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.

... Read 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.

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$49 - $69
through 1/31


Front Orchestra: $69 (Reg. $89)
Rear Orchestra: $49 (Reg. $69)
through 2/25


$69 Front Orchestra


All sales final.

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews


“‘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

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

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

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

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

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

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


"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

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


"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


“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

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

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

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


"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

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


"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

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

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

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

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

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


"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

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

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews

Ambitious, Intense, Confusing, Disappointing, Entertaining

See it if you are supporting someone in the show. It seems like it's at a workshop level now, a lot of storylines need to be cut for it to flow well.

Don't see it if you want to see a well thought out, cogent stories. Themes were all relevant and interesting though. Great moments of acting.

Funny, Thought-provoking, Quirky, Entertaining, Great staging

See it if You enjoy interesting but light fare. Great acting, interesting story line, not super deep, but entertaining regardless.

Don't see it if You need deep emotional toil to be entertained. Funnier at the beginning but still good throughout.

Funny, Disappointing, Great staging, Fluffy

See it if something a bit campy or silly is your cup of tea. Overall its a fun play that tries a little to hard

Don't see it if you are expecting something more grand. Funnier then it is.

Ambitious, Disappointing

See it if you already have tickets... or maybe don't see it even if you already have tickets.

Don't see it if you want good theater. It's a play trying too hard to find itself or maybe it found itself too soon and didn't develop further.

Banal, Disappointing

See it if you like Adam Pally, he's the best part of this show. This is impressive considering the material and limited lines he was working with.

Don't see it if you are looking for the next great new play. Story lacks cohesion and feels forced. Uses disabled character as negative stereotype for plot.

Also Beyond the play itself, the production is equally scattered. Presentat... Read more Read less

Disappointing, Slow, Dull, Bland, Meandering

See it if you want to see a play that tries hard to be topical/relevant, dealing w/racism, xenophobia, gun violence, depression, urban renewal, sexism

Don't see it if you don't want to see a play fail miserably at being topical/relevant, aimlessly drifting from one topic to another, one style to another.

Thought-provoking, Indulgent, Mediocre

See it if you want to see something a little off-beat that examines some ways in which grand plans have can unexpected and unintended consequences.

Don't see it if you have a low tolerance threshold for overacting. That said, several strong supporting performances - namely Becky Ann Baker and Alex Hunt.

Delightful, Thought-provoking, Refreshing

See it if The idea of the play is quite intriguing but the execution is disappointing. The talented Anna Chlumsky is the driving force of this play.

Don't see it if The overall cast is very capable and even good, considering the material and the odd side steps the story is taking for no strong reason.

Ambitious, Great acting, Relevant, Disappointing, Directionless

See it if You like Adam Pally (he's great!) and want to see a play dealing with relevant issues to today - immigration vs nativism, etc.

Don't see it if You want satisfying conclusions or a clear cut moral "right answer" in your shows. Cardinal bites off a bit more than it can chew.

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

Banal, Disappointing, Overrated

See it if It is a story about a town that makes a transformation. Locals do not like foreign Chinese moving into there town. It has a good story to it

Don't see it if It is not well acted, directing is okay but not enough to make the show appeal. Slow at times the lead was weak in it.

Great acting, Relevant, Confusing, Disappointing, Great staging

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.

Funny, Under-developed, Intriguing, Topical, Nuanced

See it if you're a fan of the actors; the topic of urban renewal interests you, or the concept of "coming home."

Don't see it if you expect another "Sweat" (albeit the comedic version).

Also Feels like the characters were under-baked. Excellent performances fro... Read more Read less

Great acting, Banal, Disappointing, Great staging

See it if you're a fan of new plays, director Kate Whoriskey, the actors, or Second Stage Theater. Not much is here otherwise.

Don't see it if you have the option to see a better play. The acting and the direction are great individually, but the writing fails to tie them together.

Funny, Ambitious, Great acting, Disappointing, Cliched

See it if fluffy sweet comedies are what you enjoy

Don't see it if you are looking for quirky edgy comedy


See it if You are intrigued by the initial premise, the deterioration of small cities .

Don't see it if You expect t to say something about this issue.

Muddled, Needs tv stars to sell seats, First draft?, Accidental gunshot wound?, Paint the town red, indeed

See it if TV personalities, attempted relevance, supporting new work, are your reasons for going to the theatre

Don't see it if non-compelling story lines, forced performances, TV personalities, strange plot points, would keep you from enjoying going to the theatre

Pointless, Quirky, Confusing, Disappointing, Obnoxious

See it if You would like to see your hometown overhauled and want to know what not to do.

Don't see it if Obnoxious, overly ambitious young women get on your nerves.

Also While I have seen Anna Chlumsky on stage before in her two Broadway pl... Read more Read less

Great acting, Slow, Great staging

See it if You like short quirky plays. Amazing performances by all actors but it's a touch on the boring side

Don't see it if You prefer uplifiting plays. This is a a slow going drama.

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

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.

Great acting, Disappointing, Entertaining

See it if A nice play, entertaining, but not much else.

Don't see it if Doesn't really add anything.

Relevant, Disappointing, Slow, Good acting

See it if you're interested in the plight of dying cities in America.

Don't see it if you have something better to do, like watching traffic go by.

Funny, Dark, Edgy, Thought-provoking, Quirky

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

Clever, Great acting, Intense, Confusing, Disappointing

See it if You enjoy superb acting performing a play that requires them to shift wildly from one behavior to another. Lots of ideas here, but fragments

Don't see it if You like a play where the motivations behind actions are clear and where the characters act consistently. I kept pushing this to be better.

Indulgent, Excruciating, Racist, Manic, irritating anna chumsky

See it if Attempted suicide, ethnic slurs, sleeping with your sister's ex, voyeurism, "yellow peril", mentally disabled character, debts as humor????

Don't see it if And that was the good part. The bad part was listening to Anna Chumsky screech through every scene. I very much like male lead.

Cast & Creatives (13)