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New York | 1h 40m | Already closed

Kings

From 33 critic and 122 member reviews
Members say: Relevant, Intelligent, Absorbing, Thought-provoking, Great acting

About the show

Playwright Sarah Burgess and Tony-winning director Thomas Kail team up again at the Public Theater for this scathingly comic world premiere about the people at the heart of our democracy. More…

Kate is a whip-smart lobbyist who doesn’t waste her time on anyone who can’t get elected, stay elected, and help her clients get what they want. Kate thinks Representative Sydney Millsap is a political neophyte whose staunch ideals are going to cost her a burgeoning political career. But Representative Millsap and her high-minded principles turn out to be more resilient than Washington was expecting, and for the first time, Kate is faced with a choice that might change everything for her: back the system, or back what she believes in? 'Kings' features Gillian Jacobs ('Community'), Aya Cash ('You're the Worst'), Eisa Davis ('House of Cards'), and Zach Grenier.



85
Lighting & Sound America

"Burgess is rapidly becoming our expert guide to the corridors of power...A fully clawed comedy of Washington, DC, manners that doubles as a clinically accurate exploration of the pay-to-play culture...Scene after scene lays bare -- often hilariously -- the degraded state of contemporary democracy...Under Thomas Kail's direction, Burgess' argument is delivered with blazing clarity, and with plenty of dark humor along the way." Full Review

85
Times Square Chronicles

"'Kings' shines the light on all that is wrong in American politics – but holds up a little hope. I found this play truthful and extremely sad. The cast is all wonderful and works as an ensemble, thanks to director Thomas Kail who keeps this play moving like a well-oiled machine...Burgess’s 'Kings' is smart, raw, and painful in what it is saying. Her dialogue cuts to the bone." Full Review

85
NY1

"Once again impressively exposes the devil in the details...The devil in this case is political corruption... Davis nicely underplays the part displaying fine nuance as a rookie politician gaining confidence...Cash and Jacobs, also excellent, manage to avoid total villainy, investing the lobbyists with sufficient humanity...And Grenier is superb as a veteran senator who's played the game so long, he's forgotten why he's there...Thanks to Kail's lucid staging, 'Kings' makes its point loud and ... Full Review

85
Epoch Times

"Intelligent political drama...The only place where the play is lacking is in the number of characters it presents. It would have been more effective with a larger cast and, through them, a deeper exploration of the subject matter...The play is tightly directed by Kail, keeping the overall cynical nature of the work front and center as well as its ultimate lesson...A powerful and all-too-true reminder of how things often play out in politics." Full Review

85
Entertainment Weekly

"The play's sarcastic edge can veer into the cynical, near-fatalistic territory...'Kings' may lure TV fans, what with the presence of small-screen favorites...It’s the less starry half — Grenier and, especially, Davis — that does memorable work...It's mesmerizing the way 'Kings', at its best, actually draws you into the campaign...This is drama invigorated by the pessimism permeating today's conversations even though the story Burgess tells is depressingly familiar." Full Review

80
Front Row Center

'Burgess' captivating new play is a deep dig into the financial interests and power grabs of DC's elected officials...Money and influence fuel the fires and in this tightly edited script that keenly pulls focus back and forth between the candidates and their underlings, and takes just the right leaps in time between scenes, we survey the burnout without witnessing the actual arson...A wicked premise...Sadly, the physical staging of the production is a mess." Full Review

80
The Playfixer

"'Kings' is about the corrosive influence of money in American Politics. Its central character is a recently elected, crusading Congresswoman determined to change the System. Set against her are two lobbyists (one of whom decides to join he in her crusade) and a powerful business-as-usual Senator. Eisa Davis is wonderful as the Congresswoman, and the always-excellent Zach Grenier is delightfully smarmy as the Senator." Full Review

75
Wolf Entertainment Guide

"Davis does an excellent job in giving Millsap a strong, no-holds-barred principled position...The plot gets complicated when Millsap decides to challenge Senator McDowell, played impressively by Grenier...The play is heavy on discourse, and Kail strives for clarity...'Kings,' although at times rather diffuse, succeeds in taking us into the whirl of politics, maneuvering and pressures and provides insights that can be useful in thinking about what is going on today." Full Review

70
Theatermania

"An exciting but messy world premiere...Kail leads the cast to performances that elucidate the script's wonkery...While the physical production underwhelms, Kail and his cast excel in crafting characters and relationship that feel genuine...Even as Burgess excoriates America's blinkered Brahmin class...she makes their rigged game seem quite understandable...Not just an exposé of Washington corruption, but a meditation on the myths we all tell ourselves so we can go to sleep at night." Full Review

70
New York Theater

"As sophisticated and enlightening as Burgess's maiden play...But it is also dryer...It seems clear that the research Burgess conducted for 'Dry Powder' helped guide her in the writing of 'Kings,' perhaps too much so...The playwright’s choice to avoid issues that matter deeply to many people makes 'Kings' feel more academic than urgent. Still, for those open to a civics lesson, the play is credibly instructive in the myriad ways that money warps the political process." Full Review

70
Front Mezz Junkies

"Millsap, played with a distinct and smart confidence by Davis...She's by far the best thing and the most likable character in this wordy jargon-filled exploration of a system that is rigged against someone like her...Directed with a lazy eye for movement...'Kings' doesn't seem to offer up anything that we don't sort of know already...The ending of 'Kings' fizzles out as quickly as the moralistic center, leaving us disheartened and hopeless that this sharp little game will never change." Full Review

70
CurtainUp

"Burgess has tackled the lobby-influenced insider world of our nation's capital with believably authentic detail...All four actors expertly deliver Burgess's sharp and at times funny dialogue...Neither Lauren or Kate are especially memorable characters. Thus Burgess's cynical and depressingly realistic take yesteryear's stage and screen dramas, makes the battling high-minded and pragmatic politicians more fully rounded and interesting to watch than the follow-the-money lobbyists." Full Review

70
Gotham Playgoer

"On the positive side, the play captures the soul-sucking tedium of spending hours on the phone calling potential donors...The portrayal of three strong women characters is appealing. On the negative side, characters often seem more like contrivances than flesh and blood people, and the tone occasionally veers toward the pedantic. The political maneuvering onstage offers no surprises...Intelligent and reasonably entertaining, but seems a bit repetitive." Full Review

70
Talkin' Broadway

"Entertaining, if occasionally pedantic...Kail brings out strong performances from his cast especially from Ms. Davis and Mr. Grenier...Less well defined are Kate and Lauren...The physical production also seems to have not been well thought through and is a little strange at times...Both the playwright and the cast make the most of our fascination with the mechanism of U. S. politics so that, despite the flaws, there is plenty to keep both idealists and cynics in the audience entertained." Full Review

70
TheaterScene.net

"Despite some terrific acting, it's hard to root for any of the four characters in 'Kings,' even if the play is one long competition between all of them. This smart new work by Sarah Burgess fails to introduce little that's new about the present state of politicians and lobbyists--and their overly intimate relationships. But it's also been put together with an admirable efficiency that spells it out clearly for those...who haven't been paying enough attention to the daily headlines." Full Review

70
Village Voice

"Though extremely well-played by everyone under Kail's sure-handed direction, this narrative feels like a truth with all its inconvenient complexities airbrushed out. Kate, as written, has no strong qualities that would justify putting her at the play's center...Nor does the play convey anything about the basic problem that has led to our current political miseries...Diverting, but the political play we need right now would have to go beyond mere diversion to reach something quintessential." Full Review

65
Theatre's Leiter Side

"Kail's direction does little to enliven the production or to make the Kate and Gillian more than pretty mouthpieces. He does get quality performances from the diamond-sharp Davis and the gruffly crafty Grenier...Burgess has a good ear; however, despite the occasional humor, the discourse is insufficiently absorbing. Her characters remain more positions than people, and, given the constraints of time and audience patience, the play never rises beyond a limited level of didacticism." Full Review

65
Daily Beast

"The current state of our politics is wittily, if ruefully, deconstructed...Burgess has a keen satirical ear...The play's strength is its relentless questioning of every character...The tension of part of the play feels not-so-cliffhanger a decision...All the characters stay static in their beliefs...With this stasis of plot comes a certain stasis of tone…There’s a darker, richer, less wonkier play within 'Kings,' which is more clean game of chess than byzantine 'House of Cards.'" Full Review

60
BroadwayWorld

"A play with great potential...But while Burgess' storytelling and dialogue does provide the required bite now and then, the characters of Lauren and Kate, perhaps more because of the way they're interpreted than the way they're written, lack the nuance shown by Millsap and McDowell, making any influence they have seem to lack credibility. It's as though half the cast is in a drama and the other half is in a sitcom...Kail's staging is uncharacteristically awkward." Full Review

60
The New York Times

"Whenever it focuses on Sydney...'Kings' is entertaining and informative, if not surprising theatrically...Her story — the only one you care about — basically dribbles away after the debate...A plot in search of an emotion. Kate and Lauren...are improbable exaggerations, caricatures with no human shading. This makes for powerful oppositions and playable scenes but little investment...The gravity of the subject and the sitcom zing of the style make an uncomfortable combo." Full Review

60
The Wrap

"The dialogue is often scintillating, and would be even more arresting if any of the characters budged from his or her original position. 'Kings' is play that needs more characters, if only to see how Millsap speaks to people she doesn't despise...Kail is again on board as her director, and again he sets Burgess' play in what appears to be a discotheque...Percolating around the edges of 'Kings' is one provocative notion." Full Review

60
WNYC

"Davis is fantastic...And Grenier is shady-sleek...But as directed by Kail, 'Kings' itself is not captivating...All glossy dialogue and little heart. It's not helped by a stuttering momentum made worse by frequent, long blackouts...That's too bad, because the inner world of Washington D.C. lobbyists is a compelling idea. Even better: Three of the four characters are women...Despite the title, in 'Kings', it's women who hold the real power." Full Review

60
The Clyde Fitch Report

"The production of this timely story barely survives an overwhelming design - sounds disrupt, lights blind, and the set is unnecessarily twee. This is a better play than the design allows it to be...The design team only partially serves this nuanced story...On the page, 'Kings' adds new shading to a theatrical musing on political power and gender. Perhaps a future production will match such fine storytelling with a less aggressive visual and aural environment." Full Review

55
Variety

"The problem with Sydney - and with the play overall - is that her ambitions are much too vague and utterly unsexy...Kail, normally a savvy director, isn't much help with the unwieldy material...It's hard to find the drama in a play that's heavy with talk but light on thought. Although the clashing ethical codes of traditional politicians and young barnburners seems an incendiary topic, Burgess misses her chance to strike the match." Full Review

55
New York Daily News

"Four good actors sink their teeth into juicy roles...But for all of the actors' fine efforts, they're nearly upstaged by a prop - a sense-tickling skillet of fajitas...Hits on topical subjects...None of that is particularly illuminating...Direction by 'Hamilton' Tony-winner Thomas Kail, who staged Burgess moves things as fluidly and fleetly as possible...The play's repetitiveness, been-there, heard-this lack of surprises and occasional didactic tone also cause drag." Full Review


94
Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Must see, Great staging

See it if Enjoy stories centered around politics

Don't see it if Are not interested In political drama

90
Absorbing, Dizzying, Masterful, Great writing, Great staging

See it if 1 hour and 40 minute look at politics today as congresswoman tried to keep her seat, lobbying, dark $. well acted, staging. Bwy bound

Don't see it if too real, too much political goes into overload. depressing with reality. Good acting,

87
Absorbing, Ambitious, Profound, Relevant

See it if you want to see a "political" play with engaging characters, fine acting and painful truths.

Don't see it if you are interested in light-hearted theater, although there are humorous aspects . . . tragic ones as well.

87
Funny, Clever, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Great staging

See it if a play about the "sausage factory" inside the american political system

Don't see it if you don't want to know how the sausage gets made

86
Funny, Absorbing, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Relevant

See it if You're interested in politics... Or sick of politics.

Don't see it if You're tired of political dramas.

86
Funny, Absorbing, Clever, Relevant

See it if You are a Burgess fan. The writing is whipcrackingly good, until the very end.

Don't see it if Stories about the D.C. power structure and people selling their souls to get ahead trouble you.

Also The ensemble are all quite good in their roles. It’s a brisk 90 minute... Read more Read less

85
Absorbing, Clever, Great acting, Relevant, Great writing

See it if you want to see a play about politics and power.

Don't see it if you don't like plays about politics

85
Ambitious, Clever, Intelligent, Great staging

See it if you're political and want to see a view into the real world of lobbying and how interactions play out in DC

Don't see it if you have no interest in the political scene and are expecting a light-hearted show

84
Absorbing, Clever, Great acting, Intense

See it if you like political dramas. I learned a lot about what lobbyist do and the plot is really interesting! The cast is fantastic!

Don't see it if you do not like complex plays. There is a lot to follow and one can easily get lost if they are not in the right mindset.

83
Absorbing, Great acting, Relevant, Resonant, Great writing

See it if it gets a second life and you want to know what is behind the political curtain of lobbyists. It is sharp and relevant.

Don't see it if you are looking for a fun evening at the theater and you think 45 actually is making America Great again by draining the swamps.

83
Funny, Absorbing, Ambitious, Edgy, Entertaining

See it if you like behind the scenes political dramas that are in tune with the times with humor.

Don't see it if you don’t like dramas about current events or behind the scenes shows

82
Intelligent, Relevant

See it if You follow Walker Shaub on Twitter. Ethics are important and so where I longed for a happy ending, meeting Sidney Milsap gave me hope.

Don't see it if If you are not into politics and governance.

81
Intelligent, Relevant

See it if You are oblivious to Washington's modus operandi bringing us to the disillusionment existing in our government today. Well written and wel

Don't see it if You are tired of hearing what is wrong with our government

80
Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Relevant

See it if you enjoy political theater and want a glimpse and at the behind the scenes wheeling and dealing of Washington.

Don't see it if you 'can't handle the truth'.

80
Clever, Thought-provoking, Refreshing, Relevant, Entertaining

See it if for a quick paced politically based play that doesn't bore.

Don't see it if you abhor politics, dislike plays and prefer light hearted musicals

80
Clever, Thought-provoking, Quirky, Indulgent, Entertaining

See it if You want to see a clever political drama populated with unlikable but interesting characters.

Don't see it if You’re annoyed by well-trod Washington tropes. Or find your suspension of disbelief easily strained.

80
Intelligent, Relevant, Enlightening, Political

See it if Two young Washington lobbyists, one new, one established, show us the underbelly of the US politcal system, controlled mostly by money.

Don't see it if See it. An important lesson about the insidious truth about how our system works.

80
Absorbing, Intelligent, Relevant

See it if You are interested in the dark side of lobbyist's huge influence on politicians.

Don't see it if you don't want to have to stay alert and listen to complex lenghty political arguments.

Also I am very interested in the political scene so this held my attention.... Read more Read less

79
Relevant, Entertaining, Great staging

See it if Seems like a real snapshot of lobbying and campaign fund-raising in DC which you may find educational

Don't see it if talky and didactic, the title is confusing

79
Great acting, Thought-provoking, Relevant

See it if You want to get a glimpse into the political machine

Don't see it if If your looking for a grand production on a big stage

79
Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Relevant

See it if you like excellent acting in a contemporary modern drama

Don't see it if you dislike political plays

79
Great acting, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Predictable

See it if you're interested in stories about political corruption and lobbyists. Plot is predictable, but engaging with good direction and acting.

Don't see it if you're looking for a play that offers you new information about Washington lobbyists and more optimism or you want to escape politics.

79
Absorbing, Ambitious, Great acting

See it if You are intrigued by politics and lobbyists.

Don't see it if You are turned off by our contemporary political power plays.

79
Great acting, Relevant, Entertaining

See it if Enjoy political. Plays about Washington lobbying f

Don't see it if Found the main character too good. To be true could have had more subtlety

79
Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Relevant

See it if you’re a “junkie for politics”. The playwrite does an excellent job of laying bare the power of lobbyists in DC. Excellent acting!

Don't see it if you have no interest in politics, or on the other hand, need a “ mental vacation” from the the ugliness that is our government.


Cast & Creatives (11)