New York | 2h 45m | Already closed

Fondly, Collette Richland

From 16 critic and 31 member reviews
Members say: Confusing, Disappointing, Ambitious, Quirky, Excruciating

About the show

New York Theatre Workshop and Elevator Repair Service present a new play about a couple that travels to another world through a tiny door in their living room. More…

While eating a quiet dinner at home, Mr. and Mrs. “Fritz” Fitzhubert (along with an uninvited guest) are summoned through a mysterious tiny door in their living room. On the other side, they find themselves in a phantasmagorical Alpen hotel where forgotten religions seep in through the cracks in the walls. Lost relatives, conniving employees, and chatty society ladies awaken their mysterious ancient selves and lead them on perilous hikes that will leave their lives forever altered.

The New York Times

"Elevator Repair Service has come up with a head trip that is as organic as it is delirious. It’s called 'Fondly, Collette Richland.' And though what opened is advertised as a play, it is far closer to what happens in the privacy of your own mind when you’re in bed with your unconscious...A witty, fastidiously wrought and thoroughly disorienting visual and aural universe in which the solid and the known keep melting at the edges." Full Review

Time Out New York

"It spoils nothing to say this long, loopy piece ends on a mountain with society ladies squaring off against a satanic entity called the Krampus. John Collins’s richly layered, densely designed production (with a goofy-brilliant soundscape by Williams) rises to the whirling, morphing challenge of Kempson’s remarkable script. I haven’t been so bewildered yet so delighted in ages." Full Review

Theatre Reviews Limited

"Ms. Kempson’s text is dense and to claim it is not would be to discredit the sophistication of the script. There are 'big impossible problems to contend with' and all of them are hauntingly delightful...It is ultimately best not to overthink the piece or wonder about issues of provenance of thoughts or images or ideas. The audience member simply needs to allow the piece to flow over mind, body, and spirit and rejoice at the resurgence of wonder, the revelation of the undertow of wonder." Full Review


"The performance under review began as a sell-out. After intermission about thirty percent of the seats had been abandoned, but the decibels of audience laughter were undiminished...Playgoers can't rely for ballast on the familiar structure of a novel such as 'The Great Gatsby,' 'The Sun Also Rises,' or 'The Sound and the Fury.' There's potential for fun here, but the potential depends on a game and willing audience rising above the cognitive bumps in Kempson's dramatic road." Full Review

New York Theater

"During the intermission for the Elevator Repair Service’s 'Fondly, Collette Richland,' at the same time that a noticeable number of theatergoers fervidly exited New York Theatre Workshop for good, an avant-garde director I know came up to me and said 'I’m loving this. But it should be at 3 in the morning.' I agreed with the director…and also with the exiting theatergoers...The key to appreciating 'Fondly, Collette Richland' is not to try to understand it, but to let it wash over you." Full Review


"If you're going to follow the goings-on, you've got to be super-alert. That's because Sibyl Kempson's 2-hour-45-minute play often dispenses with plausible links between what the various characters say, or what happens. It's a loose-structured approach to drama that, unless you're a devotee of New York's downtown experimental theater scene, takes some getting used to. Seeing 'Collette Richland' would be a good test of whether it's a style that's your cup of tea." Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

"It doesn't add up to anything profound, or even particularly entertaining. It exists for the sake of existing, a living proof of concept much more than a play with anything relevant to say...While watching it, you may find yourself haunted by the notion that just acknowledging the existence of the problem is not, in itself, a solution. Maybe that's the real point? Who knows? And, Kempson and Collins seem to be saying, who cares?" Full Review

Theatre's Leiter Side

"This inscrutable potpourri of old-fashioned avant-garde eccentricities is well enough performed by a talented ensemble that seems to be having more fun than the audience; but their unusual characters are so dependent on highly stylized techniques that none have enough humanity to make you care a whit about them. This was one of those experiences where my eyes were on my watch almost as often as on the stage and where I applauded more for the play’s being over than for my appreciation of it." Full Review


"At certain points, one starts to wonder whether the cast has any idea of what's going on. Despite this, the performances remain energetic and imaginative throughout... Theater is a give and take. As integral as theatermakers are to the performance process, so too is the audience. 'Fondly, Collette Richland' simply sinks under the weight of its own desire to please itself." Full Review

Exeunt Magazine

"Where this show falls apart isn’t in the details, it’s in the bagginess with which they’re all strung together...Basically, this is a case of the Emperor’s new clothes, if the Emperor’s new clothes were a theatrical conceit. By the end, the amplified, mechanistic cranking sound effect that accompanies every set change might as well be the insular echo of self-applause. For, as bright as its occasional flashes of brilliance are, 'Fondly, Collette Richland' is too dazzled by itself to draw you... Full Review

Bob's Theater Blog

"If coherence and intelligibility are among your requirements for a theatrical experience, this new play is definitely not for you. It has plenty of interesting characters, a clever set, Inspired costumes and an intricate sound design. Unfortunately these strong points are overwhelmed by the lack of a discernible narrative arc and an unfortunate tendency to pile on the surreal and the ridiculous beyond what the play can bear." Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"You can't really criticize 'Fondly, Collette Richland' for not making sense, when nobody involved ever saw that as a goal. I would note, however, that this sort of mad, abstract lark is nothing new. It is also best enjoyed in small doses; at over two-and-a-half hours, this one is a challenge to audience stamina the likes of which I have rarely seen." Full Review

Times Square Chronicles

"If insanity and confusion is what theatre is about then playwright Sibyl Kempson and the Elevator Repair Service succeed with 'Fondly, Collette Richland.' If you love 'Saturday Night Live' skits one after another for almost three hours, this will be right up your alley, it is not up mine...I can’t even really tell you what this play is about and I forced myself to stay awake." Full Review

What's On Off Broadway

"Simply a mess. Produced with stilted language and divorced from actual emotions, it seems designed to force very good actors into producing terrible output. 'Fondly, Collette Richland' revels in off kilter pacing, unexplainable changes in tone and extra wacky characters. These things need not render a show unwatchable, but the added artificial pronunciation, surrealism and studied emotional non-reaction to events combine in a terrible mix." Full Review

New York Magazine / Vulture

"About a third of the audience left during the intermission, which finally arrived after nearly two hours. I have to believe that those who remained did so mostly out of politeness, believing that anyone with a vision so specifically bizarre must mean something important by it. I’m not convinced. Even if I were, I’d have left if I could, because worse than the nonsense — a lazy Susan of surrealistic clichés — is the aggression and insularity behind it." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"It’s an inside job, a show where snarky academics and performance artists can nudge each other and give a knowing wink, happy to be so much smarter than everyone else in the room...The rest of the audience is just bored, nodding off or checking their watches to see if the interminable first half of the show is ending any time soon so they can go...It’s simply not a play for people who enjoy a relaxing, or even mildly engaging, night at the theater." Full Review

Great acting, Hilarious, Quirky, Edgy, Refreshing

See it if You want to laugh hysterically at adorable silliness and wonderfully funny acting

Don't see it if You’re not open to a show that is completely unlike anything you’ve seen before

Ambitious, Bizarre, Hilarious

See it if you're willing to open your mind and have it totally screwed with. This is a free form show that creates its own world and set of rules.

Don't see it if you've never enjoyed a David Lynch film.

Delightful, Dizzying, Funny, Quirky, Slow

See it if haters gonna hate, but I laughed my ass off! I was wearing sunglasses a lot at the time because I still do.

Don't see it if you're sober.

Surreal, Challenging, Dizzying, Ambitious, Absurdist

See it if you enjoy downtown experimental theater a la Richard Foreman, and are a fan of ERS's unique approach to dramatizing texts.

Don't see it if you need to be spoon-fed a linear plot with a decisive message.

Ambitious, Confusing, Dizzying, Disappointing, Quirky

See it if you like the ERS style and downtown vibe... and don't mind not understanding what is going on.

Don't see it if You like your theater polished and straightforward. If you hate quirky...

Entertaining, Quirky, Original, Surreal, Funny

See it if you like quirky, colorful and high-energy.

Don't see it if the surreal turns you off.

Original, Navel-gazing, Funny ha-ha, Funny strange, Confusing

See it if you like being plunked down in a bewildering headspace w/o a clue where you are or where you're going but the sights may tickle your brain.

Don't see it if you want coherence, emotion or pace. It's made by a talented team making their own kind of music. They don't care if u don't hear a tune.

Ambitious, Original, Confusing, Excruciating

See it if you appreciate masterful acting and directing and ingenious stagecraft and can tolerate hours of unintelligible text.

Don't see it if you have a low tolerance for experimental theater and nonlinear, non-narrative texts -- and have a better idea about how to spend 3 hours.

Confusing, Disappointing, Epic, Funny, Indulgent

See it if you want to get lost in mildly fun absurdity.

Don't see it if you want a plot-driven experience!

Ambitious, Confusing, Indulgent, Quirky

See it if If you appreciate experimentation & are ok with mixed up confusing narrative

Don't see it if If you want something remotely literal

Also Good try - better luck next time

Confusing, Disappointing, Dizzying, Original

See it if If you don't mind just going along for the ride in someone else's crazy fantasy. If you aren't always thinking, "where is this headed? "

Don't see it if you are hoping for some cosmic awareness at the end of the play, or even in the middle. If you have expectations of a play.

Ambitious, Confusing, Disappointing, Dizzying, Excruciating

See it if love surreal stream of conscious performance and writing

Don't see it if dont like surreal stream of conscious performance and writing

Confusing, Disappointing, Epic, Original, Ambitious

See it if you like bizarre stories; you like non-linear, dream like sequences;

Don't see it if you need a coherent story; need a linear plot; need to understand what is going on; don't like a circus-like atmosphere and style.

Weird, Confusing, Disappointing

See it if you enjoy being confused or not having a clear understanding. Definitely see it if you love experimental theatre.

Don't see it if If you're not a big fan of experimental theatre or if you don't like shows without a very clear plot.

Slow, Quirky, Excruciating, Confusing, Indulgent

See it if you love watching people's faces as they walk out.

Don't see it if you prefer a narrative thread.

Confusing, Disappointing, Excruciating, Indulgent, Slow

See it if This play is excruciatingly dull and overlong.

Don't see it if you can't sit through long plays.

Masterful, Dizzying, Original

See it if You like phenomenal design, Dadaist theatre, fully-committed and deeply-considered wackiness, hammy performers, tightly-wound joyful chaos.

Don't see it if You dislike non-narrative, abstract pieces without a clear message.

Ambitious, Entertaining, Enchanting, Intelligent, Original

See it if you're ready to watch people take risks.

Don't see it if you're easily bored

Confusing, Disappointing, Ambitious

See it if You don't mind confusion and want to see something very different.

Don't see it if If you don't want to see anything nonsensical.

Confusing, Slow, Dizzying

See it if You enjoy ERS' past shows

Don't see it if You like clear and easy to understand shows. Also if you enjoy shorter plays, this is not for you.

Ambitious, Confusing, Disappointing, Excruciating, Indulgent

See it if You have 2 1/2 hours with NOTHING ELSE to do.

Don't see it if You have any expectations of Elevator Repair Co. based on Gatz, etc.

During previews
Clever, Edgy, Great acting, Quirky, Absurd

See it if You love absurdist, "heady" comedy and want to see something different than what you've seen lately. Also if you want to see terrific acting

Don't see it if You need a specific and clear storyline to keep you focused on the action on stage.

During previews
Thought-provoking, Absurd, Long

See it if a romp through esoteric, almost absurdist ideas sounds like it would be a fun afternoon(was for me!)

Don't see it if your enjoyment of theater is based on literary elements like "plot" and "character"

During previews
Intelligent, Funny, Confusing, Absurd

See it if You're ready to never quite understand what's going on, but it's full of laughs and interesting thoughts.

Don't see it if You hate absurdist theatre. The dozens of Seniors in the audience with me were all perplexed and heavily complaining at intermission.

During previews
Absurdist, Deliberately confusing, Difficult, 2 hours 40 min = too long, Humorous

See it if Enjoy absurdist theatre featuring doses of cleverly nonsensical dialogue along with a skeletal plot, zestful acting, visually rich costumes

Don't see it if You have a sensitive radar for pretentiousness and prefer finished works, with a discernible plot and point of view, that can make you care.