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. More…
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.
"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
"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." Full Review
"'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
"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." Full Review
"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
"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
"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
"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
"'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
"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
"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." Full Review
"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." Full Review
"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." Full Review
“'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
"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
"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." Full Review
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"'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
"'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." Full Review
"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
"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
See it if you're an immigrant (who isn't??), you enjoy fully realized characters in a gorgeous playground of a set making you laugh and think and FEEL
Don't see it if you don't like family dramas.
See it if you want to see a perfect production where the writing, acting, directing, and design fit like a glove, with relevant subject matters & more
Don't see it if you're opposed to stories about clashing cultures that reexamine what it means to be family, American, and African.
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.
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
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.
See it if You liked HUMANS on bway. Another amazing show about family relations, race, religion and family secrets - all on the bride's wedding day!
Don't see it if You like fluff. This show is very real, but perfectly written with a LOT of humor. Kudos to Playwrights Horizons for another fine production
See it if You are interested in learning about other cultures and you love a good family drama, great acting and a well-written script
Don't see it if You don't like emotional family dramas or other cultures.
See it if You would enjoy seeing a seemingly happy family through the trials of a daughter's impending marriage and where a deep secret is revealed.
Don't see it if You are not interested in other cultures or if you expect a run-of-the mill show about a family.
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