Charm NYC Reviews and Tickets

77%
(109 Reviews)
Positive
86%
Mixed
10%
Negative
4%
Members say
Relevant, Thought-provoking, Entertaining, Ambitious, Funny

About the Show

MCC Theater presents a new play about a black, sexagenarian transwoman named Mama Darleena Andrews teaching an etiquette class at a Chicago LGBTQ community center.

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Member Reviews (109)

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95
Great acting, Ambitious, Relevant, Intelligent, Absorbing

See it if You want to see a really well written, acted, directed, staged and very topical show. Well done!!

Don't see it if You have no interest in transgender issues or have no patience for anything even approaching political correctness.

79
Profound, Refreshing, Relevant, Thought-provoking, Important

See it if you’re open-minded to LGBTQ—and really, human—issues. Or better, if you’re close-minded, as this is the medicine you need.

Don't see it if you’re looking for more of the same kind of story. This is a refreshing and necessary story told by voices that need to be heard.

84
Absorbing, Clever, Great acting, Great writing, Funny

See it if you enjoy a drama with humor and pathos. Some scenes were amusing and others very touching. Good acting and nice use of stage.

Don't see it if you don't like dialogue about gays or transgenders. You can enjoy this show just as a well done drama. Read more

80
Loveable characters, Absorbing, Entertaining, Relevant, Could have gone deeper

See it if you like being involved in the characters' lives; like good acting, especially Ms. Caldwell; comedic, touching, sweet and full of heart;

Don't see it if Enjoyable for those who believe all people are equal; for those who don't, see it and try to accept; play could benefit from more depth and Read more

97
Absorbing, Entertaining, Relevant, Resonant

See it if Poignant tale of a group of trans homeless youth, their issues and problems, & why they "act out". Strong-willed teacher carries the show.

Don't see it if You'd prefer a musical. (But there's a couple of awesome dance-breaks with music that I'd love to see made into a music video!)

60
Nothing really new.

See it if You're interested in transgender plays.

Don't see it if You're not interested in transgender plays. Read more

77
Entertaining, Absorbing, Good casting, Funny, A bit nonsensical

See it if Interested in the lives and stories of people who are often marginalized, told in a touching, engaging way.

Don't see it if Don't want to acknowledge the struggles for transgender people, don't like a little fantasy, don't like the premise.

71
Relevant, Ambitious, Cliched, Indulgent, Stereotypical

See it if you don't mind loud musical interludes, stereotypical trans and homosexual characters; a well-intentioned play which just went over the top

Don't see it if You are uncomfortable with these gender types; you need a more concise story line with less fooling around; you dislike loud music. Read more

Critic Reviews (22)

The New York Times
September 18th, 2017

"However predictable their arcs, these characters are far more fascinating than the usual lifeboat crew...Whenever 'Charm' focuses on their lives outside of class it maintains at least a documentary interest. But within the class, the noisy action—all shade and byplay—is too often superficial. The potential for real conflict is largely left unexplored...Lacking scenes that truly test her philosophy, Mama is reduced to a collection of uplifting attitudes and sassy ripostes."
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Time Out New York
September 18th, 2017

"Dawkins and director Will Davis juggle a colorful array of characters with skill, and the actors, several of whom are transgender, form a wonderfully harmonious ensemble, especially when creating cacophony...Although the play’s ending is somewhat pat, the last scene of its first act—a tense, revelatory encounter between Mama and Beta—packs a real wallop. No one coasts on charm here; the talent is real."
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New York Magazine / Vulture
September 18th, 2017

"A truly outstanding company of performers...Davis knits them into a clearly cohesive and affectionate ensemble, while allowing each of them to shine...The intelligence of 'Charm' is that it’s actually structured around Mama's awakening, as much as it is around the the transformation of the Youth...The play’s more simplistic side emerges in the relative ease with which minds and people are changed for the better...If there is a whiff of unreality to 'Charm,' perhaps that is for the good."
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Variety
September 18th, 2017

"A bona-fide charmer...Davis directs a terrific ensemble cast in this bittersweet fantasy of perfect comity within the LGBTQ community...The characters aren’t as stereotyped as they sound, and the uniformly excellent cast humanizes every last one of them...For all its soft satire and good-natured laughs, 'Charm' has some sharp points to make...Dawkins treats his characters with respect...But he doesn’t know what to do with them in the shapeless second act, which lands with a dull thud."
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Deadline
September 25th, 2017

"The students, portrayed with verve by a transgender cast, all get their big, if predictable, moments to shine. Forgive me if they reminded me too frequently of Mr. Kotter’s Sweathogs, crude and amiably redeemable. 'Charm' is rough-hewn but gives voice to a group we need to hear more from."
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New York Daily News
September 18th, 2017

“Messy but moving…Director Davis has assembled a capable cast and is mostly successful guiding the ensemble through the play’s humor, poignance, dance breaks and fantastical scenes. The script and the acting do sometimes tilt toward stereotype and obvious button-pushing. On the other hand, moments like one when Ariela, a student and sex worker, reveals the depth of her desperation, make you sit up and take notice."
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Theatermania
September 18th, 2017

"It's that rare play that is simultaneously funny, smart, and emotionally gripping...As Mama, Caldwell gives one of the most heartfelt performances of the year. Her maternal warmth radiates off the stage...Under the thoughtful direction of Will Davis, plenty of excellent performances emerge over the course of two hours...'Charm' exercises our brains, or hearts, and our funny bones, resulting in a very satisfying night at the theater."
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Lighting & Sound America
October 10th, 2017

"At its best, 'Charm' is candid about the pain these young people endure and the overwhelming odds against which they struggle. Then again, these truths are often glossed over by sitcom-style plotting...Still, if the director, Will Davis, can't smooth over the script's rough edges he gets excellent work from a cast of new faces...Even if 'Charm' handles its hot-button topic in less-than-incisive fashion, it is certainly full to the brim with its title quality."
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TheaterScene.net
September 28th, 2017

"Philip Dawkins' 'Charm' immediately creates very distinct personalities among its nine characters as soon as we meet them. It is one of the few plays that makes you care about the welfare and the futures of the people it introduces. As such it is one of the most satisfying and rewarding plays in town. It also demonstrates the message that if you change your behavior you can alter you self-image and outlook on life."
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Theater Pizzazz
September 18th, 2017

"The word has a variety of meanings, but has never been presented with such unique verve as in the current production of 'Charm'...It addresses the LGBTQ community with a spin that gets immediate audience attention...A truly magnificent Sandra Caldwell...This is an important story to tell that will go on and is only just beginning."
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CurtainUp
September 18th, 2017

"A talented cast conjures the figures from Dawkins' fertile imagination, creating a group portrait that's vivid, credible, and heartbreaking...The company gives 'Charm' the vibrancy, as well as vulgarity, of urban street life, steering clear of any case-study detachment...Despite moments of caprice and the occasional creak of melodramatic machinery, 'Charm' is a work of compelling realism."
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Front Row Center
October 3rd, 2017

"I was the straight person in the audience enjoying all of this while wondering who was a male, who was female, as well as who identified how, as what gender in the past present and future. At the end of the show, I didn’t really have any more answers about all that. But I did feel that maybe I understood more of the human experience than I did when I first sat down...And that understanding told me I had just seen some good theater. Go see this one, Kids. I highly recommend it."
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Front Mezz Junkies
October 5th, 2017

"A play that brings more transgender people to the front and center in a fairly honest depiction than I have ever seen.. And that’s huge...Will Davis balances the tightrope walk between education and entertainment by informing casually within authentic conversations...The real trouble I had with 'Charm' is that there are so many characters in this piece that deserve attention and exploration...In the end, 'Charm' and the playwright leave us with more questions than insights."
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T
October 10th, 2017

"Under Will Davis’s direction, Sandra Caldwell and the rest of the talented cast deliver strong performances and reflect the sincerity of the script and its redemptive message; however, what is missing in this production is a sense of vulnerability or a recognition of the importance of atonement...What happens between Mama and Beta should happen throughout the play to achieve a consistent level of honest discourse."
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Theatre's Leiter Side
September 18th, 2017

“Dawkins's lively, touching, if imperfect comedy…rocks a colorful variation of a familiar format…MCC's perfect casting, which respects the identities of its actors, is likely to offer surprises…'Charm' is classic feel-good territory…Mama…turns the spotlight on the word 'fabulous,' but you need only watch Caldwell's exceptional, award-level performance to understand its meaning…Each actor makes us feel that, in their futures, their characters will add something to the charm bracelet of life.”
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Gotham Playgoer
September 18th, 2017

"The overlong first act has too many noisy scenes of the students acting out that shed more heat than light. We don’t get a crisis until the second act. What follows is fairly predictable and not very enlightening. Caldwell quietly creates a vivid character. The others act with more gusto than polish...Director Will Davis could tighten things up a bit. It’s intermittently entertaining, but not interesting enough to justify its length. Cutting it to a tight 90 minutes might have improved it."
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Broadway & Me
September 30th, 2017

"Sentimental—but inspirational too...Dawkins mixes in jealousies and rivalries...Then he quickly whirls through resolutions to these problems as though they were plot points on a TV procedural. Yet, it's still great to see a story about transgender people that isn't unrelentingly depressing or sad but is instead upbeat and celebratory...'Charm' isn't a great play but, particularly in these tolerance-testing times, it's one worth seeing and cheering on."
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Towleroad
September 19th, 2017

“A vibrant and totally captivating production…The story of ‘Charm’ ultimately soft-shoes around the central dilemma it raises…Whether it’s a queer person’s job to make people feel comfortable…Dawkins doesn’t quite face head-on here. He tackles plenty, though, in creating palpable character portraits…Under Will Davis’ fine direction, the ensemble becomes a sort of family you’d choose for yourself if you could; it’s almost impossible...not to fall for every one of them.”
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Daily Beast
September 18th, 2017

"Nimbly directed by Will Davis...Thanks to the commitment and pumped-up energy of the actors, you are absolutely in that classroom with the company from 'Charm’s' charged first moment...The cast are uniformly excellent...'Charm' segues quickly from an intriguing set of relatable and intractable complexities to, quite literally, a bed of roses. The earlier, loud, tougher part of 'Charm' is a more challenging, fulfilling slice of drama."
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NewNowNext.com
September 25th, 2017

"Dawkins’ play 'Charm' has Darleena—a black, transgender woman based on the real life Gloria Allen—teaching Emily Post’s behavioral principles to a group of feisty young people...How that’s all resolved—including a surreal visit from Emily Post herself—may be a little pat, but the play has spunk and humor and is blessed with a fine cast who devour their roles, as directed by Will Davis. Sandra Caldwell is fierce as Darleena."
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Newsday
September 22nd, 2017

"Performed with no small amount of grit and her own significant charm by Sandra Caldwell, Mama Darlin forces lessons they never thought they needed on this rowdy group...Initially interested only in the free food, the boisterous bunch—in smashing costumes by Oana Botez that speak to their personalities better than any gender pronouns—comes to respect, even love, this remarkable teacher who refuses to give up on them."
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The Wrap
September 18th, 2017

"In a slap-dash second act, Dawkins introduces some creaky plot mechanics...That’s unfortunate, though it ultimately does not detract from the overall power of its central character—or Caldwell’s performance. 'Charm' is on sturdier ground when the focus remains on its muse, who embraces old-fashioned values as a means to survive and even thrive in a culture too often given to incivility and ugliness."
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