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Coal Country

From 56 member  reviews
Members say: Relevant, Absorbing, Thought-provoking, Great acting, Great singing

About the show

From the creators of "The Exonerated" comes this new work based first-person accounts by survivors of the 2010 Upper Big Branch mine explosion and their family members.

From the show:

In 2010, the Upper Big Branch mine explosion in West Virginia killed 29 men, and tore a hole in the lives of countless others.

In this riveting, emotionally stunning new work based on first-person accounts by survivors and family members, Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen, award-winning writers of The Exonerated, and three-time Grammy Award-winning country/folk legend Steve Earle, dig deep into the lives and loss of the most deadly mining disaster in recent U.S. history.

Jessica Blank directs this haunting world premiere that gives voice to those yet unheard, and shines a piercing light on the deadly forces of greed and the enduring power of love.

Member Reviews (56)


Relevant, Absorbing, Thought-provoking, Great acting, Great singing
Avg Score

Through combo of actors acting out words of survivors & the music of steve earl, bears witness to the devastation of the 2010 west virginia upper big branch coal mine explosion

See it if punch to gut; captures ethos of mining community & sense of loss/anger after explosion; fine cast; Earl's folk tunes provide authenticity

Don't see it if never reaches potential as rallying cry vs corp greed; doesn't build 2 dramatic moments; music too unvaried 2 heighten emotional impact

Personal, Gut wrenching, Thought-provoking, Great acting, Absorbing

See it if great documentary theater tells a compelling, powerful story of human suffering & loss; gorgeous acting; music is perfect for the setting

Don't see it if not interested in learning more about the coal industry and it's importance in the community - can't live with it, can't live without it

Also The actual words of the survivors tell a personal story you would not ... Read more Read less

Relevant, Great music, Absorbing, Great singing

See it if You like theater based on real events. You like bluegrass music and heartbreaking true stories. Simple play but worth it.

Don't see it if You don't like random bench choreography, being talked at vs conversations between characters.

Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Profound, Great acting, Great singing

See it if You enjoy a good musical dramatization of what it was like to work/be in the coal mines of West Virginia in the mid 20th Century.

Don't see it if You are not fond of bluegrass/country music and have an early tear trigger

Thought-provoking, Touching, Great music, Intelligent, Absorbing

See it if documentary theater about a fatal mine explosion, monologues based on real interviews & trial records; interspersed with folk music

Don't see it if don't want minimalist staging (a few benches are just moved around the stage); want dialogue rather than monologues

Also The music makes it much more touching especially the one sung by Mary ... Read more Read less

Haunting true story of corporate greed

See it if You loved Come From Away.

Don't see it if You’re looking for something light.

Profound, personal, disturbing, Labor movement issues, Great musicianship and singing, Documentary theatre, Steve earle concert

See it if Your are a Steve Earle or great music fan. Like documentary-style theatre - overlapping monologues based on actual interviews.

Don't see it if You need a dramatic, fictional storyline. You are sensitive to issues of grief, loss, and descriptions of death and dead bodies.

Overly-long, Relevant, Bluegrass, Great acting

See it if you enjoy documentary theatre of true accounts of tragedy brought on by negligence on the part of millionaire CEOs.

Don't see it if you are triggered by accounts of deaths, don't enjoy documentary theatre, or hate bluegrass music.

Riveting, Intense, Great acting, Ambitious, Absorbing

See it if you enjoy documentary theater, working class stories or are interested in exploring the human aftermath of a tragic disaster.

Don't see it if you don't like bluegrass music, don't like talk-y plays (there is no real action), are not interested in documentary theater

Full of heart and anger, Poignant, Human, Absorbing, Great writing

See it if you want to see the collection of real and actual human words on stage that leave your heart in your throat from start to finish. Soulful.

Don't see it if you want only to see drama and action on stage - this is all storytelling. Not for those who want to stay in their urban bubble.

Intelligent, Resonant, Thought-provoking, Absorbing

See it if you enjoy work developed from real people and actual events. Some storytelling elements similar to Come From away. Steve Earle music a plus.

Don't see it if you struggle to piece together intertwined narratives. This follows the storylines of several different people linked to the mine explosion.

Great singing, Ambitious, Absorbing

See it if You like docu-dramas. This is a real life event and real people. Steve Earle is great

Don't see it if a traditional musical or a play without meaning

Also In some ways it reminded me of How To Load A Musket recently at 59E59

Disappointing, Slow, Overrated

See it if you like theatre of reporting rather than a conventional play

Don't see it if You want to care about the characters and prefer a play with a protagonist and story arc.

Thought-provoking, Disappointing, Slow, Intense

See it if you would be interested in a very slow moving play about a recent coal mining disaster in West Virginia with slightly evocative songs.

Don't see it if you are looking for some explanation of how a union state like West Virginia became completely right wing in the most extreme sense.

A powerful tale of documentary theatre punctuated with the musical presence of the legendary steve earle.

See it if you are interested in true life stories told creatively, or if you just want to see an intimate concert with the legendary Steve Earle.

Don't see it if you don't care for docudramas or hillbilly music. Your loss.

Also I love good docudramas but have not always been swept away by the work... Read more Read less

Slow, Great singing, Disappointing

See it if You really love the music of Steve Earle. It's the best part of this show.

Don't see it if You're looking for a play that engages the audience through an interesting narrative. What they say here is important. The style is boring.

Also I was so disappointed in this show. I find the presentational style of... Read more Read less

Reality bytes, Thought-provoking, Slow, Relevant

See it if Realistic script of witness statements in the criminal action against the head of the mining company who disregarded Federal safety reqs

Don't see it if Leaves too much to the imagination. Barren set.Message that should be told, but needs more poetic license, to stray from the factual script.

Relevant, Great acting, Absorbing

See it if You are interested in true, contemporary, emotional stories told in a compelling way with live music.

Don't see it if You want to see a musical as opposed to a play with music, you don't like serious stories of loss and corporate greed.

Poignant and thought-provoking

See it if You would like a well done play about a community's struggle with a disaster.

Don't see it if You like happy endings.

Also Jessica Blank & Erik Jensen's heartfelt play is about 29 coal miners w... Read more Read less

Thought-provoking, Relevant, Profound

See it if You’d like a glimpse into the challenging lives of coal miners, and then what happens following a disaster within the mine.

Don't see it if You’re militantly anti-union? Certainly many pro-union politics within the show, but they rightfully earn their spotlight.

A clear and resonant telling of a tragedy.

See it if I was so moved by this skillful relating of a mining disaster brought on by the unfortunate usual culprits, greed and ruthlessness.

Don't see it if you want a light cheerful time and don't enjoy Steve Earle.

Also Also, I love Steve Earle.

Intense, Resonant, Relevant, Great acting, Absorbing

See it if You want to see an incredibly well acted play that has much to say about families, love, and how unfair our economic system is to many.

Don't see it if You want something flashy or very theatrical. This is raw, unvarnished emotion.

Also One of the best pieces of theater I have ever seen, and I have seen a ... Read more Read less

Thought-provoking, Resonant, Relevant, Disappointing, Ambitious

See it if Important story about low income working community suffering from illegal corporate action

Don't see it if You want a standard narrative play

Raw, Heartfelt, Absorbing

See it if Wonderful in every way, gripping, moving. The acting was terrific.

Don't see it if want a fluffy, feel-good theatrical experience.

Also I got to know these people, their wants, desires, and fears. I felt de... Read more Read less

Simple, Underbaked, Disappointing

See it if you love Steve Earle, the Public, West Virginia, real-life stories. The ensemble does solid work, and everything here feels true.

Don't see it if Why is this onstage? And why now? Similar stories have been told. I dig a simple show, but the simplicity here feels underdone.

March 3rd, 2020
CRITIC’S PICK. "Songs and Stories in a Disaster’s Aftermath: Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen’s show at the Public Theater, with live music by Steve Earle, is based on a real-life West Virginia mining tragedy."
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March 3rd, 2020
4/5 Stars "A devastating documentary play...Blank and Jensen...compassionately channel true accounts of survival without editorializing, so nothing gets in the way of our empathy...The performances are gorgeously authentic and underplayed."
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March 3rd, 2020
"Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen give voice to the friends and families of miners killed in a 2010 West Virginia explosion in this haunting drama with original music written and performed by Steve Earle."
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March 3rd, 2020
"Coal Country Takes Us to West Virginia Where We're Far Past Canaries: Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen chronicle the 2010 Upper Big Branch mine explosion at the Public Theater, with original songs by Steve Earle."
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