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Fulfillment Center

From 18 critic and 73 member reviews
Members say: Great acting, Disappointing, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Slow

About the show

Manhattan Theatre Club presents this world premiere drama about four lonely people longing for fulfillment. More…

In the New Mexico desert, a down-on-her-luck folk singer takes a job at a giant online retailer’s shipping center. Her young manager struggles to connect with his girlfriend newly relocated from New York. And a drifter living at a local campground dangerously links them all. 'Fullfillment Center' stars Deirdre O’Connell ('The Affair,' 'Circle Mirror Transformation') and is directed by Daniel Aukin ('Fool for Love.')

The New York Times

“A quietly shattering new play…The director, Daniel Aukin, and his perfectly mismatched cast find the resonant meaning in the battle between hope and cynicism that infuses these characters’ every word and gesture...Though you’re likely to feel the pressure of unshed tears when the play is over, ‘Fulfillment Center’ is also an unexpectedly inspiriting work…The production is steeped in a luminous and illuminating empathy that feels both uncommon and essential right now." Full Review

Village Voice

"In its quietly distraught manner, 'Fulfillment Center' makes a true portrait of today’s Americans...That you feel a helpless sense of pitying affection for them all comes partly from Koogler’s terse, astutely turned dialogue...An equal amount of your feeling is roused by Aukin’s four actors...Each of these performances alone would be an impressive achievement; the four of them together give this low-down, plainspoken play the transcendent effect of a great string quartet." Full Review

Time Out New York

“One of the work’s keen pleasures is the way it feels like a carefully wrapped package: everything precisely contained, each of its two-person scenes assembled with the least padding possible. There’s a strictness about the staging, too...This simplicity accentuates the way director Daniel Aukin and his cast melt into naturalism simply by using a wealth of beautifully realized behavior…O’Connell is playing a part that could have been written for her. She is one of our theatrical nonpareils.” Full Review

Theater Life

"The emotional lives of all four seem as blighted and empty as the nowhere town of the setting. But Koogler and director Daniel Aukin inject this sad quartet with a desert-dry humor...The dialogue and staging pop and fizz like freshly opened summer sodas...Though it runs less than 90 minutes, 'Fulfillment Center' is stuffed with meaty moments and is a filling offering." Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

“The sad outweighs the funny in ‘Fulfillment Center,’ but my gosh, there's plenty of both…They're rich characters, and Daniel Aukin's direction, rife with overlapping dialogue, mines their quirks expertly...And he knows comedy. So many exchanges that might read as so-so on paper reverberate and land beautifully, helped by actors who know how to subtly reveal and amplify character contradictions. Booth is really spectacular…So is O'Connell." Full Review

Front Mezz Junkies

"There is something incredibly uncomfortable going on, and I mean that as the greatest of compliments...It’s tragic and surprisingly engrossing as we watch these four fine actors strive but rarely meet...Unique, funny, and disturbing. Much is left unsaid or unexplained, but the need and the reactive pushback is clear...My guess is that each audience member will find connection with one of these four characters on some deep and emotional plane." Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

“Much of the success of Aukin's production is rooted in four first-rate performances…'Fulfillment Center' is as spare and elliptical as a 'New Yorker' short story, but each scene is loaded with unspoken tensions, and its unsparing view speaks to the moment we're in…A small, tightly focused drama, and Aukin's direction makes it compellingly taught. Even more compelling is its depiction of people trying to get by in a system where the only metric of their value is how much they can produce.” Full Review


"Koogler has the playwright’s great gift of writing character into every line. Even if these performances were not as flawless as they are, you would know these four very different people from the words on the page...This is a production that would benefit from a smaller, or perhaps shorter, space. Despite the neck ache, it’s gripping drama, and Aukin creates a tension and sense of desperation that keeps you riveted." Full Review

Front Row Center

“An intense ninety minutes, during which the emotional alienation of the characters manages nonetheless to create an absorbing connection with the audience. Each performer embodies their character with such great empathy and skill that by the end we are left with a disquieting sense of dread, as if we soon might learn that something horrible has happened to them." Full Review

Stage Buddy

“A skillful balance of depth and humor…Moreno nails his portrayal of Alex…Booth’s bossy Madeleine is the perfect counter in their relationship, and Weller wows as John…But it’s O’Connell who really steals the show. O’Connell hits all of her serious and comedic notes with equal power…Though the play doesn’t neatly tie up every loose end it creates, we still walk away having thoroughly enjoyed the journey -- making ‘Fulfillment Center’ a fulfilling experience.” Full Review

Theatre is Easy

"This new play about loneliness and desperation features brilliantly drawn characters played by four magnificent actors...The play’s weakness is in its structure...For ninety minutes we experience their terror with great clarity. But Koogler offers no structure for their condition. His story lacks a beginning, middle and end...What makes 'Fulfillment Center' a fulfilling evening is the actors...Life may fail to offer us redemption, but these actors work overtime to redeem this play." Full Review

Reclining Standards

"At its best, 'Fulfillment Center' moves almost imperceptibly between realism and a poetic alternate reality...For me, 'Fulfillment Center' was most satisfying as a vehicle for its actors, all of whom were ideally cast and excellent...There’s some lovely moment-to-moment communication, funny and heartbreaking. Yet, in the end, I found 'Fulfillment Center,' well, not entirely fulfilling." Full Review


“A formidably talented cast to forcefully flesh out their characters' hopes and insecurities…Smartly written and often funny dialogue…The alternating one-on-one interactions tend to become repetitious and short of strong dramatic heft...Though there's not a whole lot of drama, Kooger does have a good eye and ear for the nuances of these relationships...Unfortunately it becomes increasingly clear that none of these situations will take us anywhere." Full Review

Bob's Theater Blog

“For the first 30 minutes or so, I thought it was heading confidently to an interesting destination. Unfortunately, as it progressed, the playwright seemed to lose control of his material and the play ended up at a dead end...The writing weakens, the play meanders and it finally grinds to a halt…It’s always a pleasure to see Deirdre O’Connell...With more work, the play might have amounted to something better. As is, it’s a missed opportunity.” Full Review


“If you’re seeking an exploration of the downtrodden in today’s economy, you will be severely disappointed…While Koogler gives his well-drawn characters some development, and even a bit of closure, not all that much actually happens. Conversely, if all you need is to spend time with a company of accomplished actors bringing their A-game to an admittedly slight script, you’re in luck. Any evening spent watching the brilliant O’Connell in action is the rare opportunity to view a master class.” Full Review


“After an enticing windup, ‘Fulfillment Center’ fizzles out into a series of two-character scenes in which competent actors are asked to interrupt each other's lines in a vague approximation of real human dialogue…Lack of detail makes it hard for us to invest in the drama, even though we know something crucial is at stake. Buried in Koogler's highly stylized patter lurks a much-sharper play…At least O'Connell leaves us with something to chew on with her brave and vulnerable performance.” Full Review

The Hollywood Reporter

“Unfortunately, ‘Fulfillment Center,’ while featuring many evocative moments, fails to cohere into a satisfying whole. Despite terrific performances from its four-person ensemble, the play just spins its wheels before ending so abruptly that we’re not sure it has…The performers do as well as can be expected with their ill-defined roles…But their efforts are not enough to make ‘Fulfillment Center’ remotely fulfilling.” Full Review

Act Three - The Reviews

"The play...falls flat, is empty, and the characters, all but Suzan, were UN-fulfilled and UN-fulfilling in their development and arc. Suzan was the most deeply fleshed out character and, as played by Ms. O'Connell, the most juicy and emotionally satisfying of the lot...Overall, this 80 minute-play needs a bit more work to have any sort of impact. The characters are ill-defined and by the time you get to the end, much like Alex, you realize the failure that just unfolded in front of you." Full Review

Resonant, Relevant, Thought-provoking, Intense, Must see

See it if you want to experience this keenly observed portrait of working folks living lives of not so quiet desperation. The result: heartbreaking.

Don't see it if you don't mind missing an expert quartet of actors strongly led by the skillful Bobby Moreno.

Edgy, Intense, Profound, Thought-provoking, Funny

See it if Characters who are lost in their lives seek fulfillment outside of themselves making matters worse. Exquisite dramatic ironies.

Don't see it if You don't want to experience painful characters interacting with other painful characters. You don't like dark comedy.

Exceptionally well-acted drama of left-behinds.

See it if An always intriguing, relevant look at four souls on the margins of Corporate America slipping under the wheels of progress.

Don't see it if It's not happy or hopeful. I think I'm going to score it higher.

Great acting, Great writing, Thought-provoking, Slow

See it if you appreciate good acting and interesting staging in an intimate setting.Play is a bit slow, but characters are fully fleshed out.

Don't see it if you are looking for something flashy or uplifting.This is an interesting look at blue collar workers & their supervisors.

Absorbing, Clever, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Refreshing

See it if You like fresh and interesting dialogue that explores the complexity of relationship and personal trajectory. You admire fine acting.

Don't see it if You dislike stripped down productions that just focus on the language and relationships. Are easily offended by unfair jabs at New Mexico.

Confusing, Clever, Great acting, Quirky, Thought-provoking

See it if you want a show with an interesting mix of smart actors. Really great performances (especially by my fave, Eboni Booth)

Don't see it if you're looking for a straight forward show. this story kind of jumps all over the place and doesn't have a definitive end.

Funny, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Great writing, Great acting

See it if you enjoy relevant new plays with sharp writing, witty dialogue and great acting. Deals with serious human struggles, but also funny.

Don't see it if you don't like shows with a barebone set/prefer full-scale staging, you don't like head-scratching endings that leave things unresolved

Absorbing, Quirky, Resonant

See it if You don't mind taking a meandering, quirky ride with some very interesting - and real - characters

Don't see it if You need a straight forward narrative and a tidy resolution

Relevant, Riveting, Intelligent, Great acting, Intense

See it if you are game for an elliptical, character-driven tragicomedy; if you want to catch stunning performances by O'Connell & Weller

Don't see it if you can't with a raw portrait of contemporary despair that refuses resolution; if you need realistic sets to match the realistic acting

Funny, Great acting, Slow

See it if you like quirky plays

Don't see it if you lose interest really fast

Great staging, Emotionally fraught, Relevant, Funny, Cliched

See it if You like character drama, fully realized people, charged dialogue, and staging that highlights the joys of live theatre.

Don't see it if You're turned off by lots of talking; awkward, violent sexual scenarios; or the indignities of economic deprivation in America.

Also My favorite aspect was the staging -- a long runway with the audience ... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Great acting, Funny, Resonant

See it if you enjoy quiet plays that focus on relationships and characters over plot, on atmosphere over action; are especially drawn to great acting

Don't see it if want something with a clear plot and resolution; like spectacle and vivid staging

Thought-provoking, Well-acted, Engaging

See it if You enjoy unconventional dramas which leave a bit to the imagination!

Don't see it if You need everything neatly tied up...

Absorbing, Quirky, Thought-provoking

See it if You enjoy interesting character development in a limited amount of time (a one-act play.)

Don't see it if You need a broader storyline that wraps everything up with a tidy bow.

Great acting, Thought-provoking, Ambitious, Confusing, Clever

See it if You like plays about relationships and the difficulties and joys they present

Don't see it if you only enjoy linear action-filled plays

Disappointing, Overrated, Great acting

See it if you want to see great acting. All 4 of the actors are stand outs.

Don't see it if you want a story with a satisfying ending. Or is that the point?

Also Very disappointing after the glowing reviews. A good companion piece t... Read more Read less

Great acting, Great staging, Ambitious, Entertaining, Quirky

See it if you want to see a play in an intimate space with minimal set/props.

Don't see it if you don't like bare stage productions.

Great acting, Intelligent, Relevant

See it if Want to see another show very relevant to today's economic situation with good acting. Deidre O'Connell is great as always.

Don't see it if Wish for something fluffy.

Clever, Quirky

See it if you like short provocative plays

Don't see it if you don't like conflict, looking 4 escapism

Funny, Quirky, Good acting

See it if You like new plays that are different, in a bare bones setting, that feature solid actors like Fred Weller & Deirdre O'Connell.

Don't see it if You hate abrupt endings, bare stages, or swearing.

Funny, Relevant, Downbeat

See it if you're up for a serious look at workplace and romantic relationships

Don't see it if You want something bright and uplifting

Well acted, Intense, Unusual staging, Ambitious, Somewhat romantic

See it if you'd like good actors performing in a new drama relevant to today's economy. Topics include age discrimination and women's empowerment.

Don't see it if serious subject matter turns you off. Depressing, notwithstanding good acting.

Thought-provoking, Relevant, Ambitious, Cliched, Disappointing

See it if a play that is a series of 2 character scenes about 4 people unfulfilled in work and relationships; interesting staging with minimalist set

Don't see it if some funny lines but full of characters that are depressing; some of the scenes & story lines are developed but not all - some are cliched

Also Ms. O'Connell's character was the most developed and her performance w... Read more Read less


See it if People struggling to survive in middle America make this a real drama for our age. It has,a modern day Grapes of Wrath feeling.

Don't see it if Not a feel good play and if your down yourself this will not help matters.

Great acting but drafty script

See it if You love Deirdre O'Connell (as I do)

Don't see it if You need a need a fully-realized play and thoughtful, good performances just won't do it for you

Cast & Creatives (11)