New York | 2h 15m | Already closed

Dear Elizabeth

From 7 critic and 16 member reviews
Members say: Intelligent, Absorbing, Slow, Great acting, Thought-provoking

About the show

The Women's Project presents this New York premiere by Sarah Ruhl, drawn from the famed correspondence between Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell – two of the twentieth century’s most brilliant poets. More…

'Dear Elizabeth' tells a tale of unconventional friendship and intimacy that spanned thirty years and more than 400 letters, with postmarks from Maine to Key West, from London to South America. Performed with a rotating cast, the play offers an insightful and impassioned examination of Bishop and Lowell’s lives, their work, and the true nature of friendship.


"'Dear Elizabeth' is a dazzle of language used at the highest level to convey the feelings and ideas of major poets Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell as clearly as possible. Playwright Sarah Ruhl has dissected and arranged the thoughts of two of the best minds of the 20th century so that we know them intimately...Kate Whoriskey’s minimalist production allows the burnished words to speak in all their full glory." Full Review

The Hollywood Reporter

"Ruhl's adaptation is cannily put together, carefully combining the personal and literary aspects of the correspondence…Biographical details are only alluded to, with confusion sometimes resulting…Not surprisingly, considering its provenance, the language in the piece often soars, with the writing of even routine missives achieving a, yes, poetic quality. Director Kate Whoriskey occasionally adds bits of theatrical business...These range from the charming, if predictable to the overly cutesy." Full Review

The New York Times

"Ms. Ruhl has excerpted their long correspondence with a fine ear for emotional detail and the glistening phrase, but the personal evolutions in both poets’ lives are sometimes hard to discern from oblique references...What’s most affecting about 'Dear Elizabeth' is that despite lapses in their correspondence somehow these two great writers never lost each other, until, inevitably, death put a final caesura in their friendship." Full Review

Exeunt Magazine

"At its best, 'Dear Elizabeth' is an eloquent tribute to the beauties of the friendship between two difficult, prickly, prodigiously talented and prodigiously damaged people... There are times though when the piece feels handicapped by the restraint inherent in all its components...It feels more like an experiment, though a highly worthy one, than a fully satisfying theatrical experience." Full Review


"The script covers 30 years in such lickety-split fashion that individual scenes feel fragmentary; and the play, as a whole, is elliptical. Anyone unfamiliar with the lives of these poets and the larger thrust of their correspondence is bound to be somewhat at sea…The interludes don't prevent 'Dear Elizabeth' being dramatically inert. What saves the day, despite the inertia, is the majesty of the poets' language as intoned by first rate actors." Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"This might have worked if there was something inherently dramatic in the correspondence; if there is, it isn't to be found in the relatively brief sampling offered here…'Dear Elizabeth' starts to become just a little bit dull…Kate Whoriskey's production also pushes the star-crossed lovers agenda rather too diligently, staging little interludes where they embrace, dance, or otherwise act flirtatiously…Their ardent fans may feel rather shortchanged by this thinnish double portrait." Full Review

Time Out New York

"This rendition is a dull, drab affair—and romantic it is not, despite what appears to be a team effort to insinuate a sublimated attraction between these two pillars of midcentury American poetry...This epistolary abridgment is a bit of a slog, as the pair parry compliments, writing pointers and oft-thwarted plans to get together. Viewing these two influential writers side by side onstage proves much less vivid than encountering them on the page." Full Review

Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Profound, Resonant

See it if If you are interested in Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell. I saw it with Kathleen Chalfant and Harris Yulin who were both fantastic.

Don't see it if If you don't like shows where actors sit at a desk and read/act the script.

Absorbing, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Romantic, Funny

See it if sweet and melancholy story about friendship and gentle lit gossip in a production that asks a lot of your imagination

Don't see it if you're not hooked by a story about friendship between two writers, you don't like low-fi theatre

Absorbing, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Slow

See it if you enjoy epistolary plays or literary history.

Don't see it if you want robust staging and acting beyond the confines of a desk.

Absorbing, Intelligent, Original, Great writing (by lowell and bishop), Enchanting

See it if you want an intelligent evening, filled with poetry and pathos. The beautifully written letters were beautifully read.

Don't see it if you have no interest in the two poets, altho their humanity (esp'ly Bishop's) shines through. You don't have to love poetry to enjoy DE.

Great writing

See it if you like Sarah Ruhl's work.

Don't see it if you don't.

Entertaining, Intelligent, Slow, Good performances, Literary

See it if you are interested in seeing two fine performances: Cherry Jones and David Aaron Baker. Also if you like poets and/or poetry.

Don't see it if you can't tolerate glacial staging or you are not into poets/poetry.

Slow, Literary, Two-hander

See it if you really love Sarah Ruhl, and/or Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell, or you want to see a more literary version of Love Letters.

Don't see it if you aren't interested in actors reading old letters between two people, where there's not much romance, and not much conflict.

Disappointing, Overrated, Slow, Banal, Indulgent

See it if You want to be bored to death. Similar to Love Letters, but at least that was charming. This wasn't.

Don't see it if You want to be rivited.

Small, Sad, Sweet, Lovely, Original

See it if you like shows that are small in scope and sweetly sad.

Don't see it if you need to watch action take place in front of you when you see a show.

Enchanting, Great acting, Intelligent, Masterful, Must see

See it if I think everyone should see this show. It speaks for so many people of this generation and touches the hearts of many. A true masterpiece.

Don't see it if Don't watch this show if you don't like crying in public.

Absorbing, Great acting, Great singing, Great staging, Great writing

See it if You've ever felt like an outcast.

Don't see it if You're looking for mindless fluff.

Great acting, Clever, Absorbing, Masterful, Great writing

See it if You enjoy clever and humorous

Don't see it if You have no sense of humor

Absorbing, Funny, Great acting, Intelligent, Profound

See it if You love gorgeous writing, and poetry matters to you. And the subject of friendship is a meaningful one to you.

Don't see it if You're impatient, couldn't care less about poetry or poets, need to see actors moving around (this is a very static play), favor ACTION.

Ambitious, Must see, Thought-provoking

See it if You enjoy literature, stories about women.

Don't see it if Historical stories.

Ambitious, Great singing, Relevant

See it if The story line interests you.

Don't see it if The story line does not interest you.

For a previous production
Slow, Intelligent, Cliched, Resonant, Ambitious

See it if You are interested in the letters of two writers. Interested in found text.

Don't see it if You need a clear engaging story. You need actors to talk to each other face to face.

Cast & Creatives (18)