74

Kings NYC Reviews and Tickets

74%
(123 Reviews)
Positive
77%
Mixed
18%
Negative
5%
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.

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Member Reviews (123)

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68
Sometimes absorbing, Sometimes great acting, Sometimes clever, Relevant

See it if you want to see 2 well-cast actors (Grenier, Davis) in a taut, clever political drama involving a veteran Senator & an honest Congresswoman.

Don't see it if you want to avoid 2 poorly-cast actors (Cash, Jacobs) in a crudely played out sub-plot about lobbyists' manipulation of DC politicians.

71
After today's presidential kleptocracy, this tale of lobbyist corruption is almost quaint

See it if competent "procedural" explaining how $/lobbyist influence corrupts politics; interestingly told from lobbyist perspective; tight direction

Don't see it if we learn nothing new; kept waiting for twist that would enliven plot; script was meh-as earnest/predictable as a Bernie speech Read more

Critic Reviews (33)

February 20th, 2018

"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."
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February 21st, 2018

'Teaching through illustration is a valid theatrical strategy, but Burgess omits other crucial dramatic ingredients, such as character and incident; and since the purpose of this all-exposition play is to inform, your interest fluctuates...Informative but not revealing or persuading...Kail seems desperate to juice up the evening...The production begs: 'Please be entertained!'. Outside, real-life politics is throwing a circus. Inside, the motion doesn't carry."
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February 20th, 2018

"Despite the fact that it's stuffed with jargony, purposefully obfuscatory banter, 'Kings' has a simple and familiar arc...What is 'Kings' telling us that we don't already know?...What are we getting in the theater, starting at $65 a ticket, that we couldn't get from the NY Times...If I seem cruel to 'Kings,' it’s because it doesn't stand alone. It's part of an epidemic in contemporary theater, a virus of insistent, self-righteous, moribund relevance at the expense of actual theatrical power."
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February 20th, 2018

“A timely, relevant topic that well deserves to be examined, but this play does so in a manner that's more pedantic than compelling…Burgess is so intent on getting her messages across that she fails to provide much depth to the characters and situations...Dramatic revelations are continually given short-shrift…The direction by Kail proves more distracting than necessary…The theatrical busy-ness only serves to highlight the insubstantiality of the drama it's intended to enhance.”
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February 20th, 2018

"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."
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February 21st, 2018

"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."
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February 20th, 2018

"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."
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February 20th, 2018

"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 clear."
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February 20th, 2018

"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."
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February 22nd, 2018

"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."
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February 21st, 2018

"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."
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February 20th, 2018

"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."
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March 8th, 2018

"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."
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February 20th, 2018

"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."
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February 21st, 2018

'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."
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March 8th, 2018

"The show has a lot of money talk and the play could have been better served with the concepts and labels simplified...Some in the audience glazed over at the complex financial conversations...Both young women sound like they are merely reciting their lines and Jacobs has little nuance to her speech...Grenier and Davis are more convincing..'Kings' still needs some work to be effective. The play has some potential but it doesn’t go far enough."
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February 27th, 2018

"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."
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February 22nd, 2018

"'Kings' is at times both entertaining and educational...Frustratingly, the characters themselves are for the most part too static and superficial for any of it to matter much. The script is left spinning its wheels. If the production is lacking in emotional substance, it does at least have style...Perhaps 'Kings' will one day prove a useful artifact of our times, but it’s hard to imagine such a determinedly 'relevant' script outlasting the era it seeks to define."
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T
March 12th, 2018

"It is difficult for a script and a cast of actors, even as talented as this cast, to compete with the reality of the headlines. The challenge comes...from the vigor of the daily news...from the somewhat dated material in the narrative itself. Under Kail's uneven direction, the actors often appear to be talking 'at' one another...Cumbersome conversations cluttered with predictable rhetoric...Compelling performances briefly enliven the otherwise bland action."
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February 20th, 2018

"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."
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March 3rd, 2018

"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."
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March 3rd, 2018

"'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."
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February 20th, 2018

"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."
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February 20th, 2018

"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."
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February 21st, 2018

"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."
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February 20th, 2018

"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.'"
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February 21st, 2018

"The conflict between power and principle in 'Kings' follows a formulaic arc...A more fundamental problem is Burgess's treatment of US political economy...'Kings' otherwise seems to be taking place in a parallel universe, where reasonable liberals hold power and have caustic-yet-sincere arguments about tackling the opioid crisis and raising taxes on the rich...'Kings' purports to show us the murky depths of Capitol Hill. The reality seems much swampier."
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T
March 11th, 2018

"'Kings' is a slow-moving retread of 'Dry Powder'...lending nothing new on the critical issue of lobbyists and campaign financing...Grenier is rock-solid as McDowell...Davis is fresh and exciting as Millsap...but Cash and Jacobs are annoying as the lobbyists; their characters are not supposed to be likable, and their shrill performances ensure that...'Kings' fails to get at the heart of the situation, offering only clichéd platitudes, like a politician’s empty campaign promises."
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W
February 24th, 2018

"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."
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February 22nd, 2018

"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."
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February 27th, 2018

"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."
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February 20th, 2018

"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."
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March 31st, 2018

"'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."
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