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“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.” Full Review
"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." Full Review
"Abili fills the stage with ample physical and vocal force although his words, written in heavy 'Negro' dialect, are sometimes muffled. At one point he whips his throne platform with one muscular blow after another, such that you shudder at the thought of what the effect would be on a human back...I missed John Douglas Thompson's performance so I can't compare him to Abili but, for now, Abili has set the high standard I'll remember the next time someone tackles 'The Emperor Jones.'" Full Review
"It’s a play that every O’Neill fan should see, and one could do worse than choosing The Irish Rep’s current production that offers plenty of compelling visuals, and a mostly powerful performance by its lead...Jones is a challenging role for any actor and Abili does bring the heat and the intensity if not an extreme emotional range...If he is lacking chemistry at the opening, he has found the proper equation by his final scene." Full Review
"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." Full Review
“Prepare to be immersed in the vengeful actions of a spirit world made lucid by a sensational production of ‘The Emperor Jones’…The symbiotic creatives at Irish Rep, under the adroit helm of Director Ciaran O’Reilly, offer a visually and audibly inventive, palpably menacing, magical scenario. O’Reilly, proven skillful with both naturalism and musicals is also apparently superb with the inconceivable. Concept and coordination are as outstanding as his lead’s performance.” Full Review
“With Brutus the sole character for much of the show, success relies on Obi Abili’s excellent performance as the tormented ruler. Directed by Ciaran O’Reilly, Abili captivates with the powerful way he captures Brutus’s descent. Some of the surrounding material becomes somewhat repetitive...But Abili maintains the strength of the story line through his powerful portrayal of a man falling from power, life, and himself." Full Review
"An expressionistic masterpiece. Under the boldly inventive eye of director O’Reilly, O’Neill’s controversial 1920 play thumps and swirls itself deeper and deeper and with increasing wonder into the fissured psyche of its title character...Even with stellar acting and directing, the elements that lift this production to its greatest heights come from its technical team...The expedition pays off handsomely, as this production captures all that makes O’Neill’s play powerful and haunting." Full Review
"The takeaway from the show is usually the tour de force of the eponymous role. But while Abili brings gravitas and intensity to his role, his performance is not the main event. The play itself is, and that’s how it should be...Director Ciarán O’Reilly, with the help of choreographer Barry McNabb, has put together a dark, precise and unforgettable production...Jones never makes it out of the forest—and neither does the audience. The production is precise, terrifying and truly haunting." Full Review
"Arrogance leads to the Emperor Jones' downfall. The last night of his reign unfolds in the Irish Repertory Theatre's riveting production, directed by Ciarán O’Reilly, with Obi Alibi’s hypnotic performance of the title role...It’s painful to watch, but hard not to. What is surprising about a 1920 play that won its author his second Pulitzer Prize is that it chronicles one man‘s descent into madness. O’Neill does not regard humanity or tyranny in black and white." Full Review
“A powerful early play by Eugene O’Neill, made even more powerful by its flawless production at the Irish Repertory Theatre…All the wit, energy and anger the character claims for himself is dramatized by Abili in slithering, jolting gestures and subtle and roaring twists of language…Director Ciaran O'Reilly treats the real and the unreal with the same even hand, which makes the downward spiral of the Emperor all the more powerful.” Full Review
“It’s hard to deny the sheer power of the play, which is both uncomfortable to watch and utterly captivating in this intense and intimate production…Abili fully embodies the role, his fear palpable…Murray makes Smithers a fine foil for Jones…Everyone involved deserves kudos…It might have been written nearly a century ago, but 'The 'Emperor Jones' can still shock, providing no easy outs, particularly in this poignant version that bookends the Obama years.” Full Review
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
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
See it if powerful, mesmerizing experience that is totally relevant to the world today
Don't see it if you need a lot of plot, get offended by racial denigration, get bored with stage theatrics
See it if it is for the creativeness of the choreography and staging
Don't see it if Dialogue is yelled which is difficult to understand; the topic is still relevant, but play's strength diminishes.
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.
See it if you're interested in an expressionistic O'Neill play with good staging, acting, choreography.
Don't see it if you think your memories of this production, also by the Irish Rep, starring John Douglas Thompson could interfere with your enjoyment.
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.
See it if Great puppets. Loved the dances. Irish Rep is a great place to see a production
Don't see it if My problem is that I compared it to one of my all time hero actors John Douglas Thomson who was superb in the same show at the same site .
See it if you want to see an O'Neill play which hasn't lost it's relevance to today. You don't have to sit in the balcony,
Don't see it if you have trouble following black patois and English lower class accents; you prefer drama without a lot of hidden under/over tones.
See it if For the "special effects" Brilliant use of props, costumes, puppets, etc. One of the most mesmerizing dance performances ever.
Don't see it if I find this story and the dialogue on the thin side. Lead was very good but maybe needed a more original take on the role.
See it if you're an O'Neill fan, enjoy creative, clever staging using sound, masks, puppetry, and dance to create an intense, frightening experience
Don't see it if you don't like early O'Neill, "spectacle" theater, a plot focusing on a single character's descent in madness in an obvious plot trajectory
See it if The staging and lighting - along with the no-holds-barred expressionistic acting of the lead - manage to override the disappointing script
Don't see it if You are looking for a coherent and resonant script - this is purely an experimental script, a piece of expressionistic theater.