Happy Talk NYC Reviews and Tickets

73%
(131 Reviews)
Positive
67%
Mixed
26%
Negative
7%
Members say
Great acting, Disappointing, Funny, Entertaining, Thought-provoking

About the Show

Susan Sarandon stars in Jesse Eisenberg’s funny and devastating play for The New Group, which reveals the absurd lengths people go to save themselves in the name of saving others.


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Member Reviews (131)

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60
Convoluted, Cliched, Mildly entertaining, Unconvincing, Disappointing

See it if you want to see Sarandon (mostly miscast) and Ireland (wonderful, quirky & moving, as always) as a would-be diva & her subjugated devotee.

Don't see it if u expect more than a heavy-handed, clichéd, sitcom-style "intrigue" that starts strong, drags on too long & ends darkly & abruptly.

67
Well acted, Cliched, Slow, Thought-provoking, Disappointing

See it if Eisenberg's amusing/creepy dramedy often hit its mark but loses focus a great deal Well played by leads despite Sarandon's low-key approach

Don't see it if Elliot's restrained direction hurts an already tepid story while Eisenberg's many plot lines are left problematic Questionable ending mars

Critic Reviews (38)

The New York Times
May 16th, 2019

"Ms. Sarandon might not be ideally cast in the role of the flamboyantly dotty Lorraine...As embodied by Ms. Sarandon in this wobbly New Group production — directed by Scott Elliott and also starring the invaluable Marin Ireland — Lorraine always seems a bit abstracted, as if she had other, darker things on her mind than the glories of musical comedy. So, to put it mildly, does 'Happy Talk.'...Mr. Eisenberg’s play and Mr. Elliott’s direction never seem to settle on a cohesive tone."
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New York Magazine / Vulture
May 16th, 2019

"The only good thing to be said about Jesse Eisenberg’s dismal new play is that it’s a real value: It’s two bad plays for the price of one...There’s something superior and even cruel about the play’s sense of humor, which mostly derives from Lorraine’s unabated awfulness...The comedy of 'Happy Talk' is so sour and the drama so ham-fisted and misdirected that I found myself weirdly grateful for Oreskes’s Bill, a character who spends the play grimacing in an armchair."
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The Hollywood Reporter
May 16th, 2019

"Alternately amusing and discomfiting...'Happy Talk' proves genuinely enjoyable in its first half, with Sarandon clearly having a blast as the self-centered diva...It's when the play turns darker that it becomes increasingly tiresome and unconvincing...Though Scott Elliott's staging fails to provide stylistic cohesion to a play in need of further development, the evening nonetheless has its pleasures, thanks in large part to the terrific performances."
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AM New York
May 16th, 2019

"At the very least, 'Happy Talk,' a wobbly living room drama by Jesse Eisenberg, ought to make theatergoers eager to revisit the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical 'South Pacific'...Eisenberg’s plays function best as detailed portraits of complex and often difficult people. Many of the narrative elements of 'Happy Talk' are clumsy, creepy and heavy-handed. Nevertheless, 'Happy Talk' is often absorbing."
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Theatermania
May 16th, 2019

"If only we had reason to care about these relationships. Eisenberg writes the majority of his play like a drawing-room comedy and uses that as leave to design Lorraine as the perpetual punchline to a single joke...Exposing an unhealthy trope that you yourself are exploiting for laughs does not earn profundity points...Shock is a valuable dramatic tool, but not independent from genuine insight and a fundamental shift in perspective."
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Lighting & Sound America
May 17th, 2019

“The pièce de résistance of the play's credibility problems is the plot...By the time ‘Happy Talk’ completes the transition from acid comedy to psychological thriller, it may very well be too late...I suppose you can view 'Happy Talk' as a parable of the dangers of narcissism...But the playwright's way of pinning down his characters, as if in a butterfly collection, makes his play something of an ordeal...Ultimately, ‘Happy Talk’ is undone by its dismissive attitude toward its characters.”
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New York Stage Review
May 16th, 2019

"Although the play suffers from a hasty, not entirely convincing conclusion, the characters are vividly composed, and director Scott Elliott provides a smoothly paced production...Perhaps Sarandon was experiencing an off night at a recent preview, but her portrait of a possibly crazy lady was not entirely convincing to me."
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New York Stage Review
May 16th, 2019

"Under Scott Elliott's nimble direction, Sarandon and Ireland do superb, nuanced work traversing the different roles and responsibilities suggested in Lorraine and Ljuba’s friendly, fraught relationship...Eisenberg crafts characters and dialogue that will prove instantly accessible, and very funny, both to those intimately acquainted with the milieu he’s sending up and the presumable minority of audience members who aren’t."
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Theater News Online
May 16th, 2019

"This is not a novel subject – show folk who are privately miserable and use stage illusions to mask life’s ugly realities. But Eisenberg marries his sardonic portrait to an immigrant’s story to give it an extra layer of suspense and relevance...Scott Elliott’s production deftly layers well-crafted cringe comedy with moments of pathos...At one hour and 45 minutes, the play could lose 15 minutes (as practically everything could), and as noted, Sarandon can’t stick the landing."
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TheaterScene.net
May 19th, 2019

"The combination of Mr. Eisenberg’s smug sensibility, inane contrivances, shtick-ridden dialogue, condescended-to characters, and slack construction all make it a tiresome one hour and 45 minutes...Sarandon is onstage for virtually the entire play, giving a spirited performance that is as faithful as possible to Eisenberg’s pop psychology conception...Despite the talent and craft on display, 'Happy Talk' is a joyless, hollow and minor exercise."
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Theatre is Easy
May 16th, 2019

"Luckily, Sarandon manages to fill out her portrayal of Lorraine to make her a woman we’d like to at least spend an hour or so with. Ireland is wonderful opposite Sarandon... Eisenberg’s script is often hilarious, and full of great one-liners. The writing is witty, and the story is well told...Ellis’ production is well-paced, and excellent supporting performances...make this play a truly enjoyable two hours. But on closer examination, it doesn’t add up to much more than, well…talk."
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Theater Pizzazz
May 17th, 2019

"Sarandon takes on this juicy role giving it all the exquisite touches it deserves as does Ireland who both compete for the laughs. Sometimes the comedy lands as it should and other times it stings and gets in the way. But, alas, as good as the cast is, you leave feeling unfulfilled knowing that something is missing. Scott Elliott directs this uniformly well-chosen cast."
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CurtainUp
May 17th, 2019

“Eisenberg has a knack for compelling dialogue — it's believable (often more believable than the characters who speak it), funny at times...But, where characterization of his protagonists is concerned, Eisenberg tends to disclose all his cards very early, leaving little for the audience to discover...Elliott wrings maximal horror from what the playwright has written...The production's cast is admirable, but three of the members are severely underutilized."
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Front Row Center
May 17th, 2019

“’Happy Talk’...plays tricks with our perception - and it takes a long, long time to get where it is going...The performances are all quite fine. Some are more rounded than others, but this is due to the writing that often feels tentative. No one person dominates the story...The result is that this play travels along its sad path until it reaches the climax, where a touch of dastardly is thrown in...Nothing is really resolved. The play just ends...We all leave...wondering what we just watched.”
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Stage Buddy
May 20th, 2019

"'Happy Talk' is filled with unhappy characters, yet Eisenberg’s play leaves you unsatisfied with no one to root for or care about. At moments Lorraine reminded me of Blanche DuBois, who was out of touch with reality. Yet Lorraine is creating her reality, no matter who she hurts and that’s even worse. Like 'Blood Mary,' Lorraine is a ‘broken woman,’ but at least we care about Mary."
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Front Mezz Junkies
May 27th, 2019

"The plotting of ‘Happy Talk’ is convoluted and abstract...Ireland is the star here...But the trap she finds herself in isn’t dramatically engaging enough to hold our heart, our attention, and this play together...As a full theatrical experience, it doesn’t satisfy, leaving us cringing at the shallowness of the comedy, unfulfilled, disheartened, and embarrassed."
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Exeunt Magazine
May 29th, 2019

“Sarandon is curiously flat with a character that should be anything but...Ireland brings a sunny goofiness to Ljuba, masking the character’s pain with an unwavering cheerfulness...It might have been welcome to see one positive female-female relationship. Instead, 'Happy Talk' is an ironic moniker – this talk is anything but happy. It’s fear talk, it’s isolation talk, it’s hopeless talk. Unfortunately, the production doesn’t bring these emotions fully to the surface.”
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T
May 16th, 2019

"Susan Sarandon delivers an authentic and believable performance. One wishes for a more layered performance and it is not clear why that nuance is missing here...Susan Sarandon’s portrayal of the self-involved Lorraine is unfortunately limited by Jesse Eisenberg’s script which fails to develop the complicated and layered profile of the narcissist and their effect on those they entrap."
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C
May 16th, 2019

"Sarandon stars as the chattering Lorraine, a New Jersey housewife who could be in the illustrated dictionary under 'N' for narcissist. Not only is she completely caught up in her own so-called life as an actress -- Lorraine needs to be the constant center of attention. So much so, that she has next-to-no energy left for her physically and emotionally suffering husband Bill (a wondrous Oreskes, doing a lot with very little) or her dying mother, who lives in the same house."
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Theatre's Leiter Side
May 24th, 2019

"Intermittently funny, mostly unsuccessful…So many such contrivances stick in one's critical throat it's impossible to swallow most of what happens in the play…Throughout, Eisenberg drops foreshadowing bricks that fall so loudly you have a good idea of what's coming almost as surely as if a gun had been introduced. Nevertheless, when predictability becomes reality, your stomach will churn from what the playwright's twist of the dial requires Lorraine to do."
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DC Theatre Scene
May 16th, 2019

"Whatever pleasures come from the fine acting by a starry cast, 'Happy Talk' is ultimately a sour and off-putting play...One could, with extreme charity, compare Eisenberg to Eugene O’Neill in his dissection of the human need for self-delusion. But a main problem with the play is that Lorraine has come off as so monstrous and delusional from the get-go, and Ljuba as so naïve, that we’re left by the end with little insight – and some guilt for having found any of their behavior funny."
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Times Square Chronicles
May 17th, 2019

“Seeing Susan Sarandon act in Eisenberg’s ‘Happy Talk’, is a delight, the play not so much...Ireland and Sarandon both seem out of their elements, even though both are amazing actress. They do each manage to find moments of vulnerability and truth, it just doesn’t last, but that is mostly due to the writing...Not enough is given to flesh out these characters so that we truly care...This play is quirky, disturbing, and not quite complete.”
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Upstage-Downstage
May 21st, 2019

"It seems at first glimpse as though we might be embarking on a sitcom filled with familiar types...In each of the acts, our sympathies are manipulated in a different way as we try to decide how we feel about Lorraine...This does make the play feel rather bumpy...’Happy Talk’ feels like it is a draft or two away from completion. But Sarandon and Ireland, as well as the rest of the cast make it well worth the visit.”
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Gotham Playgoer
May 22nd, 2019

“Eisenberg does not seem to have had a clear goal in mind for this disappointing work. What begins as a comedic portrait of a totally self-absorbed suburban woman turns into something much darker. Along the way, we get a picture of the circumscribed lives of undocumented immigrants and a screed against our materialistic society...While it is a pleasure to see both Sarandon and Ireland together, the truth is that neither is ideally cast...Sporadically entertaining, but it ultimately disappoints.”
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Cultural Weekly
June 5th, 2019

"A sometimes amusing, but ultimately predictable comedy-drama...Oreskes’ eloquent silent reactions and Santos’ hilariously delivered quips, chock full of musical-comedy references, merge with Sarandon’s on-target portrayal...and Ireland’s grounded depiction...to create comedy which both touching and riotous...'Happy Talk' has its sequences of fun and insight, but fails to sustain a truly credible situation and complex characters."
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Off Off Online
May 16th, 2019

"It has been a decade since Sarandon has appeared on a New York stage, but she returns in fine form, negotiating a complex character who is as strong-willed as she is mentally unstable...Ireland is in full wound-up mode, which is fortunate, because she is required to do quite a bit of springing about...Under the always sure hand of director Elliott, she offsets Oreskes’s static presence with her frantic movements, complements Sarandon’s lost wanderings with determined strides."
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Financial Times (UK)
May 17th, 2019

“Eisenberg duly serves up a generous helping of misery and narcissism in this new play...For starters, the characters are rather broadly drawn here...Those over-the-top twists would be better suited to a more expressionistic theatrical style. As it is, Eisenberg’s dialogue and exposition remain pedestrianly literal while Elliott’s staging sticks to humdrum kitchen-sink convention...Ireland and Sarandon nonetheless display lively chemistry here.”
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scribicide
June 5th, 2019

"Over the course of three plays...Jesse Eisenberg has established himself as the premier satirist of guilt-ridden, ineffectual American liberalism. His work is littered with a gaggle of narcissistic, white idiots, and 'Happy Talk,' his latest, is no exception...As for the mashup of domestic comedy and domestic thriller, I hope this portends new directions for Eisenberg's future work."
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Newsday
May 16th, 2019

"Meanders for nearly two, intermissionless hours without really going anywhere...Director Scott Elliott does what he can to wring some dramatic tension out of the piece, finding it mostly in Ljuba (Marin Ireland, a terrific fireball of nervous energy)...As bad as the author wants us to feel for these characters, it’s almost impossible to care much about what happens to any of them."
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The Stage (UK)
May 16th, 2019

"It veers from cringe comedy to family drama until the production eventually flies off course. But, for all its tonal shifts, what the play is actually trying to say remains opaque...Because the plotting has a sitcom vibe, the comedy often results in hesitant laughter or confused silence. When the writing temporarily becomes sincere, it’s hard to take it seriously."
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StageZine
May 16th, 2019

"The set-up in part one is amusing, the second part is hysterical and witty, but the third part becomes Mr. Eisenberg’s now formulaic, five-character nihilism. Mr. Eisenberg could have had a wonderful comedy, the likes of Neil Simon. It could have been something totally different for him and very entertaining for the times in which we live, but he chose to stick to his now trademark dark themes...Jesse Eisenberg has written a good play and Scott Elliott has directed it in an adroit manner."
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Show Showdown
May 26th, 2019

"The ideas and the situation are intriguing, and there is humor and insight in the telling. But, at least here, its good points are eclipsed by its problems...Rather than peeling the onion to get deeper into the story and people's psyches, it switches onions a few times and even throws in an apple and an orange...The tone of the play pivots without logic; and the pay off is bizarre and unconvincing...And then there's the direction of Scott Elliot. He lets Sarandon flounder."
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The Wrap
May 16th, 2019

"Uneven new dramedy...Eisenberg’s script is often funny, and he gets much mileage out of Lorraine’s verbal barbs. But despite the hard work of a talented cast — Ireland in particular seems to be having a blast — director Scott Elliott’s production can’t overcome the one-dimensionality of the characters, or the creakiness of the plot."
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Medium
May 16th, 2019

"Most likely you will leave 'Happy Talk' with a feeling of strangeness and conflicted emotions; it all feels a bit off and out of place...Eisenberg’s dialogue is often hilarious, and Lorraine is constantly unaware of how ridiculous she is...However, it is in the second half that everything really falls apart — both in the plot and in the quality of the writing...Had potential, and it began well, but overall it does not meet expectations and comes off as poorly written and unresolved."
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Philadelphia Inquirer
May 20th, 2019

"This play is full of awful people, and despite a great cast and some smart laugh lines, the awfulness grates on your nerves. I’d hoped for the 'Kiss Me, Kate' effect, where the frame play plays with the famous play, and although the songs from 'South Pacific' are motivic here, and although there is some obvious if feeble link between Lorraine’s matchmaking and Bloody Mary’s, none of it seems to matter much...'Happy Talk' is long on talk, and very short on happy."
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Stage and Cinema
May 16th, 2019

"In Jesse Eisenberg’s very funny and poignant one-act 'Happy Talk,' the excellent Susan Sarandon plays Lorraine...Mr. Eisenberg’s truthful writing and Scott Elliott’s balanced direction, not to mention Ms. Sarandon’s grounded performance, make her sympathetic...'Happy Talk' explores this dynamic with wit and wisdom, making for a worthwhile experience that lingers."
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Scene on Stage
May 19th, 2019

"That there are five characters is safe enough, although one’s entrance half-way through alters the 105-minute play dramatically. What had been a humanistic, quasi-comedic character study takes on a shadowy texture that continues to darken up to the denouement...Truths lead to the unraveling of the relationships laid out in the ultimately unnerving play, which, under Scott Elliott’s obvious direction, could only end the way it does."
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The Guardian (UK)
May 16th, 2019

“A reliably accomplished performance...isn’t enough to add weight to an uneven tale...Characterization is thin and as hard as Sarandon tries, she’s unable to turn Lorraine into someone with even a fraction of the humanity...Eisenberg flings in a last-minute twist that lands with a thud...It’s less the twist itself but more how it plays out, awkwardly and campily, ending the show on a duff note. A strangely underwhelming play, stranger still given Eisenberg’s intellect and Sarandon’s talent.”
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