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Good Grief

From 22 critic and 62 member reviews
Members say: Absorbing, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Disappointing, Ambitious

About the show

Nkechi was a good Nigerian-American girl. She did everything right. Went to med school. Made plans. Then life happened. A first-generation immigrant coming-of-age journey of love, loss, and growing into adulthood. More…

"Good Grief" follows Nkechi as she navigates Pennsylvania’s suburbs alongside her childhood crush, her would-be-philosopher brother, and her immigrant parents. 

Stage Left

“Anyawu, whose writing is achingly beautiful and original...This is the kind of free-flowing, deeply meaningful play that you feel before you necessarily understand—a treat...A play about grief, but it is not sad. My tears were tears of recognition—of the universally human experience and of the beauty of life itself...Director Timpo’s production leans into the mythic and celestial themes, making for a kaleidoscopic experience both humorous and moving." Full Review

Diandra Reviews it All

“A simple, lovely pleasure...In just 90 minutes, it makes you laugh, cry, and think about how you grieve...Full of sweetness and innocence. Anyanwu and Quinlan are so natural in their portrayals of these characters that you truly feel like you are witnessing the blossoming beginning and the tragic end of a young love...Nearly every scene, from the humorous to the mournful, makes death feel like an unwritten character...I am in love with this play...especially its writing.” Full Review

Theatre is Easy

"Gorgeous and poignant...Anyanwu’s storytelling is completely unique and constantly engaging. The non-linear timeline is reminiscent of human memory: sometimes we remember things differently than they really happened, maybe because we remember things the way we wished they’d happen. Awoye Timpo’s direction tackles the disjointed timeline easily, with pacing and staging that make perfect sense, allowing the audience to follow the story without any confusion." Full Review

The New York Times

"The very youthful profundity of such thoughts saturates this lyrical production, directed as a flickering string of moments by Awoye Timpo...In tone, ‘Good Grief’ brings to mind sentimental young adult novels of premature tragedy...In form, it is considerably more adventurous...'Good Grief' still registers throughout as an affecting study of the ambivalence of bereavement. And it is acted by a sensitive cast that finds the authentic emotion within even the most stylized scenes.” Full Review

Times Square Chronicles

“The tender and budding moments between MJ and ‘N’ are touching, as are the interactions with her immigrant parents...The cast is exquisite, as they each weave their characters into fully fleshed human beings...Nkechi’s writes characters that are so abundantly human, flawed, universal and lovable...Timpo directs this piece with sympathy and pathos. She brings out themes and keeps this fragmented memory play, coming-of-age story, interwoven, poetic and relatable.” Full Review

New York Magazine / Vulture

“Its story is a heavy one, and could easily have gotten sucked into the whirlpools of weepiness. But Anyanwu and Timpo give it lift and breath. They make the play into a prism where, like light beams, we bounce between facets of memory and present circumstance...Anyanwu hardly ever cries. Not because she can’t go there as a performer, but because ‘Good Grief’ is interested in something else...Exploring not what grief actually looks like but what it feels like." Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

“A distinctly unconventional exploration of loss and bereavement...The magic in Anyanwu's writing is her ability to craft dialogue that sounds natural, while at the same time working in a vernacular that's distinctly her own...Beautifully directed by Awoye Timpo...Making sense of our mortality is one of life's inevitable riddles and Anyanwu's lyrical and heartfelt attempt to dramatize one young woman's search for an answer is as poignant as it is moving.” Full Review

Front Mezz Junkies

“As the lead character, the playwright does the piece justice, with all her heart and soul...As directed with a swiftness and secure spirit by Timpo, the boy in question, MJ, rises out of her memory formulating into some sort of greek mythological god, shining in the night sky like a constellation. It’s hard to know what separates the myth from the man, but the connection and engagement ring true and touching. Perfectly portrayed." Full Review

Time Out New York

"Watching the play is like flipping through TV channels, alighting on different shows, and being moved by each out-of-context scene...The physical aspects of Timpo’s staging are less strong...Luckily, despite this noir nonsense, the actors keep playing in a major key. Anyanwu’s point is that we can take pleasure and solace in memories, even when they’ve been brushed by pain. The designers may zero in on the grief, but the rest of the show keeps its focus on the good." Full Review

Broadway Blog

"Anyanwu’s writing is both ethereal and spiritual, adding levity to what would otherwise be a heavy trudge of trauma. Yet she veers off course when she allows her characters to ramble on about mythical figures...'Good Grief' is at its best when it delves into the human interactions...Director Awoye Timpo handles the serious nature here with more mirth than one could expect...What makes 'Good Grief' so special is the unique lens from which this story is told." Full Review

DC Metro Theater Arts

“A fragmented tapestry of memory play...And under the direction of Awoye Timpo, the cast’s delivery is sometimes stilted and the scene breaks often lack fluidity, making the characters’ feelings and motivations seem forced and unnatural...Despite some inconsistencies I found, 'Good Grief’'s focus on the human complexities of dealing with the devastating loss of a loved one and finding purpose in life is given intelligent artistic expression by Ngozi Anyanwu in her affecting debut." Full Review

Front Row Center

"A love song about losing your best friend. ‘Good Grief’ is lyrical and human...Anyanwu’s performance doesn’t do honor to her words; while being heartfelt and engaged, she is also restrained and inhibited...However, Anyanwu is supported by an incredible ensemble...Overall, ‘Good Grief’ is a moving piece that will make you feel feelings and bring you back to moments you’ve shared with your best friend or your first love in amazing, awkward, and human ways." Full Review


“A sensitive, if occasionally saggy exploration of grief and regret..Director Awoye Timpo stages these nuanced performances within an occasionally clunky production...Unfortunately, 'Good Grief' is unlikely to leave such a lasting impression. While heartfelt and well-performed, it is hamstrung by a lumbering production. It also doesn't say anything particularly revelatory about grief...It's good, but not great." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

“Sometimes, it’s difficult to know if scenes are flashbacks or unfulfilled wishes...Directed by Timpo, there seems to be more repetition than needed to get points across. The cast shines in its uniformly high level performance of Anyanwu’s play and, in particular, the playwright as Nkechi. But, I often wonder about the use of so much street language in these contemporary plays as it tends to denigrate rather than elevate and show a more respectful approach." Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"The script consists of delaying tactics designed to keep Nkechi from reaching the inevitable moment when she must stare down her grief if she is to move forward...Anyanwu, the actress, is in the same fix as Anyanwu, the playwright -- clearly talented but without a clear way forward to make dramatic sense of Nkechi's troubles. In its final stretch, 'Good Grief' proves to be mildly touching -- but, really, one should be devastated" Full Review

The Wrap

"Each is uncomprehending of just how stuck Nkechi seems to be over MJ’s death...The play doesn’t shed much light on this question — nor does it gather much in the way of narrative momentum over the course of its running time. And occasional efforts to elevate the material to the mythic seem like too big a stretch for what amounts to a slight, if well-observed story of loss....But there is much to admire here, particularly in Anyanwu’s gift for dialogue." Full Review

Off Off Online

“Anyanwu’s play mostly avoids the clichés that tend to reduce stories of death to stages-of-grieving checklists...This is familiar ground for second-generation immigrant stories, but the tropes are made fresh by Timpo’s magical-realist direction, which favors natural, relaxed speech...’Good Grief’ ends on a note of cosmic rejuvenation which the play never quite earns...N deserves to be more than her sadness. Grief can be good or bad, but it isn’t necessarily interesting." Full Review

Theater Life

"Dully undramatic…The characters aren't especially unusual, the situations border on the banal, and the play lacks dramatic thrust. For all the drama's incidental moments of human connection, its ruminations on death and loss, and its occasional intimations of laughter, 'Good Grief' is essentially a static memory piece cum lamentation…Director Awoye Timpo gets fine performances from the ensemble, with especially noteworthy contributions from Anwanyu and Quinlan." Full Review


“Anyanwu again demonstrates her gift for creating likeable characters and writing natural dialogue...’Good Grief’ comes off as working too hard to stage an essentially simple story of loss and regret with cutting edge originality. Despite...making the death of a major character part of Nkechi's journey to adulthood, ‘Good Grief ‘ just doesn't strike the viewer's emotional chords as deeply or effectively as 'The Homecoming Queen' did." Full Review

Gotham Playgoer

“It took me less than 30 seconds to take a dislike to the new play...Before the play begins, thick stage fog rolls over the audience...Bright lights...shine in people’s eyes...With all these distractions, this modest memory play about a young woman immobilized by grief almost gets lost in the shuffle...The acting is fine...Clearly, director Awoye Timpo is not someone who believes less is more. For me, the excesses of the production overwhelmed this slight play.” Full Review

Exeunt Magazine

"If this sounds like a lot to take in, it is, and not because it’s difficult to follow. Awoye Timpo’s clear, if stagnant, direction makes the story mostly easy to follow, despite a lack of variance in her staging...What makes Anyanwu’s play so frustrating is the amount of ground she is attempting to cover in 90 minutes...Since there’s so much to squeeze in to such a limited time, the audience never gets to see these ideas pushed as far as they could go in a more focused text." Full Review

New York Stage Review

“At its heart 'Good Grief’ is honest and engaging. But it’s hampered by Anyanwu’s overwrought structure...The central characters, N and MJ, are more than appealing enough to grab our hearts. So why mess around with Zeus and the gang...Though it centers on N and MJ’s friendship...'Good Grief’ is at its best, and most grounded, during a scene between N and her brother...It’s low-key and heartfelt, and more magical than anything any of those gods could possibly conjure up.” Full Review

Absorbing, Ambitious, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Great acting

See it if you can handle a play that involves the death of a close friend; you want to see the playwright as the main performer

Don't see it if you want a comedy or musical; you don't enjoy dramas

Absorbing, Great acting, Great staging

See it if You are interested in the emotions of young people on the verge of adulthood. You like great acting and very clever staging

Don't see it if You are expecting the show to be about the problems of African immigrants--this is not that show

Great staging, Great acting, Funny, Refreshingly heartfelt, Must see

See it if U like humor with your grief, the music, set, acting all evoke pure emotions of love, loss, joy, family wonderful multicultural experience

Don't see it if if you can't understand African accents, you are not ready to see pain/grief honesty portrayed - need a linear story - u might have to think

Also I love the Vineyard Theatre - a boy and his soul, the scottsboro boys ... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Enchanting, Great writing, Great acting, Resonant

See it if You like memory plays, beautiful acting, thoughtful writing, contemporary loss and grief explorations

Don't see it if You don’t like memory plays, need something completely straightforward and linear

Absorbing, Delightful, Ngozi is god, Epic

See it if You're looking for a show that is a deep meditation of the theme of grief. How does it swallow us? How do we attempt to escape it?

Don't see it if You're looking for black pain or the chance to see a black woman be "strong". This is a story about grief and love and want.

Affecting, Well played, Uneven, Beautifully written

See it if you'd like to see a solid play from an eloquent young writer about people who don't often appear on our stages: African immigrants to the US

Don't see it if you are looking for a straight, chronological, realistic play without any fantasy elements.

Also I love Ngozi Anyanwu’s voice, her ability to write dialogue that can g... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Entertaining, Great staging

See it if You like relationship stories, that of a young girls' first.

Don't see it if If you like linear stories. It's non linear.

Absorbing, Clever, Funny, Great acting

See it if You enjoy a well acted, engaging story with some warm humor

Don't see it if You only like musicals

Great acting, Semi autobiographical, Nicely crafted, Intelligently charming

See it if Title says it all: a memory piece that is fluid & supple & honest. How we each deal with pain. Strong cast; Quinlan outstanding.

Don't see it if Timeline may be confusing. Otherwise real & emotional appreciation/exploration on personal, accessible scale. If there’s a talkback, stay!

Absorbing, Edgy, Intelligent, Resonant

See it if Pal's 85% My 80% Happy with acting after reading reviews,. Interesting lighting effects. Always love the writer as an actor. Great audience

Don't see it if Reminder:1st few rows need raking. Some voices need a bit more projection Reminder:Subway does have an escalator at the 14th Street entrance

Ambitious, Thought-provoking, Resonant, Great acting

See it if If you want a heartfelt memorable show. One that tugs on emotion.

Don't see it if if you don't want to focus to hard. If you do not want to listen, words are spoken in between lines if you will.

Resonant, Thought-provoking, Intimate, Emotional

See it if you’re looking to have a good cry, or you enjoy stories told by fresh, young voices.

Don't see it if you’re looking to be cheered up. This is a sad, but also hopeful, story about a lost love.

Absorbing, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Slow

See it if This stretches the bounds of theater with its time shifts. Pay attention!

Don't see it if It’s sort of slow and takes its time revealing the relationships and plot.

Clever, Absorbing, Funny, Profound, Relevant

See it if You enjoy a play that delves into the emotions of the main character.

Don't see it if You are not interested in a play that deals with emotions and feelings.

Absorbing, Ambitious, Intelligent, Relevant

See it if you want to see a new voice and a fresh insight into multiculturalism and a new reason to fight for the USA that is now under attack.

Don't see it if You are averse to a little mawkishness, even if it is tempered with a fresh palette.

Great acting, Thought-provoking, Slow

See it if You like coming-of-age stories and can handle a show about the death of a young partner.

Don't see it if You want an inspiring set design--this play (and most at the Vineyard) are bare bones productions focusing on dialogue.

Also The actors were great--particularly the main actress/playwright was so... Read more Read less

Heartfelt, Ambitious, Thought-provoking, Slow

See it if Memory play about love, loss, grief & getting on with your life told in fragmented scenes. Some very good performances (esp. Ian Quinlan).

Don't see it if don't care for non-linear plays. Not always certain if the remembrances are entirely accurate. Mythological elements unnecessary.

Absorbing, Poignant, Intimate, Moving

See it if You want to see an intimate reminiscence of a deep friendship and how you learn to accept its loss

Don't see it if You only like plays that move in chronological order or don't want to feel sad at the theater

Heartfelt, Absorbing, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Humorous

See it if Relive the protagonist's memories of young love/loss in a non linear telling. Did it really happen? Good acting, funny and sorrowful.

Don't see it if you don't appreciate coming of age stories. Best to sit farther back in the theater or crane your neck watching the 2 story set.

Edgy, Great acting, Great writing, Thought-provoking, Resonant

See it if You want to see good acting, beautiful writing about the sad reality of senseless heartbreak and life’s tragedy

Don't see it if You want a peppy linear night at the theater

Touching, Exploratory, Sweet, Thought-provoking, Personal

See it if you want to watch a personal exploration play out on stage. It's intimate but also has universal emotions that we all can relate to. Lovely.

Don't see it if you prefer epic stories with big staging. This is a very internal show. The emotions are not always on the surface. More charming than deep.

Moving, Absorbing, Thought-provoking

See it if you are interested in a moving examination of grief, especially for someone at a young age. Clever dramatization of raw emotion.

Don't see it if you want to see something escapist and fun. For anyone who has experienced the loss of someone close to them, this may stir up some things.

Absorbing, Great acting, Great staging, Intelligent, Thought-provoking

See it if you enjoy unique theatre with excellent acting and staging

Don't see it if you like straightforward theatre

Funny, Quirky

See it if Intersectional re-hashing the past and adolescent love life of a Black daughter of immigrants living in suburbia after her almost bf dies.

Don't see it if Death/mourning of a loved one is triggering. Emotionally sad subject but play doesn't go as deep/emotional as it could.

Also Ticket from online rush on TodayTix for $32.50.

Absorbing, Funny, Indulgent, Slow, Nuanced

See it if You can follow a memory play, necessarily disjointed and distorted; you’re sympathetic to reminiscence of childhood, high school experiences

Don't see it if You find it hard to put yourself into the shoes of a teenage girl reliving her past, inclusive of crushes and early sexual experiences

Cast & Creatives (14)