The first play of Annie Baker's residency at Signature Theatre, this world premiere follows a young couple trying to reconnect in a Pennsylvania bed-and-breakfast. More…
Pulitzer Prize winner Annie Baker and frequent collaborator, director Sam Gold, team up once more for 'John.' It's the week after Thanksgiving in a bed-and-breakfast in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and a young couple struggle to stay together, while thousands of inanimate objects watch on.
"The chills start the moment the curtains open on this sublime play, and occur so frequently, and with such stunning force, you'll swear that there's something wrong with the air conditioning. No, this is just what Baker and Gold do, and better than almost anyone else. They're masterful minimalist storytellers, she crafting dialogue that maximizes what's usually a few words, he evoking the sumptuous emotions from the most outwardly ordinary situations." Full Review
"'John' is so good on so many levels that it casts a unique and brilliant light...Baker returns us to the naturalistic but soulful theatre that many of her contemporaries and near-contemporaries have disavowed in their rush to be 'postmodern.' With 'John,' Baker has done something exceptional on a political level, too: she has declared her ambition. The truth is that it’s still an anomaly for women artists to claim this kind of space for themselves and their work." Full Review
"It is a complex work that gets under your skin and then sneaks into your soul...The production is a seamless collaboration between Sam Gold’s precise direction and Baker’s mysterious dialogue...Baker is a master of cracking open that door where we see ghosts of ourselves grinning on the other side." Full Review
"A brilliant new play by superstar playwright Annie Baker...Baker’s herculean command of rhythm and pace, and her capacity to manipulate the way we listen and engage with performance, is an intoxicating experience from the first minute to the hundred and ninety fifth...Baker, astonishing us with the familiar, achieves the formidable task of revealing ourselves to ourselves." Full Review
"There’s a vaguely supernatural vibe, but Baker and Gold don’t push it. 'John' is what you make of it. It could be a Freudian fairy tale in which youngsters find a strange house with its own rules, except it belongs to a nice lady instead a witch. Or it could be about women dealing with repressed traumas. The beauty of the show is that my guesses are as good as yours. Baker knows exactly what she’s doing — she gives us just enough to open up possibilities. What a thrill!" Full Review
"I’m now an inveterate Baker partisan, which also means I’m a staunch advocate of director Sam Gold as well. He’s established as one half a formidable team, guiding Baker’s plays with an obviously instinctive understanding of what she’s after...Baker’s talent — let’s call it by its rightful name: genius — is laying out immediately familiar sequences that, as they slowly unfold, prompt disturbing ambiguities." Full Review
"The plot is absolutely secondary to character development and the joy of observing these people exist and interact. 'John' is 3 hours and 15 minutes long with two intermissions. It’s staged on one of the most complete sets I’ve seen of any play, ever. It places the audience so firmly in this environment of a kitschy B&B — it’s warm and cozy, and the decor walks the line between ornate and hideous. I felt so wrapped up in the embrace of this theater experience that I never wanted to leave." Full Review
"Ms. Baker stretches her talents in intriguing if sometimes baffling new directions. The membrane between life and death, the world of things and the realm of spirits, seems strangely permeable in Ms. Baker’s appealingly odd — and perhaps less appealingly long — drama...The dialogue in 'John,' orchestrated with intuitive delicacy by Sam Gold, proceeds in the natural fits and starts of lifelike conversation...The acting is exquisitely honed and artifice-free." Full Review
"If the emphasis on the uncanny doesn’t succeed, Baker’s almost superhuman flair for character and dialogue is in rare form. Watching 'John,' I realized as never before how unlikable most of her characters are, and how little it matters. Baker approaches them all with a kind of radical empathy, without ever softening or excusing their faults. She sees them so clearly that though the play runs more than three hours, you can’t take your eyes off it." Full Review
"I loved the four oddball, disconnected people in it and the way their stories intersect, carom off one another and then refuse to neatly resolve...The beauty and the point of 'John' is not the conclusion but the journey as these four make and break connections and struggle to make them again...The Gold/Baker collaboration is impeccable and the performances are as true-to-life — even as predictable — as the unfolding tale they tell. You shouldn’t miss it." Full Review
"This is a big show — three hours and change dealing with love and relationships and sadness — but also a humble, cerebral one, without bells and whistles...'John' is recognizably a Baker play, her characters trying to figure out how to exist with each other, with wise insights inside mundane observations, comfortable with long pauses and a slow pace...It is thoughtful, however, and softly mesmerizing as these characters slowly reveal themselves." Full Review
"It runs around three and a quarter hours, but its combination of director Gold’s nuanced direction, an ideal ensemble, meticulously crafted characters and dialogue, and a dose of magic realism create an aura of spectral possibilities. While it takes some time, the play is filled with emotional and ideational undercurrents that keep you swimming. " Full Review
"The play is haunted. It is also so expansive that it becomes, in the third act, when you want it to buckle down, a bit unsatisfyingly diffuse. I sense that this is intentional. Baker is interested in the grace that may accompany great age and suffering, but why leave it there...? With no special effects except that player piano, she’s produced a real ghost story, which is to say a semblance of life." Full Review
"Baker has written a deeply mysterious drama, with a thematic patterning that seems to warp and dissolve as each act progresses. At times 'John' seems to be a study of the inner lives of objects...Like much in the cozy yet unnerving world Baker has created here—her most formally experimental to date—I don’t quite get the significance. But if I lower the lights and wait, some glimmering form might appear around the corner." Full Review
"The hypnotic, if never actually conclusive experience, is directed by Sam Gold. This is Gold's sixth Baker play, and the two obviously understand the importance of atmosphere in the terrors and passions of these oddly recognizable people... Baker does not merely tell a scary story. She shows them, piling up like ghosts of amputated limbs from the war wounded, and makes them riveting, unpredictable, altogether human theater." Full Review
"'John' is full of attempts by lonely characters to relate to one another, just like 'The Flick.' Ultimately, 'John' is a darker story, one that leaves audiences grappling with questions about how much they trust the people with whom they’re most intimate. It’s worth it, if the idea of such a meaty and drawn out story doesn’t frighten you." Full Review
"The new play by Annie Baker is a haunting, intense, surreal, and also demanding drama. It's likely to keep the discussion/argument about Baker's assiduous embrace of time and her empowering of vacant spaces...Whether enchanted or exhausted, it's not easy to sum up with a simple 'here's what it's all about.' For sure you won't soon forget visiting this B&B and meeting these people." Full Review
"Director Sam Gold sets a perfect pace for the piece, which doesn’t mean it’s not sometimes maddeningly slow. But Gold finds minor variations in tempo to match the ebb and flow of the Baker’s work. Baker’s writing is eloquent in its ordinariness. 'John' is not for everyone – if you like your plays plotty and energetic, go no further. John doesn’t really say much or travel very far. But its glimpses of humanity in its natural habitat more than compensate for its sometimes static feel." Full Review
"Taken as a series of character studies, and piecing together several other clues, one can extrapolate from 'John' that Baker is trying to show how alone each of us is – and how the past that haunts us keeps us from making healthy connections with other people. Too much of the play, however, feels best suited for an assignment in a college literature course. I could explain why I think the play is called 'John,' for example, but for my exegesis I would expect a grade." Full Review
"The performances, led by Ms. Engel, are exquisite...While I appreciate Ms. Baker’s intention to create active silence onstage, as opposed to filling each moment with dialogue, in this case the effort turns back on itself and the action begins to implode. We end up remembering the pauses instead of the characters who shared them...Ms. Baker is on a roll. Perhaps as she gathers speed her dialogue pacing will pick up steam as well. One can hope." Full Review
"It’s a great setting for the scary story that we long to hear. But as one would-be storyteller sheepishly admits, 'I can only do build-up to scary, not scary itself.' Sadly, that’s the problem here...The only takeaway from all the buildup is the strong intimation that Jenny is getting ready to break up with Elias for treating her like an inanimate object. And while it’s a valid conclusion to draw about a character, we could have had this whole conversation in a coffee shop." Full Review
"As with 'The Flick,' playwright Baker's desire to replace the elevated realism of theatre with naturally-paced, indirect dialogue can have an alienating effect that diminishes the impact of her storytelling. One would think that the conversations and events that pop up would be building to something, but the dangling clues don't add up." Full Review
See it if you want a gorgeous, deft, observant, and playful deep-dive into compassion and indifference. Surprising, bold, and totally unique
Don't see it if you need a play to be plot-driven rather than atmosphere-driven
See it if You loved any of the other Sam Gold + Annie Baker collaborations (Circle Mirror Transformation, The Aliens, The Flick, etc.)
Don't see it if You disliked any of the other Sam Gold + Annie Baker collaborations (Circle Mirror Transformation, The Aliens, The Flick, etc.)
See it if If you do not appreciate Lois Smith, perhaps this will change your mind. The show is quirky and unusual. Georgia Engle was a surprise!
Don't see it if You like clear cut straight line themes. This show needs you to hang in to hear what is happening.
See it if you enjoy acting in real time-pauses, quiet times, not everything points to resolution. Great acting by Georgia engel. You like Annie Baker
Don't see it if Clocks in at about 3 hours. Some conversations do drag a bit. Not everything ties up neatly and makes sense. If you fear dolls
See it if you're fans of brilliant young theater artists Annie Baker & Sam Gold, who've been inspired by the ol' magic of Georgia Engel & Lois Smith.
Don't see it if you're plum mystified by how a play with minimal plot can last 3+ hours & leave it's 1 big mystery unanswered. I could have stayed 4 more.
See it if you enjoy Annie Baker; you think dialogue is the most important part of a play
Don't see it if you need plays to be short and sweet; you don't want to have to pay close attention for 3 hours
See it if you like slow burns, slice-of-lifes, or mysterious stories with some great performances, especially from Georgia Engel.
Don't see it if a 3+hour play with no clear indication of where the story is going is going to drive you batty.
See it if You like relationship dramas with slow "reveals" of character and no other action. And for the performances of Georgia Engel and Lois Smith.
Don't see it if A scanty plot and pause-laden script stretched over three hours with two intermissions is not your idea of a fun night at the theater.
See it if U R very serious about drama & off Bway, or devoted to new writers & directors Really get into nuanced detail and character development
Don't see it if You get restless with plays where most of the drama is in small exchanges and not actions
See it if You can really watch life happen onstage and open yourself up to the pain of others. Enjoy a smart piece of writing with some poignancy.
Don't see it if You can't sit still for three hours.
See it if You REALLY love Annie Baker and you don't mind being confused for much of the play; you have a LOT of patience.
Don't see it if You need everything explained to you; you don't like things not tidily wrapped up; you don't like weird for sake of weird.
See it if you're an Annie Baker fan. I find her work lacking. She has interesting settings/characters...and then little plot. The pace creeps.
Don't see it if you want more than interesting character studies. The acting is strong, at least, especially Engel. Good atmosphere, no coherent point.
See it if You like very slow moving plot lines that eventually arrive at a destination, but not necessarily the destination you had hoped for.
Don't see it if Like big plots and multi-layered characters that stay with you for a lifetime.
See it if Talented writer about lost souls but boring characters. many meaningless pauses, and a plot that goes nowhere. Georgia Engel excellent!
Don't see it if you wish to be fully engaged and care about the characters. Truly disappointing.
See it if you love theater that explores the infinite space between lovers and friends, and envelops you in a sweet and quirky song of loneliness.
Don't see it if you are looking for an action packed plot, or if a couple of slightly saccharine moments ruin a play for you.
See it if You are interested in watching the honest truth about love relationships.
Don't see it if You are interested in one-sided or unsubtle theatre with a political message.