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The Emperor Jones

From 94 member  reviews
Members say: Great acting, Great staging, Intense, Absorbing, Thought-provoking

About the show

Irish Repertory Theatre revives Eugene O’Neill’s groundbreaking play about the rise and fall of Brutus Jones, a despot who ascends the throne using lies, intimidation, and the politics of fear. More…

After breaking out of prison in the U.S., Jones sets himself up as monarch of a Caribbean island. When the Natives rebel after years of exploitation, Jones' journey into darkness becomes a terrifying psychological portrayal of power, fear, and madness. With his demons in heavy pursuit, the Emperor is forced to confront not only the mortal sins of his past but also the depravities against his ancestors—all in search of forgiveness and salvation. Irish Rep last mounted this classic but controversial play in 2009. This production features the same director and designers but a new cast.

Member Reviews (94)


Great acting, Great staging, Intense, Absorbing, Thought-provoking
Avg Score

Edgy, Intense, Thought-provoking, Experimental, Well acted

See it if you like O'Neill's character studies. Obili is great as TEJ. The highly creative staging is fascinating, altho the story line gets weird.

Don't see it if you dislike fantasy staging. I preferred the first half's realism. Frequent use of "n" word feels wrong. But despot dethroned resonates!

Absorbing, Edgy, Intense, Thought-provoking, Profound

See it if Haunting, visceral staging of the emperor's demise using menacing life-sized puppets as the ghosts. Beliefs, power, and magic rule.

Don't see it if You prefer material that is easier to understand and analyze. You don't like artistic hallucinatory dance scenes.

Also Great acting, lighting and sound. This 70 min work of art made a big i... Read more Read less

Great acting, Great staging, Intense, Dated, Absorbing

See it if Raw, early O'Neill still has the power to shock & this production proves it Great staging & Abili's exceptional work as Brutus packs a punch

Don't see it if Dated colonial practices & harsh racial language & stereotypes jolt & often mar effective enjoyment (?) but expressionistic treatment works

Absorbing, Clever, Great staging, Riveting, Intense

See it if a magnificently staged classic appeals to you. Puppets, lighting & music create a magical jungle world in which truth becomes justice.

Don't see it if you are looking for complex characters or plot.

Ambitious, Absorbing, Clever

See it if you enjoy great theater, wonderful set and lighting and effective use of puppets.

Don't see it if you enjoy comedy or a happy ending.

Inventive, Absorbing, Great acting, Great staging, Intense

See it if you're interested in an atypical play by O'Neill and witnessing a man's descent into madness. Great acting by Obi Abili, great direction.

Don't see it if you're looking for a whimsical night of theater; you dislike experimental theater and/or the use of masks and puppetry.

Beautiful staging, Creative direction, Dated, Good acting

See it if You want to see an innovative, experimental take on a classic play, you have some knowledge of O'Neill and its controversial story.

Don't see it if You have trouble understanding accents and patois, are uncomfortable w subject matter, don't like the use of puppets/dance, want light fare.

Also Historically, I have never liked this play, but chose to see it becaus... Read more Read less

Great staging, Great acting, Edgy, Masterful, Thought-provoking

See it if you like O'Neill. Obi Abili is amazing as a tyrant who falls from grace through a roller coaster of emotions, including anger and pride.

Don't see it if you need someone to explain the action to you if a play is not clearly laid out beginning to end; are bothered by racist terms

Also It is best to just go to see this version of Emperor Jones, and enjoy ... Read more Read less

Thought-provoking, Enchanting, Unusual

See it if You are in the mood for a different kind of O'Neil play. It won't be your favorite, but you will be glad you saw it.

Don't see it if You don't like amazing costumes, tribal drumming, and unusual choreography with symbolic meaning.

Great acting, Great sound design, Great lighting, Intense

See it if you want to see an expressionist adaptation of the play. Sound design & lighting are a triumph and evoke the right mood. Obi Alibi is great.

Don't see it if creepy puppets and masked characters bother you, you're looking for a play with more realism

Absorbing, Great acting, Great staging, Intense, Riveting

See it if an expressionist play about an emperor who flees through a terrifying jungle populated by equally terrifying puppets

Don't see it if you don't like puppets, dark dramas or would be offended by black speech that we would now consider racist

Also Mr. Obili's performance was amazing. The first scenes were a little sl... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Intelligent, Profound, Great acting

See it if Excellent production, well acted and staged. A quick 65 intense minutes!

Don't see it if You only like musicals and light drama.

Absorbing, Great acting, Great staging, Masterful, Enchanting

See it if you enjoy classic theater brought to life with amazingly powerful dance and puppetry. Highly entertaining.

Don't see it if you do not like intense theatrical performances of classic plays.

Great acting, Ambitious

See it if if you want to see great acting and an important story.

Don't see it if you want to spend 70 minutes of meaningful theatre without unnecessary native dancing

Absorbing, Great acting, Great staging, Masterful, Riveting

See it if you're willing to be swept away by astounding visual representations.

Don't see it if you prefer straight story-telling without abstract symbolism.

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

See it if You like an absorbing play that uses puppetry and dance to explore the subconscious of a black dictator. Obi Abili is remarkable.

Don't see it if You don't like dark plays that are dated in their language and racism.

Great acting, Masterful, Riveting, Thought provoking

See it if you want to see an O'Neill play not about his dysfunctional family but about a mad dictator destroyed by the very people he despises.

Don't see it if you don't feel a 75 minute play with puppets and supernatural overtones is for you even though it is a classic O'Neill play from 1920.

Dated, Great acting, Intense, Slow, Riveting

See it if you like Conrad's "Heart of Darkness", Expressionist drama, and want to see Man stripped of Civilization literally and metaphorically.

Don't see it if Explorations of race, puppets, or jungle anguish won't hold your interest. Also, this is a 70 minute one act.

Also Not my favorite O'Neill, but an interestingly-staged, powerfully acted... Read more Read less

Great acting, Great staging, Intense, Creative, Great puppetry

See it if Intensely clever and creative theater with brilliant use of puppetry, dance and costuming, superbly acted by Obi Abili.

Don't see it if Do not enjoy heavy drama.

Great acting, Great staging, Great writing, Intelligent, Ambitious

See it if Brilliant production of expressionist play about power,corruption,madness of a brutal black dictator in West Indies island great Obi Abilli

Don't see it if You don't like psychological plays drawing out perception and subconscious through puppetry and dance

Entertaining, Great staging, Relevant, Ambitious

See it if You're a fan of O'Neill's work because I feel like this play isn't as often produced. The puppet elements were nice and effective.

Don't see it if You're offended by the use of the n-word or you're looking for a mindless 65 mins (although it felt slightly long).

Great acting, Great staging, Great writing, Relevant

See it if you love O'Neill. This play remains so relevant "Ain't I the emperor - the laws don't go for him". The lead Obi Abili was brilliant.

Don't see it if racial dialect caricature makes you cringe.

Riveting, Intense

See it if you like high drama. Great acting, choreography and sound. My only gripe is it was a bit hard to understand actors because of accents.

Don't see it if you want a light and airy evening.

Inventive, Relevant, Resonant, Absorbing, Thought-provoking

See it if you enjoy see the full scope of a playwright's work and/or like the use puppetry. Themes in this century old play are still fresh today.

Don't see it if expressionistic plays leave you cold. This is an important O'Neill play that's well done but not his best.

Great acting, Great staging, Riveting, Thought-provoking, Intense

See it if you want to see a brilliant, creative production of a rarely performed Eugene O'Neill play, featuring dazzling Obi Abili in the title role.

Don't see it if you are unable to listen to politically incorrect language and/or you only like lightweight fare.

Also We are incredibly blessed to have two extraordinary productions of two... Read more Read less

March 24th, 2017
"A gorgeous, astonishing production...Both ferocious and blindsidingly affecting with Abili in the title role...'The Emperor Jones' is encrusted by its own time, with dialect that reads like racial caricature and sometimes cringe-worthy stage directions...O’Reilly’s lucid fever dream of a product...
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April 8th, 2017
“Abili’s bravura performance doesn’t come off as ‘bravura’ and has no cheap flourishes...O’Neill was considerably influenced by the argument made by the legendary stage designer Gordon Craig, in his book ‘The Theatre Advancing,’ that, in doing away with masks, pantomime, and dance, the theatre ha...
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March 12th, 2017
“A nightmarish and hauntingly beautiful production...A breathtaking experience for the senses...Barry McNabb's masterful choreography is mesmerizing...But it's Abili's performance that gives this production its raw power...Abili's performance and O'Reilly's production make clear that Brutus Jones...
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March 28th, 2017
"Worth seeing for its assured style alone...Obi Abili delivers a performance that isn't easily shaken off...Despite the outsized emotions he must register, there's a precision to everything Abili does, a variety of shadings that reveal each scene to be another step in Jones' descent into madness ...
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