Closed 2h 0m
Butler
Midtown E
88

Butler NYC Reviews and Tickets

88%
(68 Reviews)
Positive
96%
Mixed
3%
Negative
1%
Members say
Great acting, Absorbing, Clever, Intelligent, Funny

About the Show

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

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Member Reviews (68)

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90
Witty, Intelligent, Historical, Suspenseful, Funny

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.

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

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.

Critic Reviews (30)

July 29th, 2016

"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."
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July 27th, 2016

"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."
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July 28th, 2016

“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.”
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July 28th, 2016

“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.”
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July 27th, 2016

"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."
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August 1st, 2016

“‘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.”
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July 29th, 2016

"'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."
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July 27th, 2016

"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."
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July 27th, 2016

"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."
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August 1st, 2016

“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.”
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July 28th, 2016

"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."
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T
July 27th, 2016

"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."
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July 27th, 2016

“‘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.”
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B
July 29th, 2016

"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."
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July 28th, 2016

"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."
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W
July 28th, 2016

"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."
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July 30th, 2016

"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."
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July 28th, 2016

"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."
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August 9th, 2016

"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."
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July 29th, 2016

"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."
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July 28th, 2016

"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."
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July 28th, 2016

"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."
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August 24th, 2016

“‘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.”
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July 28th, 2016

"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."
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June 29th, 2014
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."
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June 18th, 2014
For a previous production

"Strand, unfortunately, has not given his raw material the dramatic heartbeat necessary to convert this historical anecdote into a pulsating human story…What they fail to do is add dimension to this set of characters, whose underlying complexity is the intriguing crux of this momentous historical event…Without a solid anchor grounding the characters in their historical context, even the play's most clever moments go no further than the shallow entertainment of a Civil War reenactment."
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June 25th, 2014
For a previous production

"Strand's clever, witty creation proves to be a rousing, witty, and quite pointed comedy. The interplay and repartee involving the four male protagonists is theatrical and intellectually refreshing...Director Joseph Discher has elicited lively, excellent performances which bring out all the wit and passion of the text...'Butler' initially plays like a light history lesson for families. However, once it gets rolling, it becomes a clever, full-blown comedy which could become widely popular."
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June 14th, 2014
For a previous production

"An excellent and engrossing play laced with humor…Although it is charged with socio-political inquiry, it is also fueled by its amusingly discharged discourse between the authoritarian general and the fervently argumentative slave…Strand is to be commended for making his play a thoroughly entertaining and dramatically informed return to this incident. Director Discher has encouraged splendid performances from the four actors, each giving vivid portrayals of the play's well-defined characters."
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B
May 27th, 2015
For a previous production

"A muddled, overly ambitious Civil War comedy-drama…Thematic threads are taken up and then dropped just as readily…'Butler' is in dire need of trimming...There are potent themes here and the characters are rich with complexity and dimension. But these figures and these actors — especially Schramm who delivers a powerhouse performance — deserve more fulfilling and satisfying treatment than they get from this playwright."
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T
May 20th, 2015
For a previous production

"An outstanding production...The play offers meaty roles for four actors, especially the fortunate one who gets to play Butler...This is all great fun to watch, and it’s performed with zeal and great aplomb. Make no mistake: 'Butler' is a talky play. But Discher keeps the action speeding along, propelled by great gusts of lively language. It’s a pleasure to get carried along."
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