Closed 2h 15m
Familiar
Midtown W
87

Familiar NYC Reviews and Tickets

87%
(119 Reviews)
Positive
96%
Mixed
4%
Negative
0%
Members say
Great acting, Absorbing, Funny, Great writing, Entertaining

About the Show

Playwrights Horizons presents an exploration of old and new world customs, as a Zimbabwean family prepares for the wedding of their eldest daughter in the Midwest, and clashes erupt over tradition and ritual.

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Member Reviews (119)

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87
Great writing, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Entertaining, Absorbing

See it if You like shows that help you learn about other cultures and see things you thought you understood from a different angle.

Don't see it if You're not interested in seeing any kind of multi cultural family.

100
Great writing, Hilarious, Masterful, Original, Must see

See it if One of the best written and pridcuyed plays I've ever seen. The cast was awesome.

Don't see it if Run, don't walk to the theater.

Critic Reviews (41)

March 3rd, 2016

"By the end of this engrossing comedy-drama, deep fissures within the family have been exposed, fresh wounds are rubbed raw and long-buried secrets are unearthed...Ms. Gurira weaves issues of cultural identity and displacement, generational frictions and other meaty matters into dialogue that flows utterly naturally. Her engaging characters are drawn with sympathy and, under the crisp direction of Rebecca Taichman, 'Familiar' stays firmly on course even as the complications pile up."
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March 3rd, 2016

"With the stage thus set for maximum culture clash, Gurira lets her characters loose. Do things get crazy or messy? Yes and thank goodness....A less committed cast or a director lacking Rebecca Taichman’s wit and verve might have let 'Familiar' descend into ethnic-sitcom territory or suffered whiplash from the second-act dance between rom-com and identity crisis. But the piece works, throwing red meat to an excellent cast and offering plenty of emotional hooks for the audience."
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March 3rd, 2016

"'Familiar' tries so hard to domesticate its characters with the recognizable rhythms of punch-line dialogue, while at the same time addressing very large issues of assimilation and repatriation, that it winds up doing neither very well, even as it remains improbable throughout...For all its worthy questions, its frequent big laughs, and a few good performances, this is a play that leaves you feeling, in more ways than one, unsure where to look."
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March 14th, 2016

"Fantastically well-realized...I’m sure that Gurira knew that her story risked falling into cliché unless she did what she so brilliantly does here: stay within the reality of the characters and their voices...Gurira has a nearly unerring ear for how to make popular theatre without compromising authenticity...Gurira, like her director, has an incredible sense of comedy and how it plays against pathos. But Tippett takes it to another level; he is one of the best actors I’ve seen in ages."
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March 3rd, 2016

"The uneven play is stronger on amusing setup than turbulent follow-through, its second-act dramatic turn relying on forced revelations. But the characters and performances keep you glued through to the moving conclusion...All this often hovers with a wink on the edge of sitcom...Gurira draws the fractured family back together and has them reaffirm their roots in an affecting final scene that helps to minimize the structural bumps that precede it."
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March 3rd, 2016

"Although Rebecca Taichman has directed her superb ensemble cast to find the humor in these all-too-human disputes, the darker aspects of their conflicting values are clear enough, too...Sorry to say, the warm feelings generated by this open-hearted play turn cold in the second act. Seemingly unsure of where to go with all the plot possibilities she raises, Gurira makes the worst possible choice of darkening the narrative by revealing unbelievable and out-of-character family secrets."
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March 10th, 2016

"Given the potential of its subject matter, it saddens me to report that 'Familiar' is so familiar...Ms. Gurira has rehashed all the clichés of this well-worn genre as if they hadn’t long since been worn out...I expected much better from the author of 'Eclipsed' than a play whose fundamentally serious plot is smothered in lazy sitcom-style jokes and heavy-handed, creakily didactic dialogue. Fine though the 8-person cast is, the talented actors can’t bring 'Familiar' to life other than fitfully."
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March 3rd, 2016

“'Familiar' has a well-worn plot...But the family — inspired by Gurira’s own — is Zimbabwean-American and the playwright’s good ear for dialogue helps make this a sharp look at assimilation...Gurira sets up some expectations — that the white groom will be a problem, for instance — only to smartly deflate them, and the show barrels through at high comic velocity. Even the sentimental ending can’t spoil it."
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March 3rd, 2016

"The play’s first half is dominated by laughs — some too easy — sparked by culture clashes. But after a big reveal things get serious — and a bit too pointed to be persuasive...The play’s mood swings are extreme enough to merit a Zoloft prescription. And the dialogue can get too clever for its own good...Still, director Rebecca Tachman skillfully guides the fine-tuned ensemble through the various curves, highs and lows. Like family, 'Familiar' is messy and resilient."
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March 3rd, 2016

"It's a good old-fashioned comedy, set during the run-up to a wedding, featuring mistaken identity and last-minute plot twists. It's tremendously enjoyable, drawing us into the characters and their stories...Gurira knows how to spin a good yarn, however, so we accept this lack of brevity, as we do with Shakespeare's best comedies. Director Rebecca Taichman's production is commensurately thorough...The most heartwarming new comedy of the season."
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March 4th, 2016

"With the combination of Gurira's well-drawn and interesting characters and director Rebecca Taichman's sterling production, which flows ever-so-smoothly from funny to charming to grippingly emotional, 'Familiar' feels rather fresh...The comical spirit of the first act gradually gives way to serious matters of self-discovery in the second half after the revealing of a family secret...There's a lovely warmth and sweetness about 'Familiar', and engaging balance of humor, social politics and love."
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March 3rd, 2016

"A warm and often hilarious family comedy with a number of serious ideas on its mind. Even when it starts to get a little top-heavy with subplots, it remains an engaging work filled with characters we rarely see on our stages...Gurira has so much going on narratively that she struggles to keep track of it all. But director Taichman proves remarkably skillful at keeping all the narrative balls in the air, and she has the help of a very fine cast."
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March 3rd, 2016

"Under the direction of Rebecca Taichman, this all moves with a lively fluidity, the serious issues underlying the rather frivolous plot emerging gently...In Act II, Gurira all but abandons the creative understatement that defines the first act...She transforms a lovely, sincere piece about the long-lasting difficulties of assimilation into one that is rustily mechanical and stunningly emotionally false."
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March 9th, 2016

"Danai Gurira’s 'Familiar' is nothing short of remarkable with its witty and interesting characters, family drama, emotional moments, and thought-provoking nature...It is apparent that this family has an intense dynamic as personalities clash over everything from life choices, to values, to honoring traditions, and it only becomes fierier as the play develops...An explosive masterpiece, Familiar will keep audiences entertained, enthralled and pondering the power of culture in modern society."
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March 5th, 2016

"There’s a lot going on in Danai Gurira’s new play, 'Familiar'. So much so that it’s initially very hard to figure out where this thing might be going...Her power lies in her ability to elucidate the complexities and intricacies of culture clashes with strong dialog and complex characters...It will very likely bring new audiences to the theater for these very important plays, and offer them an uncommon, novel and re-animating experience."
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March 3rd, 2016

"Though not flawless, it's fun, funny and often moving. The current cast and design team make for a Class-A theatrical experience, though it would be even more so with a bit of additional fine turning...The playwright has peppered her script with lots of smart dialogue and generally proves herself to be adept at humor as tragedy...The risky switch from mostly comic scenes to big and more serious revelations is accomplished quite effectively...The actors all inhabit their roles convincingly."
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March 29th, 2016

"'Familiar' is not a perfect play. It is uneven and rangy. The position of a central character appears to change from moment to moment. There are more plots than you can shake a stick at. Still, through all of that there comes a clarion call. These people are us and we are them...Gurira’s specificity is so refined that ultimately this story reaches across barriers of race and clutches us…We are more familiar to one another than we know. It is this vantage point from which Gurira writes."
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March 5th, 2016

"It’s a smart, oft-profound work that leaves one with more questions than answers, but it’s a welcome breath of fresh air as well...For as much as its premise might touch on genre conventions that make it sound like 'My Big Fat Zimbabwean Wedding', there’s much more to 'Familiar' than that; from its elaborate tableaux depicting upper middle class, to its sensitive, but transgressive takes on race and immigration, it’s a play that serves food for the soul and thought alike."
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March 16th, 2016

"There’s a lot stuffed into the play, perhaps too much...This kind of very conventional, very realist play doesn’t generally appeal to me...At the same time, it’s often extremely funny, with the sharp humor that comes from keen character observation. It’s genuinely emotionally affecting. And, it adds something new to a familiar conversation by the simple act of repurposing the formula to showcase the stories of an African immigrant family."
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March 3rd, 2016

"Laughter, tears, anger, and misunderstandings are the components...So are the ultimate revelations of long-kept secrets...These latter, in fact, turn the play too sharply in the direction of melodrama, and, while appealing in the way hidden facts about characters we care about always are, nonetheless smack too strongly of dramatic contrivance...Also familiar is the thematic issue of assimilation..But Ms. Gurira deploys these elements with...masterful skill."
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March 3rd, 2016

"Funny, insightful play about a Zimbabwe family living in Minnesota...Gurira’s perceptions go far deeper. Her unfolding of the family dynamics feels like genuine insight, and it is not limited to the issues facing immigrants...Not every moment works in 'Familiar'...But on the whole, as directed by Rebecca Taichman with a uniformly able cast, 'Familiar' presents the story of these specific immigrants as a familiar stew flavored with some sharp and special spices."
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March 4th, 2016

"The cast lead by Ms. Tunie, is excellent. Each shines in their own way...The direction by Rebecca Taichman, is flawless...'Familiar' is one of the best plays of the year. It is touching, heartfelt, deals with displacement, cultural identity, loss, the struggle between a mother and her daughter, the feeling of not being good enough, longing for what is past, war, poverty and human connection. In the end we connect with these very human characters and relate...A must see."
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March 4th, 2016

"Danai Gurira’s often absorbing, uneven 'Familiar' is a story about Americans, about immigrants, about assimilation and its discontents...Gurira clearly shares some of Tendi’s emotions and under Rebecca Taichman’s direction, these elements of the play are finely wrought and personal. Elsewhere the tone is patchier, as is the acting, which shifts between naturalism and comic caricature...Even in its inconsistencies, it suggests that she is a playwright to honor and cherish."
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B
February 22nd, 2016

"This lively, overstuffed new play runs the gamut from sitcom to high drama...The mood gradually darkens and the revelation of a shocking family secret changes everything...Taichman has nimbly steered the actors through the change of tone. The strong ensemble acting succeeds in making the specific seem universal...The humanity and good humor went a long way toward making me willing to overlook some of the holes in the plot. It’s far from perfect, but well worth seeing."
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March 30th, 2016

"'Familiar' is affecting...What makes this play special is that Gurira constantly throws in little twists that turn what could have been caricatures into more complex characters...The acting under Rebecca Taichman's nimble direction, is all-around fine...This is one case where I'm celebrating the play more than its players. For Gurira has shone a light on parts of both the black and the immigrant experiences that too often get overlooked."
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March 4th, 2016

"The play is busy, and over-populated...but it also takes an amusing, compassionate look at an issue that should resonate with people of many different backgrounds...With so many characters the show sprawls...Toward the end, a shattering revelation is tossed in from left field, abruptly darkening the tone of the play. 'Familiar' certainly has its flaws. But, well-acted and exuberant, it does capture the possibilities for fun and fury when you’re a hyphenated American."
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March 3rd, 2016

"A well-told immigrant-family drama... It’s not just familiar names that make this two-act story about assimilation, tradition and identity comforting and rewarding—it’s how universal the story, finally, seems...The gold in Gurira’s relatable immigrant story is an insistence on even-handedness and a dexterous way of introducing characters who gradually blossom into complex individuals, with motives anyone can appreciate and respect."
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March 3rd, 2016

"'Familiar' finds Gurira seamlessly blending farce, social provocation and old-fashioned melodrama to create a thoughtful, tremendously entertaining whole...The first act is a marvel...The second act is more conventional, and contains a few revelations about the characters' pasts that strain credulity. But the director and the superb cast keep all of this barreling along, scoring big laughs the one instant and making incisive observations about racial and generational differences the next."
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W
March 4th, 2016

"'Familiar' has too many characters and too many shallowly-developed story lines...Yet there's a lot to like. A play about well-off African immigrants and the conflict they feel when faced with poorer, more traditional relatives is refreshing to see on stage — and it's an engaging idea. Plus, much of the first act is very funny...The play isn't helped by surprisingly stilted direction from Rebecca Taichman, who's work is normally very fluid. Mostly, this feels like a missed opportunity."
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March 3rd, 2016

"Danai Gurira is an astonishing wordsmith capable of pithy comedy and transcendent intentionality resulting in heartbreaking authenticity. I was hanging on her every word. Her self-reflection is evident in every pause, in every choked throat wrestling for the words to frame the feeling, in every violent barrage of familial rhetoric and she assuages our own pain with her tone of familiarity...Every single cast member was sensational."
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March 3rd, 2016

"Danai Gurira's penned a terrific story about the emotional struggles of an African family who moved to America...Mr. Tippett and Ms. Tunie take the top slots in this play among an already great cast of actors...Ms. Gurira needs to tighten this leaky ship, however. Too long. Far too many unexplored paths dropped on us and never quite explained...A very entertaining look at a not-so-familiar problem within the context of family."
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March 8th, 2016

"With its confession-packed climactic scene, 'Familiar' is about as American as it gets...In this, the play doesn't surprise us so much as fulfill expectations (by the end, we're all waiting for family secrets to erupt). Unlike the protagonists in many such dramas, though, Gurira's family keeps moving and finds a way to laugh. The gentle surprise, here, is not in the confessing but in the carrying-on."
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March 22nd, 2016

"Gurira has written a wonderful, universal play. The themes she explores in 'Familiar' are timeless, yet it's the details about this family and their roots that distinguish it from other family dramas. I call it a drama, but laughs abound…This is particularly noteworthy now, as many of the plays I've seen recently have felt unremarkable…'Familiar' pops. The performances are stellar, and Gurira's writing is smart...It's a modern classic."
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April 12th, 2016

"Oh man did I love this play...The real drama lies between the parents of the bride and her aunts as they consider how assimilation has shaped their family...If this all sounds heavy, rest assured there’s a heavy dose of comedy that keeps things very interesting...While there is a Big Family Secret in Act 2 and sort of hijacks the end of the play, I think this piece would be just as strong without that burst of plot because the familial relationships and dialogue are so rich."
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March 4th, 2016

"'Familiar' is a brilliant ode to family life. Extremely well written, its pacing is unbroken and a pleasure to follow. Playwright Danai Gurira is a superb storyteller, matched with formidable director Rebecca Taichman, they have created something special…'Familiar' [is] one of the best productions on family life I've seen in a long while."
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March 3rd, 2016

"The first act of Gurira's play is full of solid exposition and clever writing. The game cast do well to make the audience feel like they're watching a family. Unfortunately, the action goes off the rails once the roora ceremony begins in earnest, and neither the playwright nor her fine company are able to right the ship...However, if there is one reason to recommend 'Familiar,' it is Tamara Tunie's gripping, committed performance."
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February 14th, 2015
For a previous production

"Ms. Gurira, having left the audience doubled over with laughter with that scene at the end of Act I, takes a daunting risk in Act II by turning serious...The story’s resolution may seem a bit pat at first glance, but if you listen carefully to the dialogue, you’ll realize it’s just the opposite. And there is humor, even in the characters’ darkest moments."
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February 9th, 2015
For a previous production

"It’s the cross-genre conflicts that trip up the production as it careens from sitcom to melodrama to political tragedy to human comedy...Each of these characters has enough backstory for a play of his or her own, but the multiple narratives only get stacked up, never coalescing into a thematic whole. And when a deep family secret is revealed, triggering questions of home and identity, you feel you’re in an entirely different play. The performances are all over the map, too."
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February 9th, 2015
For a previous production

"Gurira hooks theatergoers early with this play, one which certainly has moments of levity. This is a new work and it might be pared down a bit as, upon occasion during the first act, the proceedings ramble on just a bit. The essence of it, though, is intriguing as it ranges from intimate through moral through socio/political topics. It is insightful and its author obviously has pondered considerably."
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February 6th, 2015
For a previous production

"A diffuse, sentimental, sometimes funny, sometimes touching work-in-progress, 'Familiar' in its world premiere at Yale Rep, could use cutting. Its initiating action is the impending wedding of Tendikayi, a lawyer living the American Dream...Along about the middle of the play comes an over-extended Zimbabwean ceremony that seems as endless as the 34-year reign of that nation's president-dictator Robert Mugabe...The actors give us the essentials, although they're not always intelligible."
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H
February 9th, 2015
For a previous production

"The play is an intriguing but ultimately disappointing work in a tonally confused production from a clearly talented writer with plenty of fresh-perspective stories to tell...The old world/new world conflicts of immigrant families and subsequent generations have been standard fare for drama over the ages. Gurira's take is both familiar and unique but she hasn't yet found the right tone and approach to tell this relatable-yet-different story."
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