If Pretty Hurts Ugly Must Be a Muhfucka
Closed 1h 50m
If Pretty Hurts Ugly Must Be a Muhfucka
73

If Pretty Hurts Ugly Must Be a Muhfucka NYC Reviews and Tickets

73%
(95 Reviews)
Positive
72%
Mixed
21%
Negative
7%
Members say
Ambitious, Entertaining, Great acting, Relevant, Clever

About the Show

Playwrights Horizons presents a decidedly contemporary riff on a West African fable. 

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Member Reviews (95)

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60
Poor staging, Dizzying, Disappointing, Banal

See it if I didn’t connect with this show. It’s the first time a set took away from a work for me. It was a simple fable stretched to 100 min.

Don't see it if You want a compelling story that moves you.

62
Indulgent, Disappointing, Colorful, Energetic, Ambitious

See it if you missed "The African Mean Girls Play" & want a 2nd rate version w/a simplistic, superficial message about inner beauty vs outer beauty.

Don't see it if you want to avoid a 110 min journey that leads to a banal, clichéd, pretentious, abrupt ending. Read more

Critic Reviews (22)

The New York Times
March 10th, 2019

"Sampson makes a contemporary fable about the black female body and its discontents. She also makes, in the Playwrights Horizons production that opened on Sunday under the exuberant direction of Leah C. Gardiner, an auspicious professional playwriting debut...Sampson uses a refreshing palette of theatrical colors to fill in the story...Though the inventiveness does not always pay off Gardiner’s well-acted and swift-moving production usually picks up the slack."
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Time Out New York
March 12th, 2019

"Sampson’s script plays like it’s sledding on a steep hill: You can feel the speed, the writer’s whizzing wit, the swift adjustments in tone and direction. The mixture of folklore-speak and hilarious up-to-the-minute banter is intoxicating...Gardiner’s vivid production is notable for its balance and propulsion. The cast is excellent...The combined effect of the music, the production and Sampson’s play: It's the feeling of being barraged by talent, all of it at full flood."
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New York Magazine / Vulture
March 10th, 2019

"There’s a disturbing, powerful play hiding inside Tori Sampson’s 'If Pretty Hurts Ugly Must Be a Muhfucka,' but it hasn’t worked its way out yet...It could all make for a great, and very scary, play. 'If Pretty Hurts' isn’t quite that play, though it feels like an energetic sketch in that direction...'If Pretty Hurts' needs to actually hurt, but what we’ve been shown has more often felt whimsical than ferocious...It’s got teeth inside it, but it isn’t biting yet."
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Theatermania
March 10th, 2019

"A lovable but chaotic piece of theater, one that's simultaneously energizing and vivacious, and also too loose to be fully successful...The story is somewhat predictable, but there's nothing obvious about Simpson's storytelling style. Her voice is really cool and imaginative, creating a play that pulsates with contemporary vernacular and old-school theatricality...I wish the piece were just a little tighter so it could fully deliver on its ambitious style of storytelling."
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Lighting & Sound America
March 11th, 2019

“Despite definite signs of talent ‘If Pretty Hurts’ has several problems, not least of which is the playwright's try-anything approach, which results in a jumbled narrative. But what makes it something of a trial is its insistence on lecturing the audience at great length...It's not surprising that the director, Leah C. Gardiner, has difficulty imposing some kind of order on these proceedings, but cast often charms, even with in the thinnest of roles."
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Talkin' Broadway
March 10th, 2019

"There's more high-flown poetry than vulgarism in her writing, along with an odd fusion of storytelling techniques...Do such disparate elements coalesce? Well, no...The storytelling's now-naturalistic, now-metaphorical, now-monologue, now-dialogue, now-pantomime, now-dance; and Sampson's principal concern, the unfairness of beauty standards, is stomped into the ground...There are some good scenes...But all that damn meta keeps getting in the way."
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New York Stage Review
March 10th, 2019

"The play is Sampson’s vibrant 90-minute spin on the time-honored 'black is beautiful' maxim...Bringing 'If Pretty Hurts' to its vibrant life is proficiently handled by director Leah C. Gardiner. She sees that all the actors maximize the possibilities in a story playwright Sampson cleverly tells by placing it in Affreakah-Amirrorikah, a land, not unlike America, where racism can, in the worst circumstances, turn in on itself...See Sampson's moving, pressing fable for, well, for its beauty."
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TheaterScene.net
March 11th, 2019

“Dynamically presented and sensationally performed...A surfeit of extraneous devices and a heavy-handed agenda overwhelm and drag out a tender and potentially resonant tale. There’s repetitive jokiness, a lumbering ghostly gospel sequence and an anti-climactic pretentious finale. Amidst the frustrating tangents are bright spots during a straight through nearly two hours....At the core of “If Pretty Hurts...’ is its enchanting tale that’s been waylaid by authorial excesses.”
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Theatre is Easy
March 12th, 2019

"Under the direction of Leah C. Gardiner, Playwrights Horizons’ excellent production is a celebration of theatrical design...As glorious as this production is, something about Sampson’s construction feels contradictory and uneven. For starters, the beauty of a young girl hardly feels like an issue important enough to motivate or sustain an entire story...What perhaps is intended as a twist in the narrative comes off as an unsatisfying, clichéd ending that outstays its welcome."
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Theater Pizzazz
March 11th, 2019

“Director Leah C. Gardiner takes advantage of the entire theater space at Playwrights Horizons, as actors venture out into the audience, running across the theater and up and down the aisles. But ‘If Pretty Hurts Ugly Must Be a Muhfucka’ ultimately disappoints. What could have been a provocative exploration fails to zero in on anything meaningful. Its examination of beauty is barely skin deep.”
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CurtainUp
March 12th, 2019

"Sampson has fused pop culture interactions with the magic realism of an Alvin Ailey-like choreographed folk tale to culminate her super beautiful main character's story...A Class A production. It's helmed by Gardiner, a director known to bring sprightliness and energy to a playwright's style, content, and characters...Though this play lacks the hoped for bite, it's never boring...The whole production is enhanced by the sumptuous music...The show should have lost at least ten or fifteen minutes."
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Front Row Center
March 11th, 2019

“In this emotionally vibrant and engrossing tale of the power beauty has on society, written by Sampson, Gardiner’s direction brings a vitality to the tale that adds vibrancy and poetry to the actors motions as well as highlighting the story of the play in a poetic but fast paced and direct way. She utilizes the backdrop of a cold set of plastic and metal bringing out the strong colors of the writing to make a good story great.”
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Front Mezz Junkies
March 12th, 2019

"'Pretty' polishes its surface into a fun serviceable show about how beauty, Black beauty in particular, is seen in the world. It swims fashionable forward, well-acted and inventive in nature and design, with a passion for its own telling and worth, but somehow, like anything too beautiful and fabulous, it doesn’t really know how to let us in to its inner core, and falters just enough to get pulled under by the river’s strength and current."
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Exeunt Magazine
March 18th, 2019

"The production blends African and American cultures in the village of Affreakah-Amirrorikah...Though spiritual music is an integral part of the African-American experience, the play loses focus when an extremely long gospel rendition distracts from the main story. Overall the blending of musical genres adds depth to the culture of the characters...The cast generates a fluid creative energy...Sampson succeeds in speaking directly to black women."
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T
March 10th, 2019

"Under Gardiner’s direction, the energetic and transformative cast mine Sampson’s script for its buried enduring and essential questions; however, despite their efforts, they come up with less than a treasure trove...What could have been a modern-day African folktale about self-awareness, self-acceptance, and true beauty – full of teachable moments – 'If Pretty Hurts' becomes a fractured fairy tale searching for thematic integrity...Despite these concerns, 'If Pretty Hurts' is a must see."
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Broadway Blog
March 11th, 2019

"It's a subject worth contemplating, one Sampson considers significant for black women. As explored here, however, it devolves into nearly two hours of self-conscious theatrics ranging from entertaining to innocuous… Sampson's script…blends hip school chatter with more formal language, including pretentious speeches that sound incompatible with who's saying them. A few good laughs exist, but they're usually sparked more by exaggerated comic acting than witty writing."
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C
March 10th, 2019

"Given that Sampson's play is bit one-note in its messaging, it's a wise choice that it's been written and staged as an African fable, complete with a brassy talking cell phone/narrator, two musicians, a pair of stunningly choreographed sequences and some noteworthy visual appeal, courtesy of Thompson's deceptively simple set, Ayite's colorful costumes, and, especially, Frey's incredible lighting design. And the commitment of each member of the cast simply can't be faulted."
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The Wrap
March 10th, 2019

"Tori Sampson takes a West African fable and turns it into an all-American cartoon...Theatergoers expecting something edgy or provocative will be disappointed...The most fascinating aspect of 'Muhf–a' is how Sampson misleads us into thinking the play is about one character when it’s really about one of the other young women. That singular pleasure, however, can’t be savored until the evening is almost over. Until then, you have to deal with confusing plot twists."
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C
March 17th, 2019

"A genre hybrid that boasts sterling music, fine choreography and movement, and elements of the fantastic and supernatural all in the service of monolithic themes and blockbuster issues that women have been grappling with for centuries, regardless of race or culture...The production raises intriguing questions...Leah C. Gardiner’s excellent staging brought together the various elements to ingeniously effect this production and make it memorable.
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Diandra Reviews it All
March 13th, 2019

“’If Pretty Hurts Ugly Must Be a Muhfucka’ has some enlightening verses that strike you like nature itself...Legacy gives Massassi a crackling vulnerability that shuffles beneath her image as 'The Body.'...Sampson’s observance of human interaction is BRILLIANT because she pinpoints one extremely negative approach every person is guilty of: searching for others' flaws...This play is one about the human heart and how it got lost through things as superficial as skin...It is phenomenal!”
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Show Showdown
March 14th, 2019

"While parts of it are familiar to anyone who has ever worried about her looks, the play is also something new, in turns thrilling, touching, and funny...As an old-ish white woman who has seen thousands of shows, I am thrilled to be challenged and entertained and broadened by writers such as Sampson and directors such as Leah C. Gardiner."
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New York Theatre Review
March 12th, 2019

"Sampson’s bold, uncompromising new play...Sampson weaves a tale that is rooted in tradition yet strikingly contemporary in a way that suggests that the importance of beauty is a tale that is truly as old as time...Sampson opens her world to magic that amplifies the circumstances of her characters and makes the things that seem world-ending to teenagers actually approach a real-life equivalent...Gardiner’s playful direction sets both actor and audience at ease."
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