New York | 1h 40m | Already closed


From 36 critic and 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.

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

Slow, Different, Intriguing

See it if You'll watch unlikeable people who made a great thing happen. You're up for hypernaturalism - low-key, low-drama conversational scenes.

Don't see it if You want a straight biopic, or a conventional structure with an arc and a conclusion.

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

Slow, Great acting

See it if You're interested in the history behind the New York Shakespeare Festival and Joe Papp

Don't see it if you have trouble focusing sitting for a long play with no intermission.

Intelligent, Confusing

See it if you're interested in the early days of the New York Shakespeare Festival, and you don't insist on complete historical accuracy.

Don't see it if you're unfamiliar with the people who were involved in creating the NYSF, or you would be bothered by not being able to hear every line.

Indulgent, Slow, Resonant, Historically interesting

See it if You love the public theater and you want to learn more about its history and founding. You love Nelson and how he writes and stages

Don't see it if Want fast paced. Don't care about the public. Don't like shaekespeare. Want Nelson's best work. Are hard of hearing.

Entertaining, Great acting, Intelligent, Slow, Great writing

See it if you like "slice of life" plays or have an interest in Joe Papp.

Don't see it if you like plot heavy plays or detailed historical dramas.

Great acting, Intelligent, Disappointing

See it if You want an insight into one of the giants of the American stage. If you want to see a tight ensemble in action.

Don't see it if You don’t care for super naturalism. I was in the second row and it was hard to hear. The strategy means there is no rising action or climax

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.

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.

Entertaining, Relevant, Ambitious, Disappointing, Quirky

See it if You are very interested in Joe Papp and the history of Shakespeare in the Park

Don't see it if You want light entertainment

A window into the early years of the public

See it if you want to see the imagination of some of the struggles to get the public going

Don't see it if you want to be left feeling Joseph Papp was a nice guy (But kuddos are due him for his role in the Public being established)

Great acting, Resonant, Slow

See it if You are a fan of intimate conversational theatre, naturalistic acting or just want a dramatized view of the people who formed the Public.

Don't see it if You are looking for action or a highly dramatic plot or you have a hard time hearing as the actors speak in “indoor voices”.

Also The conversational tone/style gives the audience a “seat at the table”... Read more Read less

Great acting, Indulgent, Thought-provoking, Great staging, Relevant

See it if you are interested in the history of theatre in NYC especially through Joe Papp. The parallels from NYC's changing cityscape relates to now.

Don't see it if You are looking for a profound extremely memorable performance. The show itself is so-so.

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).


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.

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

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.

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

Relevant, Slow, Fluffy

See it if You'd like a historical piece on the founding of Shakespeare in the Park

Don't see it if You enjoy the tension of dramatic moments

Great writing, Slow, Disappointing

See it if You are interested in the Public’s roots - or are a fan of Richard Nelson’s writing

Don't see it if You are expecting to be engaged. These characters just don’t draw you in. They are not the Gabriels.

Also The subject and writing were interesting and this might make a better ... Read more Read less

Slow, Disappointing, Slow and small slice of papp's mission

See it if You can deal with a way too long too slow slice of Joe Papp's theatrical journey focused on his New York Shakespeare Festival.

Don't see it if You want to get greater insight into Joseph Papp and all his accomplishments.

Also Slow, slow, slow and too long. Show ran almost 2 hours and we get it b... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Indulgent, Dated

See it if you have knowledge and interest in the period covered. You're ok with a lightweight talk piece that engages without inspiring.

Don't see it if you're looking for something substantial. You want to see a play where the female characters have some agency.

Also I'd been forewarned that this didn't live up to Nelson's previous work... Read more Read less

Great acting, Disappointing, Fluffy, Slow, Interesting

See it if you enjoy theater history or are interested in early days of the Public Theater.

Don't see it if you have a hard time hearing (is quite quiet) or have no interest in what is essentially an action-less play.

Disappointing, Anticlimactic., Insular., Good first scene.

See it if You are interested in the history of Shakespeare in the Park, even though you know the outcome. You love Richard Nelson's work.

Don't see it if You want to see topnotch Nelson. You know the outcome of the history of Shakespeare in the Park.

Also It pains me to say that I didn't care for this play because I loved th... Read more Read less

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