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Butler

Members say: Great acting, Absorbing, Clever, Intelligent, Funny
88
Critics
86
30 reviews
Members
88
68 reviews
 

Based on true events, Richard Strand's dramedy explores a Northern Civil War Major General's ethical dilemma about slavery.

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While leading his troops, Civil War Major General Benjamin Butler of the Union Army finds three escaped slaves seeking sanctuary. Despite the obvious conflict between the North and South, Butler, a lawyer in civilian life, is forced to make a decision about whether to uphold the law and return them to their 'rightful owners,' or provide the sanctuary they seek.

 

Cast & Creatives (12)



Reviews (98)

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews
86
Avg Score

90
Theatermania

"Richard Strand's 'Butler' might just be the funniest play ever written about Civil War-era slavery...'Butler' tackles a serious subject in a way that is simultaneously thought-provoking and sidesplitting...In his own humorous and very watchable way, Strand hits at a larger truth: specifically, that the arc of the moral universe is often bent toward justice by the sophistry of prickly, stubborn individuals." Full Review

95
BroadwayWorld

“With an extraordinary, artful script by Richard Strand, meticulous direction by Joseph Discher and four excellent actors, the show is a wonderfully staged, unforgettable story of humanity...More than an entertaining show, it is a significant piece of theater and a timeless exploration of social conscience and individual responsibility. In the current climate of political discord, it is a refreshing look at how men of very different backgrounds find a sense of commonality.” Full Review

45
Lighting & Sound America

“The director can't do much with the interminable early scenes, but, under the limitations imposed here, his handling of the second act is fairly solid...Throughout, there's a nagging question of taste: Is this racially fraught moment really the right time for a reassuring comic fairy tale about the ugliest mass crime in American history? I will add that the audience at my performance-which was 99% white-ate it all up with a spoon. I suspect that a black audience wouldn't be nearly as amused.” Full Review

85
Theatre's Leiter Side

“‘Butler's' style is heightened for dramatic effect, its tone is mildly anachronistic, and its details conflated, so you have to take much of it with a grain of salt. Nonetheless, it’s a historical drama about something that actually happened that manages to be relatively faithful to its source material while being both informative and highly entertaining.” Full Review

85
CurtainUp

"Though 'Butler' is indeed talky, it's never a dry history lesson. The talk between Butler and Mallory is both amusing and witty…It was the playwright's challenge to put his own spin on the people involved so that they would be compelling characters rather than documentary style talking heads. In meeting that challenge, Strand has created a play that will have a solid life." Full Review

90
Theatre Reviews Limited

"These three fascinating characters are developed with precision and real depth...These conflicts drive a complicated and intriguing plot that is rich in imagery and figurative language and includes heartfelt drama as well as endearing comedy…Sterling’s Lieutenant Kelly is the perfect foil for General Butler’s bluster and these two actors make magic together on stage…Joseph Discher directs with passion and sensitivity and brings out the best in his talented ensemble cast." Full Review

90
Bob's Theater Blog

"What playwright Richard Strand has written is an unlikely blend of biography, Civil War history, drama and comedy that is both entertaining and informative…It hardly seems like promising material for comedy, but the play is very funny. The four characters are vividly drawn and well acted by the cast, all holdovers from the original production...Joseph Discher’s direction is seamless. It adds up to a surprisingly enjoyable experience." Full Review

90
Talkin' Broadway

"The playwright has accomplished two fairly remarkable things. First, he has taken an actual historic event and characters and turned it into an engrossing, non-pedantic play…More surprising, the play is delightfully funny, packed with wit, farce, and slapstick…Each of the characters is splendidly realized, and the production is first-rate all around...All told, this is a terrific show for history buffs and for anyone who can appreciate the savvy mixture of a serious topic with a comic touch." Full Review

95
Woman Around Town

"Strand’s fine play takes a serious subject and illuminates it with insight, humanity, and humor…Adamson is splendid as Butler...Director Joseph Discher creates stage pictures as effectively as the cast inhabits their characters…There are moments in the latter part of 'Butler' when the thoroughly engrossed audience vocally reacted to a character–something rare in serious theater. We rose as one at the finish. Not, as is usually the case, like lemmings, but in support of a wonderful production." Full Review

90
Front Row Center

“Playwright Richard Strand’s dialogue is funny and impressive. He makes brilliant use of what stand-up comedians refer to as ‘call backs’...This creates an attractive sense of coherence, a growing inside joke...This very appealing technique is delivered masterfully...It’s hard to imagine anything about the Civil War being funny, but this play, inspired by true events, has shown us just that in an intelligent, dramatic way.” Full Review

90
Wolf Entertainment Guide

"An entertaining, meaningful drama…Sharp writing by playwright Richard Strand and superb acting create tension and sparks, enabling an audience to get caught up in what is clearly an anti-slavery treatise…Williams’s acting as Mallory is so winsome that one may especially root for him to prevail....’Butler’ provides plenty of food for thought, along with the fine performances, the issues raised and the humor that flourishes even when the stakes are so seriously high for so many." Full Review

85
Broadway & Me

"A surprisingly genial comedy…Some might quibble with this interpretation of the way things might have been but history is always subjective and susceptible to myth making...It's a delicate balancing act and director Joseph Discher brings it off, letting the audience know that it's OK to laugh but refusing to let the show devolve into a cartoon…Ames Adamson gives a wonderfully sympathetic performance." Full Review

90
Theatre is Easy

"'Butler's' amazingly talented writer Richard Strand makes great use of such spectacular attention to the detailed specificity of language. Every word is included for a reason…Adamson, Sterling, Williams, and Sitler all are masters at their craft...Each component of the production works seamlessly together, from the clever script and these wonderful actors, to director Joseph Discher, who displays their gifts in the best possible light." Full Review

90
NY1

"As delightfully engaging as it is astonishingly true…Its charm comes from playwright Richard Strand’s amusingly nuanced characterizations…The excellent cast are period perfect. Best of all, Ames Adamson's irascible Butler and John G.Williams scrappy Mallory emerge quite convincingly as kindred spirits. Directed by Discher with an eye for comedy and drama, 'Butler' is quite a marvelous feat - a boffo character study and suspense yarn spun from little more than a loophole in the law." Full Review

95
Theater Pizzazz

"Strand’s set-up in the extremely capable hands of the director and talented actors provides the foundation for the play’s humor, characterizations, future thematic tropes and key issues…Strand’s brilliant writing configures the steps that show how Butler arrives at the logic to override the Fugitive Slave Law. Though we know the ultimate conclusion, it is how Strand takes us there that is surprising and magnificent…The production is just stunning! 'Butler' is marvelous theater." Full Review

85
Manhattan Digest

"Strand’s drama is a crisp cat-and-mouse game with snappy dialogue and verbal jousting. It seems rather inappropriate to consider it a comedy, but Strand has managed to infuse his negotiations with razor-sharp wit, all of which is delivered by a top-notch cast under Joseph Discher‘s excellent direction. The most disturbing takeaway from it however, is the commentary on human life. Sure, slavery ended with the Civil War and yet 150 years later we’re still a fractured nation." Full Review

95
NY Theatre Guide

"An invigorating gabfest...You are laughing out loud at the sheer brilliance of the argument, and at other times the words cut deeper than a musket bayonet as the wounds of race, slavery, privilege, and pomposity fester…It is beyond satisfying. The quartet of descanting performers create a beautiful play together under the exceptional eye of director Joseph Discher, who has fashioned a stylish, eloquent production drenched in detail…The performances are riveting." Full Review

90
Off Off Online

"The setting is indubitable, and the laughs are plentiful, so if it stands alone in a genre of one, it doesn’t matter…The meat of the play is the debate between general and slave about asylum. As in many classic comedies, the servant is a shrewd cookie...Williams’s skillful performance keeps the right balance...A strong, satisfying comedy...'Butler' makes one want to hear more from Richard Strand." Full Review

80
Stage Buddy

"Adamson plays Butler as large as he can be and his transitioning from rage to compunction and back again is a joy to watch…Shepard Mallory, assisted by Williams’ bold and lively portrayal, is similarly contrary and sporadically aggressive, but the good sense of his plea contains a tempting compromise…Playwright Strand’s decision to put emphasis on comedy may have been risky, but 'Butler' loses none of its pathos in revelry." Full Review

90
TheaterScene.net

“‘Butler’ is a tale of conscience, courage and transcendence. As Major General Benjamin Butler, Ames Adamson has risen to power but is faced with a decision that could change the game for slavery in America. Many of the themes surrounding a nation divided such as injustice, prejudice and lack of understanding remain extremely relevant today. Instead of ignoring the issues or using power as the only weapon, ‘Butler’ uses empathy and understanding as a means to connect.” Full Review

85
Times Square Chronicles

"Highly recommended. Well acted by the four-person cast, well directed by Joseph Discher, well worth your time—albeit somewhat overwritten, which takes more of your time (Mr. Strand could trim 10 to 15 minutes of the script easily)…For all that its issues about history and co-existence are deadly serious, the play, like its main character, is slyly funny. Like the best plays about history, it resonates with contemporary life, and its personality is very, engagingly human." Full Review

94
Stage and Candor

“‘Butler’ is an outstanding, captivating, important play about race relations. The play focuses on an event in American history that acted as a catalyst which helped enact a sea change for racial equality. On May 23, 1861 at Fort Monroe, Virginia, three courageous fugitive slaves – Shepard Mallory, Frank Baker and James Townsend – and a shrewd politic Major General Benjamin Franklin Butler worked in tandem in unexpected ways to set in motion the Emancipation Proclamation of 1862.” Full Review

90
Scene on Stage

"Rarely has a slice of history been as entertainingly portrayed as in 'Butler'...It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that the dialogue was lifted from an actual recording…Deftly directed by Joseph Discher, the tale unfolds over an engrossing two hours…John G. Williams is a revelation…Richard Strand didn’t invent his plot, but there aren’t any new ones anyway. Making imaginary or real characters so sympathetic, so funny and so relevant, is damn good playwriting no matter the source." Full Review

70
Plays to See

"The witty dialogue forms the foundation for the relationships, and makes for a compelling way to trace history...The play paints a complex picture of the financial and political price of doing what is right, while creating characters that are quite funny and relatable. A lack of detail on the characters’ pasts or emotional stakes hinders deeper resonance with their stories, and the actors are not given many chances to be vulnerable with each other." Full Review

90
The New York Times

for a previous production "This exceedingly enjoyable production was inspired by real-life characters who were involved in a critical event in history...The beauty of the script is how it approaches these thorny topics. In short, it’s a hoot...Ultimately his comic voice is his own: clever without being glib, meaningful without being pretentious....To be sure, 'Butler' could use a tad more tightening in one or two sections. Yet that is a minor concern in a production in which most every quip hits the mark." Full Review

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews
88
Avg Score

89
Great acting, Riveting, Excellent script

See it if you like great writing well acted. I did not know of Butler prior to seeing this performance, and was very pleasantly surprised.

Don't see it if You don't like period pieces, or prefer musicals. (I saw at 59E59 August 2016)

100
Funny, Absorbing, Clever, Great acting, Intense

See it if You are interested in less widely known history about real persons during the Civil War; you love great acting and great dialogue.

Don't see it if You are bored by history or historical fiction; you are not delighted by the mastery of language.

52
Disappointing, Farce about enslaved people?, Wordy opening, Interesting historical event, Predictable dialogue

See it if You are ok with seeing actors who are better than the play they're in, don't mind dialogue that sounds like it's lifted from a sitcom

Don't see it if You can't deal with a farcical treatment of slavery (I couldn't), you have a hard time with a play made up of mansplaining

90
Funny, Absorbing, Intelligent, Thought-provoking

See it if you like reenactments of historical events, have an interest in ethical dilemmas, or have a personal connection to antebellum slavery.

Don't see it if you prefer musicals, or frothy comedies, or dramas about romantic entanglements.

70
Original, Clever, Intelligent, Slow, Fluffy

See it if You love farces and/or history. It was fun to see a Civil War-era play, with matching costumes and set.

Don't see it if You prefer more character drama and depth.

90
Absorbing, Clever, Great acting, Great writing, Smart

See it if You like a clever, smart story well acted

Don't see it if See it if you can.

95
Absorbing, Clever, Great acting, Must see, Great writing

See it if you enjoy incredibly well written and acted plays about complicated and controversial issues, and have a sense of humor.

Don't see it if you struggle to understand very rapid dialogue, are easily offended by issues of race, or do not enjoy period pieces.

88
Absorbing, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Relevant

See it if You want to learn more about a little known important piece of history. Play is entertaining and clever, never preachy

Don't see it if You are put off by good characters who do not act in expected ways.

90
Funny, Intelligent, Historical, Witty, Suspenseful

See it if You would enjoy an entertaining play on words and history, with clever characters and relationships.

Don't see it if You're not interested in the civil war setting.

85
Funny, Original, Enchanting, Relevant, Entertaining

See it if you enjoy fun, thought-provoking historical fiction. The performances are first-rate and the two hours flies by!

Don't see it if you want something very heavy and serious. While the themes are important, it's presented with great humor and a light touch.

100
Great acting, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Riveting, Great writing

See it if Want to be totally entertained with great acting, writing, and a thought provoking topic.

Don't see it if Just see it. It's great!!!

82
Funny, Absorbing, Clever

See it if Very intelligent and funny.

Don't see it if You do not like talky shows

95
Absorbing, Must see, Relevant, Entertaining

See it if you love GREAT acting and need a history lesson not often talked about. Funny and so heart breaking at the same time. Go see it!

Don't see it if you only like flashy productions that say absolutely nothing. don't want to be reminded of a part of history that we should be ashamed of.

91
Absorbing, Clever, Great acting, Great writing, Entertaining

See it if you like a serious subject done in a humorous way. It is a very funny play about real-life Civil War characters; yet it's also very touching

Don't see it if you don't want Civil War & slavery presented humorously no matter how moving; you don't like plays based on historical events

90
Funny, Ambitious, Great acting, Relevant, Entertaining

See it if you're interested in history, a funny and thoughtful play with great acting.

Don't see it if you are in the mood for a song & dance musical. This is a comedic play.

95
Absorbing, Clever, Delightful, Entertaining, Great acting, writing, and directing

See it if you enjoy historical plays with a dash of humor! It is very relevant to today's world.

Don't see it if you don't enjoy historical plays.

92
Funny, Absorbing, Great acting, Masterful, Great writing

See it if you enjoy a gallon of humor with your history lesson. It is a very well acted, well written play about a serious subject. Well done!

Don't see it if you feel history must be conveyed in the usual dry, textbook manner or if you do not enjoy non fiction.

79
Funny, Clever, Overrated, Entertaining, Drags

See it if Like historical shows. It could use some editing, especially in the first scene.

Don't see it if you are expecting something serious. Actors need to toe a fine line between humor and farce. In the first scene, they go into farce.

71
Disappointing, Cliched, Slow

See it if you want to see a little known story of the war, have a Civil War fetish

Don't see it if you expect relevance and insight, this is all rather predictable

100
Absorbing, Must see, Riveting, Astounding

See it if You want to see a marvelous dramatization of an actual piece of history that's funny and absorbing.

Don't see it if You don't like excellent theater if it has to do with Civil War history.

85
Clever, Great acting, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Entertaining

See it if You want to have a fun evening. Educational, meaningful, & funny.

Don't see it if N/A

91
Funny, Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Entertaining

See it if Here is a show both absorbing and entertaining as well as great acting and a well written play

Don't see it if Can't think of any reason not to see it

87
Funny, Absorbing, Clever, Great acting

See it if Outstanding cast, excellent play,well directed with "something to say"! Important to see!

Don't see it if The subject or racism done with humor is not for you.

81
Funny, Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Thought-provoking

See it if You like the classic trope of servant ( or slave) outwitting master. A little stiff at first but legal and personal sparring engages.

Don't see it if You feel humor has no place in an exploration of race relations.

69
Funny, Ambitious, Great acting

See it if you are interested in a little known piece of Civil War history played out as, largely, a comedy.

Don't see it if the idea of (often times) reducing the Civil War and its complexities to a simple bow-tied comic romp is troubling to you.