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Downtown Race Riot

From 29 critic and 102 member reviews
Members say: Disappointing, Great acting, Slow, Absorbing, Intense

About the show

Chloë Sevigny headlines the New Group's world premiere drama which offers a snapshot of a time not so different than today, when a new social freedom ran smack into the forces of reaction. More…

On a hot late summer day in 1976, a mob of young men – all white except one – descended on Washington Square Park with pipes and bats, and attacked any people of color they could find. 'Downtown Race Riot' takes us back to this day, in the cramped Village apartment of Mary Shannon (Chloë Sevigny), a strung-out, free-wheeling single mom, as her son Pnut, and his Haitian best friend Massive wrestle with their obligation to join the riot. The boys, torn between loyalty to each other and to the neighborhood, grasp for ways to keep the violence from destroying their friendship forever.

Theatre is Easy

"What makes Sevigny such an arresting actor is her relentless honesty...Elliott conducts this brilliant cast like a virtuoso maestro with Sevigny as his concert master...The impeccably choreographed stage combat is startling and alarming...Rosenfeld’s play is brilliant in its honest understatement. He never resorts to melodrama or sensational histrionics. His characters are just simple people trying to survive a dangerous world and doing what they can to escape its harsh reality." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"Rosenfeld’s heart-thumping play demands that you pay attention...Ingenious directing by Scott Elliott brings this play to a level of authenticity that begs to be admired. Pace, delivery, structure – it’s tough to fault any of it. The gritty tale also boasts razor-sharp dialogue...This dynamic production is a refreshing take on much-discussed topics – and the way Rosenfeld has tied together threads of different colors in 'Downtown Race Riot' is a true testament to his story-telling prowess." Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"Succeeds as both a tense drama and a flavorful slice of Greenwich Village life in the bad old 1970s....Rosenfeld's writing thoroughly captures the temper of the times...Elliott's production abounds in good performances...Those seated in the left and right sections -- especially in the first couple of rows -- will be forced to crane their necks constantly just to get a glimpse of what is going on...Eminently worth seeing. Just be careful about where you sit." Full Review

Financial Times (UK)

"Making a rare appearance on stage and playing against ingenuous type, Sevigny brings understated charisma to a role that defies clichés...Only Demeo and Sovich strike a hackneyed note with wise-guy bravado that sounds like warmed-over Scorsese. But 'Downtown Race Riot' also has the measured, doom-laden pacing of 'Mean Streets' as director Scott Elliott dials up the tension to a lurid yet realistic denouement that should be enough to put an end to that ’70s feeling." Full Review

Front Row Center

“Not only set in 1976, much of this new play by Rosenfeld feels like it was written in that era as well. It flows along with a distinct Landord Wilson vibe...The first hour is a captivating slow burn, then it goes a little off the rails, then it blows up in your face...There are a lot of balls in the air here and the always fine director, Elliott, juggles them skillfully...In lieu of a gratifying climax...we are left with an unsatisfying, wordless fade to black.” Full Review


"Sevigny’s Mary is a ragged delight...Sentiment(ality) gets a little out of hand now and then. Yet these indulgences tweaked my attention only a little; Rosenfeld’s language sweeps us along. We teeter down its consistently sharp and jagged edge as the tension slowly builds...With all its humor, the play bears a troubling message for today: Friendship and family, potent forces though they are, can’t solve the conundrum of tribalism." Full Review

Stage Buddy

“A gripping family drama...This retelling has some lovely performances lead by Chloe Sevigny, whose proximity to her audience serves to amplify her authentic portrayal…Rosenfeld’s take on Greenwich Village’s denizens is hard to watch, for some of the right reasons…The plot is based on a true story, unpretentious and candid…Sevigny is effortlessly authentic…Temperate direction by Scott Elliott informs the pace for the evening, assisting the younger unseasoned players as best he can.” Full Review

Front Mezz Junkies

“Directed with focus and clarity...While the cast do their job with intensity and focus, the play never really feels urgent or dangerous...It doesn’t register as fully authentic...The real emotionality is lost in the overly wordy dialogue...The ending just left me wanting a tiny bit more to chew on...'Downtown Race Riot' never feels entirely real or as edgy as what we can read about that hot summer day out on the streets of downtown NYC. It never feels like this 'Riot' gets going.” Full Review

Off Off Online

"For a while it appears that Rosenfeld may be venturing into pretty daring territory—a satire on the scam artists who drain government money to the detriment of 'the deserving poor'...Soon, however, additional threads of plot are woven in...In any case, what seemed to begin as a social satire veers into melodrama. Cannily, though, Rosenfeld stops short of a grim ending...Even if it’s not wholly satisfying, there is much in Rosenfeld’s play to appreciate." Full Review

Film Festival Traveler

"Rosenfeld turns cartoons into real characters: with a huge assist from a talented cast and director, of course...Rosenfeld draws sympathetic but realistic portraits of his play’s inhabitants...Still, the play and these people don’t go anywhere unsurprising: they are fated to remain behind, thanks to class or race, which isn’t an earth-shattering revelation...Sevigny’s Mary is scarily authentic...A marvelously physical performance that makes her character and the play she’s in seem substantial." Full Review

Broadway Blog

“A stumbling, hour and 40-minute, domestic drama about a morally confused Greenwich Village family… Sevigny…makes a highly credible Mary…For all its attempts at veracity, 'Downtown Race Riot' has an ersatz quality that fails to make these people and their problems real. The riot itself comes off as merely a trigger for a drama of family dysfunction; too many distractions create disunity...Dialogue that too often sounds above the pay grade of its speakers also punctures plausibility.” Full Review


"It's hard to argue against the authenticity of director Elliott's carefully designed and furiously acted production...Yet something about the play itself feels excessive...Sevigny embodies the tension between her self-image as a hippie earth mother and her reality as a junkie...Resulting in a performance that veers wildly between nuanced and completely over-the-top. That's true for the rest of the actors as well...Elliot aims for gritty social realism, but too often lands in sensationalism." Full Review

New York Theater

"Rosenfeld chooses to dramatize this actual event indirectly...The result feels like a missed opportunity...Largely a disappointment—undercooked in the first half, then overheated at the end. Still, Rosenfeld’s script does offer some precisely observed character and period details...The seven-member cast includes several compelling performances, especially that by Chloë Sevigny...Sevigny gives a nuanced performance as a loving and neglectful mother." Full Review


"Sevigny plays a sexy-hippie drug addict like a pro in Rosenfeld’s unfocused new play. But she also gracefully shows us the better side of her character...Rosenfeld can’t seem to focus his attention on a central character — and director Elliott can’t seem to do anything about that...Mary is such a compelling character that Rosenfeld is forced to confine her to her room and have her shoot up and nod off in order to concentrate on the other players in his muddled story." Full Review


“This overheated melodrama which goes on a bit too long takes on many important themes (racial hatred, drug addiction, petty crime, sexual identity, financial insecurity, etc.) without making any pertinent point about any of them. While the dialogue and the milieu are gritty, ‘Downtown Race Riot’ recycles a great many stereotypes and clichés.” Full Review

The Wrap

"Rosenfeld spends more exposition on the negotiations for this violent confab in the park than the Allies needed to invade Normandy...It would be easy to credit Sevigny with single-handedly slapping an otherwise flaccid drama into shape. But Rosenfeld’s writing for her mother character is simply sharper than it is for the others...It’s doubtful from all his riot angst that Rosenfeld would agree, but these kids show every sign of surviving a terrible, though fascinating mother." Full Review


"The real story here is that the young actors surrounding Sevigny are terrific. Yes their roles are for the most part painfully clichéd, but they act the hell out of them...All of these good things cannot occlude the deficiencies in the play itself...Little that was placed in our face was in the service of much. It's disappointing. There could have been a lot more here than we got to see, and this is particularly unfortunate since the production is blessed with great acting and astute directi... Full Review

Theater Life

"Rosenfeld’s new play dredges up the depravity of New York City during its bankrupt years...Sevigny delivers an understated portrayal of a junkie, and the mother of two teenage children...As directed by Scott Elliott, the ongoing life is pretty crummy, surrounded by race riots, gangs, and violence – most of which we’re spared from watching. It’s the effect of it all that we experience...Still, in spite of poverty, illness and addiction, Rosenfeld’s drama offers a flicker of hope." Full Review

Times Square Chronicles

"Tepid despite its starry and talented cast...Nothing about this show is really action packed. Yes, we get sex; nudity, drug use and a fight that is a little scary due to the proximity of the stage and seats, but nothing that begs 'watch me'...Scott Elliott’s direction is well done for the space, but when your text is so mundane instead of biting into the subject, how much can you do?" Full Review

Wolf Entertainment Guide

"The only thing functional, apart from the acting quality, in this dull look at a dysfunctional family and equally screwed up friends is the apartment set...We don’t actually get to see the riot, which at least would enliven the play...The focus is primarily on the mostly uninteresting characters...For all of the sincere strivings of the fine cast members, the play doesn’t pack the strength needed to keep an audience in its grip. It rambles along for 90 minutes." Full Review

The New York Times

"About as likely to raise your blood pressure as a homeopathic sleeping pill...You are likely to have felt your eyelids getting heavier and heavier...The action seems to be occurring at a hazy remove, as if it were operating according to sense memory...Sevigny exudes an air of defensive detachment...But it’s not always easy to tell how much her affectless mien is an acting choice and how much it comes from being infected by the somnolent rhythms of a leaden script." Full Review


“Despite its provocative title, and despite a game effort by director Elliot’s ensemble cast, Rosenfeld’s fact-inspired drama ‘Downtown Race Riot ‘ is a bit of a bore...There's a full-out brawl in the apartment involving almost everyone, during which Sevigny gingerly taps someone on the head with a break-away bottle, causing it to shatter. Given the cliched characters and flat dialogue, that was pretty much the dramatic highlight.” Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

"Surprisingly there’s no real exploration of the forces that would motivate the young men to wild out in such a way. While Rosenfeld sets up a gripping dilemma for Jimmy he loosens that grip with a lot of side conversations and subplots...Elliott’s direction and McLane’s shallow set also dribble away the dramatic tension...There’s a smart and moving play lurking somewhere inside 'Downtown Race Riot' but this version feels like an early draft, with its tone and focus still unclarified." Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

"If you are going to push the envelope in theater, you really ought to make sure there is enough inside that envelope that makes it worth pushing...Despite the subject matter, the play fails to build in much tension or suspense...More of a sketch than a fully-realized dramatic work, and it is nearly lost in the plot threads that take us, maze-like, into too many starts and stops that lead nowhere...Nothing is developed adequately enough to hold our interest." Full Review

Theatre Reviews Limited

“The play lacks logos, pathos, and ethos and is completely devoid of catharsis. It is difficult to care about any of the characters or their hackneyed conflicts that drive drab, uninteresting plot lines...Under Elliott’s direction, the talented cast struggles to make sense of Rosenfeld’s script...Failing to address any meaningful discussion about systemic racism or any significant conversation about the 1970s race riots, ‘Downtown Race Riot’ remains a puzzling foray into the realm of the absu... Full Review

Great acting, Intelligent, Relevant

See it if you are interested in the intricacies between race, friendship and social pressure

Don't see it if you need a night of light entertainment

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

See it if You like character dramas tinged with comedy, enjoy seeing aspects of love and loyalty, like to see different aspects of “family” portrayed

Don't see it if You are not interested in race relations, are not open to the various struggles of the underclass, don’t care for ensemble theater

Also This was an unusual staging setup based on the many plays I’ve seen in... Read more Read less

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

See it if you like riveting drama about a dysfunctional family and a young man facing a difficult choice.

Don't see it if you would rather watch a musical or something light.

Also A thoroughly engrossing and intense drama set in the 60s Greenwich Vil... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Edgy, Great writing, Great acting, Great staging

See it if you like disturbing plays that capture what separates and unites us.

Don't see it if you prefer not to be challenged at the theater.

Ambitious, Great acting, Relevant, Intense, Slow

See it if you're interested in a piece that doesn't romanticize the "gritty" days of New York.

Don't see it if you have a short attention span.

Ambitious, Entertaining, Edgy, Refreshing, Riveting

See it if although imperfect, i was captivated throughout by this intimate and ambitious show. (and chloe sevigny did not disappoint!)

Don't see it if the fight choreography could've been tighter, but it was in previews...

Edgy, Great acting, Absorbing, Underrated

See it if Sevigny's brand of passive aggression is on full display is this druggy '70s dysfunctional family. Elliott's direction is superb. O'Neill?

Don't see it if Rather odd set too large for space. Casual nonchalant drug addiction by Mother Chloe. Brief unrealisticlly threatening violence at the end.

Edgy, Intense

See it if Your a fan of Chloe Sevigny and willing to sit through a rough and tumble play. Reminded me of Eugene O'Neil in some ways.

Don't see it if A raw play with hostile characters is a turn off and a very hard sit through.

Absorbing, Great acting, Edgy, Resonant, Intelligent

See it if or a loved one has a problem with recreational drugs, or have the courage to look at a broken family unit under pressure.

Don't see it if only like to see plays that tell stories that can only be told in the theater: this is gripping TV drama done live, very live!

Great acting, Edgy, Intense

See it if if you like a gritty in your face drama,then you will enjoy this play.Acting was superior and quite believable.A very good production.

Don't see it if if you don't like plays about problems with drugs and somewhat questionable life styles.Problems abound in this play.

Better than the rewiews on here suggest

See it if You want to see a gritty drama with a great set and very believable characters

Don't see it if You are looking for something light

Also I am learning a lot about my self and what I like. This is not a perfe... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Fast-paced, Character-driven

See it if you're more interested in character-driven plays than an elaborate plot. The play moved along quickly and had some great moments.

Don't see it if you're looking for a gripping story. The focus is more on the family dynamics between a junkie mother and her two kids.

Great acting, Great staging, Profound, Upsetting

See it if you want to see a show about hoodlum kids living in 1970's Greenwich Village and the effect their actions take on their friendship & family.

Don't see it if you don't like violent plays about misguided youth and friendship trying to survive in a hostile world of the 1970's.

Intense, Underrated, The stage is too wide!

See it if You want to watch an intense mood brought on by complex teen social codes

Don't see it if I see the criticisms but I thoroughly enjoyed watching this one

Great staging, Slow, Intense

See it if you love Chloe Sevigny! And you go for anything that recreates the 70s. It's both slow and intense, but satisfying in the end.

Don't see it if you only go for stellar writing and perfect acting. This is "good enough" but not a must-see.

Also I am a fan of Chloe so wouldn't have missed this chance to see her per... Read more Read less

Dizzying, Edgy, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Resonant

See it if you really like Chloe Sevigny and just have to see her on stage.

Don't see it if you don't want to see a family drama pretending to be a political story.

Funny, Intense, Thought-provoking, Relevant

See it if you like edgy, reality based theater. This is an examination of tribal relations in modern life with a number of twists

Don't see it if you don't like "actors studio' plays. That is plays with an edge: gun shots sex and drugs. Or, you want the playwright to commit to an end.

Also The play is compelling on many levels, yet if falls short. While the e... Read more Read less

Ambitious, Disappointing, Edgy, Slow, Dated

See it if You want to love and hate a show at the same time. It explores relevant topics, but only superficially. It aims to shock, but doesn’t.

Don't see it if You want a payoff at the end of the show. Everything felt kind of weighted down—like even the actors were kind of bored.

Clowns downtown

See it if Fun to view the new batch of talent. Five young actors in showcase roles. Sevigny is somehow a draw, more for her name than actual talent.

Don't see it if Must be in center section. Sides are a tough view.

Also Scott is cute and sexy. Josh Pais turns in another excellent performan... Read more Read less

Disappointing, Slow, Raunchy

See it if you are a huge fan of Chloe Sevigny, but be prepared to be a little disappointed. This play doesn't give her much to do.

Don't see it if you prefer your dramas with coherent plots.

Cliched, Ambitious, Silly

See it if u enjoy young attractive actors romping on a well-conceived set in period attire and if u're a fan of Miss Sevigny in a sort of "Kids" redux

Don't see it if you're a fan of Miss Sevigny, who mumbles quite a bit here, and if you don't mind a silly plot about racism, drugs, and self-involvement.

Disappointing, Raunchy, Actually raunchy is a bit harsh, but there is nudity and a dry-hump on a couch. shock value only, Slow, Golden globe winning actress chloe sevigny is good but much of the play she is left in a side bedroom watching tv -wtf??

See it if There's RIOT going on in midtown at the Signature, but it's long slog down the sidewalk to 10th av, then a long slog till the aforesaid riot

Don't see it if If you aren't a BIG fan of Chloe Sevigny or bare-chested boys, then skip it. Seems like a Sam Shepherd wannabe wrote it, no cigar. Great set

Also One thing I would like to add it that THE SET by Derek McClane is an a... Read more Read less

Great acting, Disappointing, Pointless

See it if You like Chloe Sevigney, enjoy small ensembles grappling with dysfunctional parenting and addiction issues

Don't see it if Strong, historically accurate plots and dialogue are important to you. And don’t see it if frequent cigarette smoking would be a challenge

Disappointing, Overrated, Slow, Banal, Unfulfilling

See it if you're a Chloe Sevigny fan, want to see a good perf by a young actor, David Levi, like new plays, interested in NYC 1970's history & fights

Don't see it if you don't like lengthy periods of non-action or depictions of drug use and sex or plenty of unresolved issues,

Also The detail of the set is magnificent, but if you are seated upstairs o... Read more Read less

Well acted, Absorbing, Somewhat confusing, Disappointing, Racial issues

See it if you want a play based on recent [1970s] New York history. Issues relevant then are still the topics of discussion today.

Don't see it if you want a play with issues presented clearly. The characters were hard to relate to.

Cast & Creatives (14)