New York | 1h 30m | Already closed


From 24 critic and 170 member reviews
Members say: Disappointing, Great acting, Relevant, Entertaining, Thought-provoking

About the show

Second Stage's world premiere comic drama tells the story of what happens when a small-town girl decides, quite literally, to paint the town red. More…

Paint it red. So begins Lydia's wild idea to invigorate her Rust Belt town. But when a whip-smart entrepreneur co-opts her scheme, a precarious rivalry is born. A battle for the town's soul ensues, causing its obsessive mayor, its defiant matriarch, and the rest of its residents to question who they are and where they're headed.

Gotham Playgoer

"A forest of subplots that jostle each other without coming together...Is it a rom-com? Is it a serious look at urban displacement? Is it a commentary on racial stereotyping? It appears that the playwright could not decide...Whoriskey is a fine director, but she can't supply coherence where none exists. Despite its faults, the play has many entertaining moments and it held my interest throughout. I wish it had been given more time to find its way before getting a NY premiere." Full Review

Front Mezz Junkies

"The playwright, and therefore the characters, paint themselves into a corner, with no solid or clear way out...The play veers off balance...Everyone on stage is giving us a lot to peer into...but it doesn't seem to add up to anything cohesive or telling...In the moment to moment of each well-versed scene, the interactions play out intelligently and feel compelling, but once one steps back and looks at it from a distance, the scenes don't melt into a grand or more complex structure." Full Review


“‘Cardinal’ amuses, confuses, and infuriates — often, all at once…Pierce's satire has all the subtlety of a flying two-by-four, but...sometimes we need a good smack upside the head...It's likely a lot of audiences will find Lydia repellant...Mostly, they'll dislike her because she holds a mirror up to their own worst impulses...Reminded me of the HBO series 'Veep' and 'Girls'…If you enjoy either of those shows, chances are you'll get a kick out of ‘Cardinal.’ Others may find Pierce's barbs cu... Full Review


“Greg Pierce, the author of ‘Slowgirl’ and ‘Kid Champion,’ has often tackled hot button issues. Here in ‘Cardinal’ being given its world premiere at Second Stage Theater, he takes on urban renewal, Chinese entrepreneurs, racism and amateurs in politics, all worthy of investigation, in comic fashion. However, in this satire his plot seems to reinvent itself in every other scene, with twists and turns you can't see coming.” Full Review


"A dark vein of cynicism churns Pierce’s blood that keeps pulling 'Cardinal' back from the edge of cutesiness...Whoriskey isn't as fully in control of the work as I expected. As likable as the two stars are, they swallow some of the best lines and haven't quite got the rhythm of the repartee...Above all, however, 'Cardinal' is a lot of fun until it wears out its welcome. That happens a good 20 minutes before an overwrought ending that lets all the air out of the show." Full Review


"Chlumsky is one of the best reasons to see 'Cardinal', Greg Pierce's likable if uneven new comedy-drama...Pierce never quite gets a handle on the show's tone, which veers uneasily from broad satire to pathos to melodrama...Still, I appreciated this show's ambitious, restless energy...Pally doesn't entirely make sense of the somewhat confusing Jeff character...but the supporting cast is solid...Chlumsky anchors the show with a performance that is wily, funny and fast." Full Review

Epoch Times

"Although there is no real villain in the story, there’s no one to really root for either. Lydia, who’s in almost every scene, turns out to be the least developed character in the play...The story would have also benefited had the audience had a chance to see a wider cross section of townspeople. Direction by Kate Whoriskey works well. She keeps the action moving nicely, as well as making sure the tension level is kept high in the various confrontations that occur, be they comical or dramatic." Full Review


"A multi-layered satire with difficult to mesh plot and style detours. Much of this juggling of multiple plot elements is amusing and clever but it's a hard to bring off juggling act that needed to be more carefully thought through...Whoriskey does her best to help the six-member cast navigate all these sub-plots believably...But at the end of its fast-paced and provocative 90 minutes 'Cardinal' is a mixed bag— one of those frustrating plays that coulda-shoulda-been-better." Full Review

Front Row Center

"The story twists and turns and never lights long enough for an actual plot line to sink in...As a matter of fact everything is left in a 'sort of' state. Unfulfilling and then some...All the elements of this production are on the dull side - writing, staging, direction, performance, and delivery. Actors forget to keep their faces in sight. Lines are mumbled. Enthusiasm falters. After awhile you just give up trying to follow the bread crumbs and wait for the train to run out of steam. Which i... Full Review

Broadway Blog

"Pierce’s script struggles to find its voice, but its themes resonate as the battle over industrialization, coal mining, and other income generators are as much a part of our political landscape as they were decades ago...The jarring tone leans heavily on one-liners, which Chlumsky adeptly handles. She’s literally at sea, with her two leading men delivering less-than-buoyant performances in this fictional waterside town." Full Review

Theatre's Leiter Side

“Pierce's writing and the tone established by director Kate Whoriskey fail to clarify just how much we're supposed to buy the possibility that Lydia's dream might actually pay off…Pierce's uneasy mash-up of romantic comedy, urban political satire, anti-racist advocacy, and even - out of nowhere - gun violence lacks an organic, truthful feel blending honest acting with vital storytelling…Call it cardinal or call it red, hopefully, it's your favorite color because you'll be seeing lots of it.” Full Review

The New York Times

"It so outstrips its gears — trying almost anything to keep the story heading toward the author’s themes — that you may experience severe bumps if you stick around for the whole ride...Perhaps we should see 'Cardinal' a fable; that would certainly explain the way the characters have been painted in such bright, primary colors...Unfortunately, the production does nothing to advance that reading...'Cardinal' never achieves the gravity of its worthy aims." Full Review


"Pierce's new play 'Cardinal' has enough issues to fill a month's worth of NY Times' Sunday magazines...It also has characters, many of them flawed and troubled, one can invest in...There's also abundant humor in the script...And yet, the result is a meandering muddle where the various elements never cohere in a way to form a satisfying play -- and not even a hard-working and experienced cast of stage veterans can overcome its difficulties." Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

"A sketchbook of a play...It is about quirky characters having quirky interactions with one another, and not always in service to the threadbare plot...Pierce assuredly has a way with words and an ear for dialog that is intriguingly idiosyncratic...But despite the best efforts of the committed and talented cast, director Whoriskey's steadying hand, and McLane's cleverly designed set...'Cardinal' feels like it was rushed into production far too soon." Full Review


"Pierce finds himself here overwhelmed with ideas that go nowhere. There is an overabundance of thoughts that might be going on in Pierce’s mind but mapping them out into a play despite Kate Whoriskey’s capable direction falls flat and tiresome...Pierce has written a mostly theoretical play about how ideas to help a deteriorating town can take a downward turn but never involves the audience which is its fatal flaw. The play should pack a potency and punch which it severely lacks." Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"'Cardinal' is a notably unevocative piece of writing, and the playwright, Greg Pierce, gives us little sense of what the town was like in its heyday or why the way of life it once offered should be preserved...If we don't see enough of this nameless town, we see far too much of Lydia...It's puzzling how such a potentially sharp conflict yields such bland results...Kate Whoriskey's staging can't find any urgency in these rambling, unfocused proceedings, and her cast proceeds tentatively." Full Review

Financial Times (UK)

"Telling a story about urban decay from such a detached and materially comfortable perspective creates an unbalanced work...Pierce’s script also awkwardly plays up stereotypes of Chinese and Jewish acquisitiveness. Another weakness here is characterisation...Under Whoriskey’s brisk direction, their on-the-nose exchanges sound as if they belong in a passable TV sitcom...Political theatre needs to create a language of its own." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"Pierce's tepid drama...Whoriskey needs to pull in her leading lady. Chlumsky's enthusiasm is charming at first, but...Her earnest appeals become tired and tiring...The play itself is uncertain. It doesn't seem to know where it's headed, so it's not headed anywhere. It needs pruning and a clearer point of view. It raises questions about topics like values, but it doesn't really have a take on them....'Cardinal' feels static. There's more than enough motion but not much movement." Full Review

New York Daily News

"A farfetched and muddled play offering little reason to celebrate...Pierce writes witty dialogue, but he forsakes a cardinal rule of storytelling. There needs to be a shred of truth to characters and situations. Too much rings false as 'Cardinal' speeds ahead in sitcom-style fast-mo...The play's point turns ever murkier as subplots about racial stereotyping, love and sex, and generational expectations are briefly touched on...Actors are mostly in go-big-or-go-home mode." Full Review

The Wrap

"Chlumsky and Pally bring their formidable comic talents to a new comedy that's practically devoid of humor...In its promising opening moments, the performances and the premise of 'Cardinal' telegraph comedy - in fact, a big screwball comedy...Chlumsky is stuck with providing most of the energy after the script leaves her comically stranded before the end of scene one...The actress compensates by being flustered...Whoriskey attempts to direct the onstage confusion." Full Review

New York Magazine / Vulture

"'Cardinal' is a bit like its own central character. Both are cute at the outset, both probably mean well despite cynical tendencies, and when you get down to it, both are pretty awful...The story’s dependence on stale devices betrays its would-be hopeful messaging...Pierce might have had noble goals, but he and Whoriskey have fallen into the trap of the play that purports to be making us think hard thoughts, when really it's letting us leave feeling easy feelings." Full Review

Daily Beast

"There is plenty of humorous material in 'Cardinal', but the play doesn't know how much it wants to make us laugh versus clasp our hands together in worry and concern about the state of urban America...Wants to find the funny in something that it also wants us to not laugh at. It wants to be snappy and fun, and it also wants to be Arthur Miller. The characters are a little impossible to connect to, or to root for." Full Review

Stage Left

"Pierce’s effort, more sitcom/romcom than play, lacks a serious foundation upon which to build a meaningful story or develop rich characters. It is, instead, bland and platitudinous, offering a superficial patina of hot-button discussion with little resolution or ideological point of view...What could be a big and provocative story about macro and micro economic and social shifts in an emblematic rust-belt town is reduced to three pairs of wan domestic squabbles...Skip this one." Full Review

The Hollywood Reporter

"Simultaneously attempts to be satire, drama and rom-com, failing dismally at all three...While its absurd plotline would seem to hold the promise for satirical humor...'Cardinal' instead goes in so many different and unfulfilling directions that it flounders aimlessly...Bouncing around from one plot strand and stylistic device to another, the play feels much, much longer than its 90 minutes. Director Kate Whoriskey...fails to provide coherence to the scattered proceedings." Full Review

Absorbing, Clever, Funny, Relevant, Thought-provoking

See it if you'd like to see a thoughtful new play with some great talent

Don't see it if you're expecting a comedy based on the actors - this is a drama with comedic elements

Entertaining, Funny, Great acting

See it if It’s All about the acting for me

Don't see it if You’re picky about plot

Funny, Edgy, Quirky, Dark, Thought-provoking

See it if you want to enjoy an interesting dramedy with an excellent cast - especially enjoyed the scenes with Becky Ann Baker and Alex Hurt.

Don't see it if you're offended by racist remarks.

Also I almost skipped this show because of its extremely low average scores... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Funny, Great acting, Intense, Thought-provoking

See it if - You like politically and socially relevant pieces - You like the cast

Don't see it if - You're expecting a comedy based on the cast - You don't like heavier, thought-provoking works

Also In all honesty, I went to see this show because of Adam Pally and Anna... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Ambitious, Funny, Great acting, Edgy

See it if recognize it is not a comedy rather a drama with comedic elements.... superb writing and great performances by Chlumski & Pally

Don't see it if It’s different and doesn’t fit any typical format

Also I very much enjoyed Cardinal, so pleased to have seen it given I’d hes... Read more Read less

Clever, Thought-provoking, Refreshing

See it if you're a fan of Anna Chlumsky and Adam Pally. Also, if you're curious about how small towns go through gentrification.

Don't see it if If you're easily offended by racial slurs. The leads are a bit off-putting, but that's how their characters are—two dysfunctional 30 y/os.

Relationships, racism, gentrification, disability explored in upstate town

See it if great ensemble cast tackles a host of issues in this dramedy. Perhaps overstuffed, but the dialogue is so clever and the actors so engaging

Don't see it if perceptive take on attitudes on gentrification fueled by anti-Asian racism. Nice set. Could have used an intermission

Clever, Ambitious, Relevant, Quirky

See it if You want to see an imaginative younger generation trying to solve problems of urban renewal.

Don't see it if A linear, rather improbable, plot is not for you.

Absorbing, Funny, Entertaining, Relevant, Thought-provoking

See it if You like a clever semi-fantasy about topics in the news.

Don't see it if You want a play with an ending that is reasonable.

Absorbing, Ambitious, Entertaining, Great acting, Intelligent

See it if you like original, but not perfect work which is interesting and entertaining, well-acted and designed.

Don't see it if you don't like the color "cardinal."

Entertaining, Intelligent, Relevant

See it if You are interested in seeing the millennial transformation of a town in the branding era. Very real and relevant.

Don't see it if You refuse to open your mind to racism underlying communities who fear change.

Also My partner and I really enjoyed this play and don’t agree with the neg... Read more Read less

Better than i thought

See it if You want to see a fresh new interesting and exciting play

Don't see it if You need your plays to have a clean ending where you have all the answers.

Also After reading a lot of the reviews on here I was not planning to see t... Read more Read less

Thought-provoking, Relevant, Great staging, Ambitious, Clever

See it if If you are interested in social and political issues and even possible solution

Don't see it if Looking for great acting

Absorbing, Clever, Entertaining, Ambitious

See it if you want to see an interesting idea and how it plays out

Don't see it if you rely on other reviews to guide you. I was surprised at all the negative reviews.

Also You have to think out of the box on this one. Held my attention from b... Read more Read less

Funny, Relevant, Ambitious, Cliched, Confusing

See it if you’re curious of play that deals w/ urban renewal, racial stereo-typing & politics in 90 mins, or want to see Asian representation on bway

Don't see it if you get confused w/ multiple subplots in a play or if you don’t enjoy diversity in actors or easily offended by foreign language spoken

Also I went without high expectations since the critics weren’t too thrille... Read more Read less

Great acting, Resonant, Indulgent, Confusing, Banal

See it if You like Anna Chulmsky, minimal sets, shows with relevant topics, a story that raises questions and that things don't always go as planned.

Don't see it if You want a story that isn't complicated and strong theme to a play that makes a point.

Clever, Quirky, Great writing, Absorbing, Entertaining

See it if entertaining approach to love and urban development

Don't see it if if you think it is about a baseball team or birds

Clever, Relevant, Resonant, Indulgent, Slow

See it if you feel the pain of gentrification and its effect on communities. Or if you are open to shows with a slightly kooky premise.

Don't see it if expect your theater experiences to be completely believable, or have no patience for an exaggerated premise.

Confusing, Great acting, Disappointing, Great staging, Relevant

See it if You like "talky" shows about current issues. The writing and acting are uneven, but the story is interesting and compelling.

Don't see it if You don't want to see a play that feels like a work in progress. You have no interest in themes of gentrification, urban renewal and racism.

Thought-provoking, Fascinating, Complicated, Engaging, Great writing

See it if you're interested in a thoughtful examination of introverts and extroverts and the ramifications of their actions in our current culture.

Don't see it if you don't want to have to spend some time after the show thinking about what you just saw to put it all together.

Entertaining, Funny, Great acting, Quirky

See it if like dramedy's; it's amusing, with some excellent performances; well written, but at times it's hard to tell if it's a comedy or a drama

Don't see it if Want a bit production or a hilarious romp

Clever, Edgy, Raunchy, Thought-provoking, Great acting

See it if It was thought provoking. It was somewhat about the lengths towns, especially smaller towns, will go to "revitalize", but with that comes

Don't see it if people getting pushed out. I liked the actors, but I thought it veered into racism about Asian people. And in the end, the town wound up

Also up where it started. It gave new meaning to "paint the town red".

Entertaining, Funny, Quirky

See it if You find quirky & off-beat characters entertaining. Chlumsky is very funny.

Don't see it if Some of the humor isnt mainstream & some may view certain characters as unlikable. I however found a lot of comedy in these characters.

Cliched, Relevant, Thought-provoking, Unsatisfying, Incomplete

See it if You want to see a somewhat different take on current events and the growing urban/rural divide.

Don't see it if You hate cliches about “Rust Belt” towns; you don’t like convenient plot turns

Also I thought Cardinal was an interesting take on the same issue Whoriskey... Read more Read less

Clever, Entertaining, Relevant

See it if you want to see some fresh work.

Don't see it if if you hate supporting a company that has launched as many hits as 2nd Stage.

Cast & Creatives (13)