Already closed | 1h 40m | East Village


From 129 member  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. More…

It is 1958, and New York City is in the midst of a major building boom; a four-lane highway is planned for the heart of Washington Square; Carnegie Hall is designated for demolition; entire neighborhoods on the West Side are leveled to make room for a new 'palace of art.' And a young Joe Papp and his colleagues face betrayals, self-inflicted wounds, and anger from the city’s powerful elite as they continue their free Shakespeare productions in Central Park. 'Illyria' is a family drama about a different kind of family–one held together by the simple and incredibly complicated belief that the theater, and the city, belong to all of us.

Member Reviews (129)


Slow, Great acting, Disappointing, Intelligent, Absorbing
Avg Score

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.

Also What a huge missed opportunity! A play about the origins of the Public... Read more Read less

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

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

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.

Great staging, Great acting, Disappointing, Slow, Historical facts

See it if You are interested in Joe Papp, the beginnings of the Public Theater, and Shakespeare in the Park. About the people that made it happen.

Don't see it if You expect action. Have any difficult hearing conversationally spoken dialogue by actors at a table. Joe Papp who??

Also I felt that this play was written for a very narrow audience. There is... Read more Read less

Confusing, Indulgent, Overrated, Slow, Quiet

See it if You love everything about the Public and Joe Papp. You want a cursory look at how the Public began.

Don't see it if You are hard of hearing, they don't project AT ALL.You don't mind a play that goes NO WHERE, with characters that are unmotivated and boring

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

Also The anniversary of the Public Theater deserved better than this. Richa... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Great acting, Slow, Intelligent, Entertaining

See it if You love theatre history! Even if a few liberties have been taken.

Don't see it if You can’t concentrate on a story that drags on.

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

Also At the Q&A following the 11/19 matinee, the staff member and community... Read more Read less

Interesting, Loooong, Speak up please, Realistic

See it if you like dialogue driven plays based on true stories with naturalistic acting, to a fault.

Don't see it if you have a problem sitting for 2 hours and straining to hear "conversational" dialogue, or have no interest in the Public's backstory.

Also Ok, I get that a choice was made for naturalism, but really, is it nec... Read more Read less

Intelligent, Slow, Talky, Great acting, Thought-provoking

See it if An interesting hostorical piece. Sensitive performances. Insider tidbits about the late ‘50s in NY theater.

Don't see it if All talk no action. Very slow. Get the assisted listening devices. They mumble. Very inside baseball.

Very small stripped down version of a riveting tale.

See it if you dont mind an utter lack of drama.

Don't see it if you have any trouble hearing. This is basically a small group of talking heads with overlapping banal dialog.

Also The Forum that was presented on this was fascinating, even with the un... Read more Read less

Ambitious, Great writing, Indulgent, Quirky, Overrated

See it if like a conversational piece about a theoretical beginning to Shakespeare in the Park, real characters hypothetical conversations

Don't see it if if you are looking for drama.

Slow, Great staging, Interesting

See it if you are interested in the history of theater, particularly in the Shakespeare in the Park back story and Joseph Pabb.

Don't see it if you are hard of hearing (sound is challenging) or if you bore easily (it is a bit slow).

Great acting, Intelligent, Disappointing, Slow, Low-volume

See it if Mr. Nelson's conversational plays; historical (1958) story based on Public's early founders when it started with NY Shakespeare Festival

Don't see it if want something as moving as Mr. Nelson's other conversational plays - thought the 2nd scene was his most traditional & moving; slow at end

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.

Also I get that they love ol' Joe. This tribute should have been a one-nigh... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Great writing, Riveting, Intelligent

See it if Wonderful production for anyone interested in theater history. Well written and produced.Nelson wrote and directed a winner!

Don't see it if Do not see if you only enjoy musicals or light dramas.


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.

Also Free ticket from online lottery.

Disappointing, Indulgent, Slow, Confusing

See it if you're a charter member of the Richard Nelson Fan Club.

Don't see it if you want to see/hear a vivid depiction of an important piece of NYC theatrical history.

Also There are some poor directorial choices where the actors are speaking ... Read more Read less

Ambitious, Slow, Intelligent

See it if You are interested in Joe Papp and the history of the Public Theater. Watching this play made me want to learn more about him.

Don't see it if You need some dramatic action. It is very slow and drags on at times, especially the last scene.

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

See it if You want to be in the rooms where it happened . ..with Joe Papp through the growing pains of the Public Theater

Don't see it if You don't feel like listening , they call it conversational

Thought-provoking, Relevant

See it if You want to dive into a very different time in the history of NYC and the Public Theater.

Don't see it if You're hard of hearing

Also It's hard to imagine a time when Shakespeare in the Park was under thr... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Great writing, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, A feast for the theatrical soul!

See it if you're interested in history/role of theater in NYC, or NYC and U.S. politics of the 1950s. Evokes NORMAL HEART (albeit far less intense).

Don't see it if you're not up for dialogue-driven play about founding of the Public Theatre, its battles vs. Robert Moses & HUAC, & Papp as force of nature.

Also Dialogue is naturalistic and can be, at times, hard to hear. Come prep... Read more Read less

Intelligent, Relevant, Slow, Cozy

See it if You have deep interest in Joe Papp & co, Shakespeare in the Park, or Richard Nelson's playwriting style.

Don't see it if You're expecting a lifelong biographical play. This takes place in a single summer. Or if you don't like quiet, talky, self-contained plays.

Absorbing, Slow, Interesting, Quotidian

See it if You have at least a passing interest in the history of The Public Theater and Joe Papp. You enjoy the day to day struggles of real life.

Don't see it if You need sturm und drang in your theater. You are embarrassed to ask for the assisted hearing devices some may require.

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...
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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...
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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 recreat...
read more
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 frustra...
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