Illyria NYC Reviews and Tickets

(129 Reviews)
Members say
Slow, Great acting, Disappointing, Intelligent, Absorbing

About the Show

Tony Award-winning playwright and director Richard Nelson returns to the Public to reveal a forgotten chapter of the Public Theater’s own history.

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Member Reviews (129)

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708 Reviews | 155 Followers
Great acting, Intelligent, Ambitious, Absorbing, Relevant

See it if you've liked Nelson's Apple & Gabriel Family plays, are interested in the history of the Public Theatre & familiar with its early artists

Don't see it if you don't like quietly conversational works, don't care about or not familiar with the Public Theatre's early struggles or Robert Moses

643 Reviews | 279 Followers
Find out what a young joe papp was like before he became "joe papp" of the public theater fame

See it if become fly on wall (1958) when young Papp beset by financial woes/resistance 2 free Shakespeare; but Papp's relentlessness shines thru

Don't see it if play consists of conversations delivered so softly/off-handedly that it's hard to hear the words & dramatic moments are drained of drama

677 Reviews | 189 Followers
Excruciating, Slow, Indulgent, Disappointing, Missed opportunity

See it if you liked the Apple & Gabriel plays (tho this is Nelson's weakest work by far) & want a cursory (at best) glimpse at the Public's origin.

Don't see it if you want to learn anything valuable about Papp or the the Public Theatre. This boring play, spoken by insufferable low-talkers, is a waste. Read more

534 Reviews | 132 Followers
Slow, Disappointing, Needs editing, Banal, Expected more

See it if you like a good ensemble in an intimate setting; you are interested in the early days of Joe Papp and the people in his circle.

Don't see it if The play is slow moving and dull. I was hoping a play about early Papp would be more interesting and meaty. Dialogue is often inaudible.

477 Reviews | 128 Followers
Mumblecore?, Arts advocacy history lesson, Nyc preservationist history lesson, Alt apple family?, Let us hear it

See it if arts advocacy/preservationist leanings, Pappism, leisurely storytelling, leaning forward to hear, are your thing

Don't see it if almost inaudible, almost Chekovian, dinner/casting table centered drama, are not your thing Read more

454 Reviews | 117 Followers
Confusing, Disappointing, Slow, Underwhelming, Flat

See it if you have a burning interest in the cultural history of midcentury NYC, especially the theatrical world

Don't see it if you like plays with well-developed characters and something remotely resembling a plot Read more

468 Reviews | 65 Followers

See it if Self pat on the back for the Public Theater's founders. How they created it with an undramatic amount of struggle

Don't see it if No real plot, more a reenactment of history. Read more

457 Reviews | 87 Followers
Boring, Indulgent, Self-congratulatory, Slow, Disappointing

See it if you need a nap. The seat was comfortable and the theater was dark, and I felt myself dozing off. Also see if you enjoy all-white casting. :/

Don't see it if you need to wash your hair, you want to be entertained or inspired, you'll miss the two hours of your life you'll never get back, etc. Read more

Critic Reviews (36)

The New York Times
October 30th, 2017

"If you don’t know much about the real Joseph Papp, you may wonder what the heck’s going on and why you should be interested. If you do know a lot about Papp and his associates, you may be a bit exasperated by the liberties Mr. Nelson has taken...But 'Illyria' also affords distinctive if fleeting pleasures that no one these days does better than Nelson...Theatergoers with patience will be rewarded by moments throughout when they will feel transformed into proverbial flies on the walls."
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Time Out New York
October 30th, 2017

"The play may be unpleasant, but at least it isn’t puffery...Dull drama...It’s dramatically inert, though the characters talk about important issues like civic space and the corrosive power of government ideologues...Nelson wants his work to be naturalistic and unfussy, but winds up with enforced murmuring...You can sense the strain it puts on the actors to speak in voices that can’t be heard, and many of them turn in mannered, uncomfortable performances. 'Illyria' has only one good scene."
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New York Magazine / Vulture
October 30th, 2017

"Actors in 'Illyria' are doing delicate, absorbing work conjuring very real people. The play is quite literally understated...I might even call it navel-gazing — but perhaps that’s all right when you have, admittedly, a very interesting navel...Almost feels more like documentary or museum recreation than theater itself. But despite its conscious avoidance of the dramatic, the piece ultimately works its way between your ribs."
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The Hollywood Reporter
October 30th, 2017

"More frustrating than edifying, more obscure than enlightening...I sat in the third row and still couldn't make out much of the dialogue...The dialogue is so low-key and matter-of-fact that it fails to engage our attention...Subject matter so potentially fascinating makes it all the more frustrating that Illyria proves so tedious and lifeless. There's so little passion exhibited that it ironically only makes you wonder how the New York Shakespeare Festival ever got off the ground."
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November 4th, 2017

“The tepid tone and low energy level of ‘Illyria’ would have us believe that the birth of the New York Shakespeare Festival was a walk in the park...Nelson doesn’t make much of these real historical challenges...As far as dramatic conflict, the play doesn’t totally flatline. The real problem is with the tone-deaf performance style that Nelson has adopted...Almost everyone falls into the stumble-and-mumble company style...The lack of energy in this production is enough to knock you out cold.”
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November 5th, 2017

"Nelson sketches absorbing portraits of Papp and the tight circle who ventured with him...'Illyria' continues Nelson’s preoccupation with conversational presentation in which the actors speak sotto voce, forcing us to listen hard...It’s far less effective here...Moreover, the male players in this history, starting with Papp himself, were a volatile lot, something you’d never know from the hushed tones prevailing here...'Illyria' has second act problems. Notably: There isn’t one."
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AM New York
October 30th, 2017

"A quiet, talky, pensive and unresolved new drama...The play ends without climax or even a hint of resolution, and much of the conversation rambles on too long, but those who appreciate Nelson’s intimate, low-key, ensemble-oriented aesthetic and Off-Broadway history will not want to miss it."
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October 30th, 2017

"Audiences will recognize a deep humanity and quiet perseverance in the play — if they can manage to stay awake. It's actually impressive how Nelson is able to provoke big yawns with such a fascinating tale...Nelson populates his drama with a cast of real characters...Their aggressively mild portrayals leave us with the aftertaste of mayonnaise: We never get a real sense of any of them...In pursuit of realism, Nelson downplays the stakes of this vitally relevant story."
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