautifully grounded, but presented in a way that's powerfully theatrical.
See it if you are interested in learning about a pair of women whose names you've likely never heard.
Don't see it if are easily offended by profanity, lesbians, anachronisms or light staging.
See it if you enjoy plays about history. Or if you want a lesbian couple being shown just living their lives, with normal conflicts and conversation!
Don't see it if you don't like homosexuality. Or women's rights. Or revolution.
See it if you are interested in feminist thought from the past century
Don't see it if you want to watch events occur. The show has a way of taking place around events that are discussed and analyzed in the show.
See it if At first a show about 2 women, their relationship and the women's movement. Their relationship changes due to the women's movement.Clever!
Don't see it if You like a predictable show. These women change toward each other and sometimes sad to watch.
See it if you like straight historical plays with anachronistic language, feminist themes and stellar performances.
Don't see it if you're offended by the "f" word. I myself found its liberal use here bracing and pretty darn funny.
See it if the story of the founding of a women's college excites you and you're okay with this trend of anachronistic historical plays.
Don't see it if the inner workings of academia move at too glacial a pace for you to find cathartic when change [does] occur.
Also Props for the very memorable speech about love in this play!
See it if you are interested in women's education formation or lesbian issues. You like historical pieces. You like thought provoking plots.
Don't see it if You don't like women or lesbians. You don't like linear plays. You don't like sparse sets.
See it if You want to see women talking about becoming empowered and fighting for their right to vote, etc.
Don't see it if You dislike seeing a lesbian relationship and empowered women
See it if You appreciate a fresh spin on women's issues and have no issues with colorblind casting.
Don't see it if You don't like lesbians. You don't like cursing. You are confused by mixed references that seem incongruous in the time period.
See it if you like historical plays this one the women's movement. Creative staging using minimum props. Great way to start a small production
Don't see it if if you want more from your production. Greater depth in the characters. But Its Lincoln Center!
See it if you don't mind sitting through a mediocre play to see some great performances, are interested in historical lesbian relationships
Don't see it if Good writing and character development matter to you, you need flashy sets/costumes to be entertained, mind frequent cursing, hate history
See it if you like historical drama w/ contemporary language & diverse casting; biographical stories about women's rights; lesbian romance in academia
Don't see it if you are looking for fully developed plays (the scope is ambitious but at times confusing & lacking nuance); you don't mind spare set design
See it if Endi Graham matches the charisma one would expect from Woolsey; humor sprinkled through play is a relief
Don't see it if play does not hold up to the minimalist staging; one memory scene is not obvious at first and pushed the play off the rails for a moment
See it if You are interested in the history of the women's movement and two ground breakers -- pres. of Mt. Holyoke and her companion. Well acted.
Don't see it if You want light entertainment. Also if the frequent use of "fuck" by an educated upperclass woman in the early 20th century bothers you.
See it if you want to cap of women's history month with an intimate historical play that weaves modern subversive language & energy with suffrage mvmn
Don't see it if You need the acting, direction, dialogue to be universally great. It is, largely, quite good, albeit uneven.
Get alerts about your favorite artists and theater companies