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Bull in a China Shop

Members say: Relevant, Thought-provoking, Great acting, Intelligent, Disappointing
70
Critics
65
9 reviews
Members
70
70 reviews
 

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.

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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.

 

Cast & Creatives (12)



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Reviews (79)

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews
65
Avg Score

85
The New York Times

"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

60
Theatermania

“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

80
Time Out New York

"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

70
Front Row Center

"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

40
Talkin' Broadway

“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

70
Deadline

"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

65
Bob's Theater Blog

"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

65
Broadway & Me

"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

35
Village Voice

“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: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews
70
Avg Score

73
Ambitious, Profound, Indulgent, Confusing, Disappointing

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

75
Intelligent, Quirky, Relevant

See it if You are interested in historical issues concerning the women's movement at the turn-of-the-century.

Don't see it if If you prefer light musicals and simple dramas.

74
Funny, Ambitious, Relevant, Entertaining, Anachronistic

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

72
Quirky, Relevant, Disappointing, Slow, Entertaining

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.

62
Ambitious, Intelligent, Relevant, Interesting but doesn't quite deliver

See it if You like to see writers being developed

Don't see it if You have no patience

70
Relevant, Indulgent

See it if you are interested in learning about women's place in a historical context. sadly, not much has changed.

Don't see it if you want a full-blown production. very spare set and more like seeing different vignettes rather than a play.

71
Cliched, Slow

See it if You like linear stories with good acting and decent dialog.

Don't see it if If you might be offended by too much smooching on the stage.

75
Great acting, Quirky, Relevant

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.

86
Clever, Edgy, Great acting, Refreshing, Romantic

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.

50
Disappointing

See it if you like feminist plays featuring lesbian characters, and anachronistic cursing and verbiage.

Don't see it if you resent language at odds with the time and place of the piece, in a dull production that fails to bring the best out of the actors.

82
Clever, Great acting, Disappointing

See it if Want to know about powerful women in American History.

Don't see it if Want interesting dialogue rather than monologues.

Also The acting was outstanding.The premise was interesting but I never man... Read more Read less

79
Absorbing, Edgy, Great acting, Enlightening

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.

Also Educational look at two real women who were at the forefront of femini... Read more Read less

15
Boring, Indulgent, Disappointing, Excruciating, Well meaning.

See it if Can't recommend this play at all. The actors are very stilted.Not engaging.

Don't see it if You don't want to be lectured to about feminist issues. Whatever you think of the issues this is not the way to address them.

Also Really hard to stay awake for this. ... Read more Read less

75
Absorbing, Ambitious, Great acting, Intelligent, Thought-provoking

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!

75
Funny, Ambitious, Great acting, Refreshing, Relevant

See it if you want to see an unusual topic covered

Don't see it if you expect more historical detail on the topic

40
Banal, Disappointing, Cliched, Insipid, Slow

See it if you want to see a play by a new writer who needs to do a number of rewrites before this play should get a professional production.

Don't see it if you are not comfortable with the overuse of the "F" word—which these women would not use. Also, the title is constantly repeated.

88
Absorbing, Relevant, Smart, Educational

See it if You appreciate women's history Enjoy flawed characters

Don't see it if You are homophobic

Also Strong performance by lead actresses - the author endeavors to tell th... Read more Read less

65
Relevant, Slow, Fluffy

See it if you went to Mount Holoyoke, or an all Girls college and are into history or you want to see some good acting

Don't see it if you aren't flexible about a too jumpy story that flirts around without allowing its characters and story line to go too deep

70
Intelligent, Slow, Great costumes

See it if you're interested in the history of women's colleges and the suffrage movement, and don't mind the absence of a linear plot.

Don't see it if you don't want to see a lesbian love story or hear anachronistic four-letter words.

91
Funny, Thought-provoking, Resonant, Romantic, Great writing

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.

45
Disappointing, Cliched

See it if You are a women's lib firebrand with no discriminating taste in drama.

Don't see it if You know what plot and realistic conflict are all about!

65
Flat, Ambitious, Confusing, Disappointing, Wasted opportunity

See it if you are sufficiently interested in the lives of women in general and lesbian couples in particular that you can overlook poor writing.

Don't see it if you expect to learn much or be moved by the depiction of two women whose interesting lives deserved a better play.

Also Dropping F-bombs, using "Ms." and dressing women in culottes does not ... Read more Read less

33
Indulgent, Confusing, Disappointing

See it if You'd enjoy a poorly written tale of a school teacher and her love interest & life.

Don't see it if You value a well-written cohesive storyline. This is amateur hour here.

65
Thought-provoking, Quirky, Refreshing, Relevant, Fluffy

See it if you went to a women's college/to see a play with all women; if you like theater that's still finding its voice, but is promising nonetheless

Don't see it if you need a sharp, well-drawn play; this feels like it could use some maturing, but it's a fascinating subject regardless.

80
Absorbing, Clever, Edgy, Great acting

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.