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Familiar

Members say: Great acting, Absorbing, Funny, Great writing, Entertaining
85
Critics
78
41 reviews
Members
87
119 reviews
 

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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In a snowy Minnesota suburb, Marvelous and Donald are preparing for the marriage of their eldest daughter, a first-generation American. But when the bride insists on observing a traditional African custom, it opens a deep rift in the household. Tradition is pitched against assimilation, drawing a loving portrait of the complicated relationships between mothers and daughters, sisters, wives and husbands—the customs they keep, and the secrets they keep buried.

 

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Reviews (160)

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews
78
Avg Score

90
The New York Times

"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." Full Review

85
New York Post

“'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." Full Review

90
Theatermania

"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." Full Review

65
Variety

"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." Full Review

90
BroadwayWorld

"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." Full Review

55
New York Magazine / Vulture

"'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." Full Review

90
New Yorker

"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." Full Review

85
Time Out New York

"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." Full Review

75
The Guardian (UK)

"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." Full Review

80
DC Theatre Scene

"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." Full Review

80
Lighting & Sound America

"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." Full Review

80
Front Row Center

"'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." Full Review

75
The Hollywood Reporter

"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." Full Review

80
Theatre's Leiter Side

"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." Full Review

35
The Wall Street Journal

"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." Full Review

55
Talkin' Broadway

"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." Full Review

100
Times Square Chronicles

"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." Full Review

60
New York Daily News

"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." Full Review

80
CurtainUp

"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." Full Review

100
The Huffington Post

"'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." Full Review

80
Bob's Theater Blog

"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." Full Review

75
NorthJersey.com

"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." Full Review

80
WNBC

"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." Full Review

90
Broadway & Me

"'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." Full Review

90
Stage Buddy

"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." Full Review

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews
87
Avg Score

85
Absorbing, Clever, Great acting, Relevant, Great writing

See it if you've seen Eclipsed & want to get another engrossing play by Danai Guirara with a solid ensemble set in US. Race, class, family dysfunction

Don't see it if you don"t want to see the above dealt with humorously, intelligently, compassionately.

89
Ambitious, Great acting, Masterful, Profound, Resonant

See it if you enjoy shows about family dynamics and how in the end we have more in common than we think

Don't see it if you are stubborn about only seeing musicals

89
Clever, Relevant, Romantic, Hilarious, Entertaining

See it if a Kaufman-and-Hart-esque, ingenious, warm and funny play about diaspora, heritage, and family

Don't see it if you're looking for something formally edgier-- it's a delightfully old-fashioned drama with a fresh political perspective

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

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.

92
Absorbing, Thought-provoking, Masterful, Riveting, Hilarious

See it if you enjoy a thoroughly engaging and supersmart twist on the family drama

Don't see it if you need flashy metatheatrics

95
Original, Absorbing, Clever, Great acting, Great writing

See it if You love fantastic performances and original storylines from diverse perspective. Gurira is a masterful playwright.

Don't see it if You don't like more naturalistic storylines or emotional family dramas.

90
Delightful, Great acting, Great writing, Hilarious, Entertaining

See it if you like theater to take you new places, and make you think/laugh along the way. You like well-constructed plays. You're in awe of Gurira.

Don't see it if you can't abide a living-room-play family comedy no matter how well-made it is.

100
Absorbing, Clever, Great acting, Great writing, Hilarious

See it if You're looking to experience a new "living room drama" expertly written with outstanding performances.

Don't see it if Get bored by the naturalism of a family drama

90
Funny, Intelligent, Refreshing, Resonant, Great writing

See it if you look for smart stories about people that don't appear in American plays very often.

Don't see it if you only like musicals.

95
Ambitious, Thought-provoking, Refreshing, Hilarious, Entertaining

See it if you're a fan of family dramas, you love Danai Gurira, or you just want to see a great new play from a new playwright

Don't see it if you're tired of traditional plot devices

90
Great acting, Thought-provoking, Hilarious, Entertaining, Great staging

See it if You like a living room drama

Don't see it if You don't like shows about families

83
Absorbing, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Resonant

See it if You liKe plays about assimilation and identity portraying believable relatable people.

Don't see it if You are a xenophobe or dislike moving dramas about family and immigration.

95
Great acting, Must see, Profound, Great writing, Hilarious

See it if You want to see a family dramedy with a stellar ensemble cast. Imagine the family from The Humans being from Zimbabwe instead of Scranton.

Don't see it if You dislike family-centric plays. You're really missing out though - this play is a true gem.

85
Funny, Original, Absorbing, Great acting, Entertaining

See it if You enjoyed Eclipsed, and want to see what else this playwright has up her sleeve. (Hint: it's a comedy!)

Don't see it if You're not interested in plays about family and culture.

91
Funny, Absorbing, Delightful, Thought-provoking, Resonant

See it if You are a human being and now have or once had a parent, sister or brother, and you all aged together.

Don't see it if You have no heart and only care about yourself.

82
Funny, Absorbing, Ambitious, Clever, Entertaining

See it if Any theatergoers who appreciates a family drama

Don't see it if You are not interested in expatriates in Minnesota

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

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.

90
Sitcom on steroids with vivid zambabwean colors makes for hilarious/memorable show; producers: move this to broadway!

See it if you want rich stew of characters in side-splitting confrontations; sitcom with serious core: dilemma of immigrant connection to home country

Don't see it if you don't enjoy stock sitcom characters (dominant wife, meek husband, stoner brother-in-law), ending too heavy on surprise revelations

84
Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Masterful

See it if a smart funny play about family with an African immigrant twist http://frontmezzjunkies.com/2016/03/27/the-extraordinary-familiar/

Don't see it if You are in the mood for light and breezy. Cause although this is funny it's also deeply moving and powerful

66
Absorbing, Disappointing

See it if you haven't had enough of cultural differences between Africa and US

Don't see it if you're easily bored

91
Absorbing, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Learning experience

See it if How can we ever know the stories of others lives, the pain, baggage, joys they know. This show unfolds and takes us into a world of secrets

Don't see it if You are not interested in foreign culture, do not feel positive about Americas proud immigrant past and future.

96
Great acting, Must see, Riveting, Great writing, Great staging

See it if you love the theater and care about great acting and writing.

Don't see it if you only like musicals (although there is some singing).

77
Funny, Clever, Great acting, Resonant, Cliched

See it if You'd like to have a conversation about how cultures integrate in America after the show, and want to see some suprisingly good performances

Don't see it if You're exhausted by family/living room dramas.

81
Original, Absorbing, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Great dialogue

See it if you enjoy good, solid, family drama and humor, Get some exposure to a Zimbabwean culture clash. Who are we, really?

Don't see it if you like white bread theater and no interest in experiencing another point of view,

84
Absorbing, Thought-provoking, Cliched, Overrated, Great staging

See it if You want a serious drama laced with humor

Don't see it if you are tired of shows with too many plot twists and big surprises. Show was good enough without all the extra stuff crammed in.