New York | 2h 30m | Ends Jun 02

Curse of the Starving Class

From 22 critic and 136 member reviews
Members say: Great acting, Absorbing, Great staging, Intense, Thought-provoking

About the show

Last produced in NYC by Signature more than 20 years ago, this new production of "Curse of the Starving Class" honors Pulitzer Prize-winning Legacy Playwright Sam Shepard, who passed away in 2017.  More…

Living a stagnant, unhappy existence in rural California, the struggling Tate family is desperate for change, but every family member has a different way of trying to improve their station in life.

Front Row Center

"I admit it, I’m a big fan of Sam Shepard’s plays, especially his 70’s and 80’s works like 'Curse of the Starving Class', which is currently being revived by Signature Theatre in an outstanding production. Not only is it masterfully directed by Terry Kinney who was a long-time collaborator of Shephard’s, having both acted in his plays and directed them, but the cast is superb. And the production values are impeccable. If you’re a fan, go see it. If you’ve never seen a Shepard play, don’t miss... Full Review

Theater News Online

“The play flip-flips from comedy to tragedy and plainspoken realism to absurdism in the blink of an eye...Hugging tight to the contours of Shepard’s script is no mean feat, but Kinney’s ensemble handles that capably enough. Geary and DeClement are especially effective. His freaky food binge is bound to make you lose your appetite, and if it doesn’t, what he does with a maggot-plagued lamb will. Her high-octane performance jolts each scene to life – and that’s anything but a curse." Full Review

New York Stage Review

"As good as the actors all are—and they are all very good—this production’s best asset is undoubtedly director Terry Kinney...Given all the crazy goings-on—the missing chicken, the maggoty lamb, the urine-soaked floor—it would be easy to dismiss these characters as a bunch of crazies, to exploit their eccentricities for maximum comic effect. But Kinney sees them for exactly who they are: Outsiders. Idealists. Fighters. Americans." Full Review

Diandra Reviews it All

“If there is one thing Sam Shepard enjoyed as a playwright, it is symbolism...Signature Theater’s revival of ‘Curse of The Starving Class’ is not only poignant; it is predictive...As a cast, you cannot beat 'Starving Class.' Each cast member emanates their frustration, sadness, boredom, and rage at having to find ways to survive a life they barely want to live...Kinney brilliantly presents Shepard’s script as an affront to capitalistic greed.” Full Review


“Latecomers to...Kinney’s finely-acted revival of Shepherd’s dysfunctional family drama will miss the show stopping bit of stagecraft that opens the production...This symbolic visual that serves as the background for the entire piece seems to reinforce the verbal symbolism in the playwright's text....’Curse’ won Shepard an Obie and...helped establish the playwright as a unique voice that used dark humor to dissemble the traditionally romantic view of America's rural landscape.” Full Review

The Hollywood Reporter

"Shepard's plays are tricky balancing acts. They need to be staged by directors and actors in touch with the late playwright's distinctive, off-kilter vision. That's certainly the case with this production...Kinney could have picked up the pace faster, and the decision to condense the first two acts results in an overly long, 90-minute first half. Nonetheless, the work's raw power and bleak humor resonate strongly, thanks to the ensemble's fully invested performances." Full Review

New York Stage Review

"Couldn’t be riper for reflection...Crouch’s most prominent set piece and prop is a potential storage place for nourishment, a refrigerator, that remains bare through much of the first act. Characters open it, inspect it, speak to it, slam it shut in frustration; they’re mired in hunger, and not just for food. So long as such exchanges are taking place, 'Curse of the Starving Class' will lose none of its resonance, or its bite." Full Review


"For anyone conversant with Shepard, the terrain is familiar and rewarding. The language is beautiful and the action hypnotic." Full Review

Theatre is Easy

“This production of ‘Curse of the Starving Class’ does honor to Shepard. With a slight end-of-the-world, ‘Mad Max’ feel...The actors are key to bringing Shepard's text to life and this cast certainly does their job...The work done by scenic designer Julian Crouch is also noteworthy...Crouch’s work illuminates Kinney's dark vision...This ‘Curse of the Starving Class’ is a job well done by all involved.” Full Review


“A compelling ferocious revival...Luckily, director Terry Kinney...balances the tricky tone of 'Curse of the Starving Class' compellingly, which is a relief given the lopsided nature of the piece...The third and final act seems a bit rushed and eager to bring the story to its conclusion. Nevertheless, the cast is excellent, fearlessly handling the text’s demanding ricocheting between absurdity and intense – often ferociously violent – realism." Full Review

Exeunt Magazine

"The Tate family’s rundown farmhouse kitchen...Suspended as if trapped mid-explosion...Its a stunning effect, but it has the side effect of foreshadowing both theme and plot in a way that makes the play grimmer and more frightening, layering even its moments of dark humor with ever-present existential dread...Kinney’s production does capture well Shepard’s characteristic oscillation between hyper-real physicality and archetypal elements in the plot and characters." Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

"Terry Kinney has a long history as both an actor in and director of Shepard plays, and his direction of the current revival finds the right balance among the violence, dark humor, pathos, and poetry...As with the other plays in the trilogy, 'Curse of the Starving Class' shows that the dissolution of the American dream is not just a national tragedy but a domestic one as well." Full Review


"It's easy to understand how 'Curse of the Starving Class' both jolted audiences and cemented Shepard's reputation as a playwright in its 1978 premiere at The Public Theater by showing us the warts-and-all underbelly of America and this not atypical American family. And, 40 years later, there remains a shocking timeliness to its themes of the haves versus have-nots and the death of the so-called American Dream among our country's working class." Full Review

Gotham Playgoer

"Shepard has burdened the play with too many metaphor-laden monologues. Director Terry Kinney has combined the first two acts into one, which makes for a long 90 minutes before intermission...Director Kinney shows an affinity for Shepard. If you are a Shepard fan, you may well enjoy yourself; if not, it may be a long 2 1/2 hours." Full Review


“A flawed revival...This production is not for the faint-hearted or weak-stomached...The big that it pulls out the theatrical stops too early...No subsequent scene comes near to matching its frisson...Kinney should have trusted more in Shepard's language and the whole moving spirit of the play...It might not fire on all cylinders. But it sure does allow one to get a real taste of the late author's genius.” Full Review


See it if delete all error wrong show

Don't see it if delete all error

Also please delete printed at wrong show

Riveting, Intense, Great staging, Great acting, Edgy

See it if you want to see an edgy, surrealistic drama that challenges convention, in an intimate setting and affordable price

Don't see it if you don't like to see plays that are pretty darn negative, or you want a feel-good night at the theater. This is challenging!

Also In the first few seconds, you are blown away. What seems to be somethi... Read more Read less

Resonant, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Masterful, Absorbing

See it if You like being challenged in the theater while seeing great acting performances

Don't see it if You don't like serious dramas

Thought-provoking, Masterful, Great writing, Great acting, Absorbing

See it if you want to see a seldom done Sam Shepherd play exquisitely acted and directed and an amazing set

Don't see it if understanding everything is important

Intense, Great acting, Entertaining, Clever, Absorbing

See it if you are a fan of Sam Shepard in all his dysfunctional uncomfortable glory.

Don't see it if you are looking for a good time.

Great staging, Relevant, Great acting, Absorbing, Bleak

See it if you want to see an unrelenting, 1st-rate revival of a work from Shepard's most fertile period that's as gritty, moving & timely as ever.

Don't see it if u seek pure escapism; u don't have the stomach for the relentless dysfunction of this family & the situation they represent in our society.

Clever plotting, Mythic, A little too long, Solid acting, Smart staging

See it if you’d like to see a fine accounting of the play that sent Sam Shepard off in the new direction for which he is best known.

Don't see it if you do not like Sam Shepard’s writing, even at its most “naturalistic”.

Also Confession: I’ve always preferred early Shepard—1-act & bafflingly the... Read more Read less

Riveting, Intense, Great staging, Great acting, Absorbing

See it if You want to see a visceral staging of a play by one of America's quintessential playwrights. The actors go all in! Direction is great.

Don't see it if You don't like intense dramas and people eating food sloppily on stage. ;-)

Funny, brilliant acting, troubling, great writing

See it if You like Sam Shepard and want to see a funny, well-acted play about dysfunctional people without money.

Don't see it if You don't like stories about poor people even if it's not overly depressing.

Also I don't usually go in for plays about highly dysfunctional alcoholics ... Read more Read less

Great writing, Great acting, Great staging, Clever

See it if You enjoy Sam Shepard. I really do think it’s that simple if you like sam you will like this show

Don't see it if You are looking for a fun and fluffy piece of theater. This is dirty. It’s all about a messed up and dysfunctional family

Also The first 45 seconds of this play are magnificent. I saw this done reg... Read more Read less

Shepard’s farm family goes haywire

See it if Nicely staged. Gilles Geary and David Warshofsky are terrific. Dad’s drunk scene is peerless. Sad and disturbing. And that lamb!

Don't see it if Raw Shepard disturbs you. Not as memorable as the recent “True West,” but incisive and entertaining. And that lamb!

Great staging, Great writing, Thought-provoking, Very dark as only shepard is, Prescient

See it if You don’t mind Shepard’s dark vision which seems to still be bearing fruit in Trump’s America.Surprising insights into developers.

Don't see it if If you looking for light entertainment.

Fine production of one of shepard's best plays; shows why he is great chronicler of the death of america's frontier

See it if primal & explosive; searing portrait of dysfunctional family in the west ground down by rapacious capitalism/exploitation; hilarious at time

Don't see it if loud, unsubtle production; meanders at times; doesn't always achieve balance btwn realism/surrealism that characterizes Shepard at his best

Also (1) Starving: The sense of "starving" is employed in many ways in this... Read more Read less

Thought-provoking, Intelligent, Great acting, Ambitious, Absorbing

See it if A strong prod of a complicated (that is Shepard) play.Realistic-symbolic.Still relevant.Warshofsky stunning as drunk father.

Don't see it if you prefer a straightforward story, don't care for symbolism or "message" in your theater, don't like Shepard.

Quirky, Enjoyable, Delightful, Great acting, Entertaining

See it if you like live animals, great set and strong acting! A captivating story about inner demons and desires,& at the moment of change, no escape

Don't see it if the alluding to domestic abuse would be painful. You want a play that travels in a straight line.

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

See it if you like Sam Shepard's work; surrealistic stories about extremely dysfunctional families, pathos with dark humor, great monologues*

Don't see it if don't want the above or stories of delusional people who are exploited by greedy businessmen

Also *monologues that are poetic, disturbing, moving, especially by David W... Read more Read less

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

See it if you like the dark themes of Sam Shepard plays and want to experience a talented cast portraying a dysfunctional family.

Don't see it if you are looking for a light uplifting play. This play is intense, dark, and deep.

Resonant, Great acting, Absorbing

See it if You are in the mood to see a dysfunctional family. Be prepared for a lot 8f screaming.

Don't see it if You want a light, feel good take me away show.

Relevant, Thought-provoking, Intense

See it if It's worth it for the first five minutes alone, which I won't spoil by revealing what happens (although The Times did). The acting is superb

Don't see it if The play (like the rest of Shepard's oeuvre) is not exactly fluffy. The play does have some very funny moments, but, it's really depressing

Intelligent, Ambitious, Thought-provoking, Great set, Absorbing

See it if you want to see a rarely staged classic. Some of the speeches don't land. Not sure if the writing has dated, or if the delivery was off.

Don't see it if You are not a Sam Shepard fan. Or possibly if you are such a fanatic that this gentler interpretation will stick in your craw.

And food all over, Bleak scenery and f, Early sam shepard! gut wrenching acting

See it if Do you miss early Shepard plays? Food in the dialogue. Food on tables, counters, in the fridge. Food being eaten, thrown, on the floor.

Don't see it if You do not like messy drama, in words, and visuals. Nothing what it seems or as it should be. Or should it?

Great acting, Great writing, Great staging, Quirky, Ambitious

See it if Dysfunctional family w/ property value& poverty nipping at their heels attempt to lift their lot to the next level.Massive prologue collapse

Don't see it if Bleak take on breaking through any ceilings. The curse=her first period. Bacon frying lingering. That poor lamb. Vulgarian behaviours.

Also "I'm not dreaming now. I was dreaming then."

Intense, Absorbing

See it if You like being smacked in the face

Don't see it if You want something quiet

Quirky, Warning: naked young man (front&back) appears (welcome to old off-bdwy), Edgy, Maggie siff will be '45' in june, but looks much younger in play (not miscast, just too gorj), Great acting

See it if 20 yrs after its debut, CotSC is still relevant as the scammers go after the unwary (again). Worth seeing for David Warshofsky's perf as dad

Don't see it if If you don't like Sam Shepard plays but are curious, then U could do much worse. If U abhor stage nudity then skip. Gross ref's to animals 2

Well acted & staged, Disappointing, Edgy, Thought-provoking, Ambitious

See it if Early Shepard (still finding his voice) is problematic yet not w/o its surrealistic beauty esp in fracturing family unit via outside forces

Don't see it if High octane 1st act both in writing & staging turns into stalled 2nd act As imploding famlly looses its chances for escape so does narrative

Cast & Creatives (3)