The Emperor Jones
Closed 1h 10m
The Emperor Jones

The Emperor Jones NYC Reviews and Tickets

(94 Ratings)
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.

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Show-Score Member Reviews (94)

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50 Reviews | 20 Followers
Absorbing, Great acting, Great writing, Intense, Resonant

See it if Masterful performance in a play whose subject resonates in the current political environment.

Don't see it if You're looking for light and fluffy subject matter.

179 Reviews | 29 Followers
Exquisite, Great acting, Great staging, Great writing, Great choregraphy

See it if Unique interpretation/performance of O’Neill play. Kudos to the team! Abili gave a brilliant performance.

Don't see it if You do not like O'Neill' work, or you do not like modern art, including modern theater.

55 Reviews | 6 Followers
Absorbing, Masterful, Intense, Resonant, Thought-provoking

See it if You want to see great acting and excellent staging

Don't see it if You don't want to see a play that resonates with the political climate we are in now

775 Reviews | 246 Followers
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. Read more

254 Reviews | 86 Followers
More than keeps up

See it if You can avoid balcony. Virtual one man show w inventive masks and puppetry. Funny despite grim plot. Second production by dir likely better.

Don't see it if Saddled w balcony. If 70 min show too little entertainment value. Read more

414 Reviews | 70 Followers
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 Read more

56 Reviews | 14 Followers
I don't like o'neill, but this should be seen

See it if The Acting of Obi Abill must be seen, studied, and if you're an Actor steal everything he does if you can. Top ratings to the production too

Don't see it if you expect to understand every word...they use dialect which is sometimes not clear, and partially the fault of O'Neill's scripted words. Read more

261 Reviews | 70 Followers
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

Critic Reviews (25)

The New York Times
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 production shrugs off that grime, putting at its center a performance of such assured intelligence that there’s no possibility of condescension. Boundary-pushing in its day, the play still has plenty to say."
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New Yorker
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 had lost its magic. O’Reilly throws all of that back in. The result is mostly cumbersome and ‘artisanal,’ but, in the end, this unconvincing backdrop serves to show us Abili’s performance in relief."
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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 is one of the great tragic figures of the theater...The racial and political anxieties that 'The Emperor Jones' explores are ripe for renewed discussion in our time.”
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Lighting & Sound America
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 and death...O'Neill's script is a weaponized comment on human cruelty, designed to make audiences feel uncomfortable, and, produced with passion and creativity as it is here, it continues to do so."
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Talkin' Broadway
March 13th, 2017

"Remains shockingly powerful and relevant in its methods of addressing its ancient ideas. All of this is on full view, too, in O'Reilly's arresting production...A journey that first feels like a leisurely stroll soon transforms into a heart-pounding marathon...The cast is no less than expert. But in embracing both Jones's humanity and total lack of it, Abili is truly superb...This version of 'The Emperor Jones' knows exactly what it is and what it needs to be. And we are all the richer for it."
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March 12th, 2017

"Still breathtakingly original...It's hard to top Thompson's riveting performance...Obi Abili hasn't mastered the brutish Jones's dialect with quite the same crystal clear line delivery. However, his more physically focused interpretation is quite extraordinary and works well with this expressionistic presentation...The amazing puppets and the actors who inhabit them, as well as the costumes, atmospheric music and lighting are what makes this 'Emperor Jones' so special."
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March 28th, 2017

"With Charlie Corcoran's flexible set turning the tiny stage of the Irish Rep into a looming tropical forest, and the smartly realized costumes of Antonia Ford-Roberts and Whitney Locher, and Bob Flanagan's masks and puppets transforming a cast of seven into a multitude of trees, ghostly presences and spirits, the five hundred or so square feet of this stage on West 22nd Street became a vividly haunted island in the West Indies, giving life to O'Neill's 1920 drama."
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Theater Pizzazz
April 9th, 2017

"What drives this highly expressionistic production is the charismatic Obi Abili as Emperor Jones, giving one of the most exciting performances on the New York stage this season...Abili has a commanding stage presence that keeps you utterly riveted throughout. He fills the tiny Irish Repertory Theatre with his explosive power...Director O’Reilly and his design team have dramatized Emperor Jones’ journey in powerful theatrical terms."
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