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.

... Read 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.


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See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews

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

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

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

40
The Hollywood Reporter

“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.” 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

40
Time Out New York

'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." Full Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

55
Theatre Reviews Limited

"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." 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

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

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

45
Financial Times (UK)

"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." 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

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

45
New York Magazine / Vulture

"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." 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

45
This Week in New York Blog

"'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." Full Review

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews

75
Great acting, Intense, Relevant

See it if you like plays about politics. It has funny moments and the set is great.

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

74
Absorbing, Ambitious, Entertaining, Great staging

See it if you enjoy the cast and/or a politically driven plot; desire to learn more about the lobbyist/politician relationship

Don't see it if you are looking for a fresh storyline

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.

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

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.

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

70
Thought-provoking, Relevant, Okay

See it if you enjoy modern political dramas and the smell of fajitas in a small theater

Don't see it if you want to see a play where the dialogue feels real and want to see something big and extravagant

72
Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Disappointing, Great staging

See it if you are interested in a relevant topic approached in a too superficial way. 100 minutes does not give the opportunity to develop characters

Don't see it if you want real interaction between complex characters rather than a outline of what could be an interesting and compelling piece of theater

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

60
Thought-provoking, Disappointing, Unconvincing, Stilted, Sitcom dialogue

See it if Political corruption is a favorite topic.

Don't see it if You expect naturalistic, witty writing -- won't find it here!

Also Feel badly for the actors having to embody these cardboard characters.

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.

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'.

75
Absorbing, Clever, Intelligent, Thought-provoking

See it if A well written political tale of our time. The “old guard” continues it’s place in politics even with the introduction of a sane voice.

Don't see it if If you do not enjoy political plays or a strong supporter of conservatism.

69
Ambitious, Thought-provoking, Cliched, Overrated, Great staging

See it if you enjoy political drama that lightly underscores the whole scene of money in politics

Don't see it if you enjoy well written believably performed politicians

73
Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Entertaining

See it if you want political drama about lobbyists at work in D.C. and at retreats & their dealings with an idealistic Representative

Don't see it if you want more drama & less sitcom or if you are hoping for a happy political ending; you didn't like Burgess's play Dry Powder

Also Eisa Davis and Zach Grenier were excellent; the younger actors were a ... Read more Read less

75
Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Relevant, Entertaining

See it if have any interest in politics. It's really well acted with a small but excellent cast. If you want to see how Washington really works, go.

Don't see it if Don't like political shows or want a big production

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.

73
Great acting, Resonant, Disappointing, Cliched

See it if you want to see some good by-the-book acting. Clean prod design.

Don't see it if you're expecting anything new. Feels like an echo chamber or complaints without any viewpoint or resolution.

78
Absorbing, Clever, Entertaining, Great staging

See it if You like political stories with uncomplicated set designs.

Don't see it if You like elaborate plays with complicated story lines and fancy sets.

62
Ambitious, Indulgent, Disappointing, Cliched, Great staging

See it if you are looking for a story.This is a series of lectures about politics & lobbyists. The plot itself is never fleshed out.Too much talk.

Don't see it if you want a fleshed out plot, characters you care about.The 2 older actors are terrific. The 2 young ones never really find their voice.

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.

78
Funny, Serious, Driven

See it if You seriously dislike our lobbyist driven politics, and would like to see a tight, effective polemic designed to bring others to that view.

Don't see it if You are unhappy when characters advance a narrative without showing many signs that they are breathing human beings.

75
Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Relevant

See it if You’d like to see political truths personified by a Senator, Representative. two lobbyists, and several interest groups.

Don't see it if You are put off by snappy TV-like dialogue that isn’t the way real people talk.

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.

63
Relevant, Thoughtful, Solid, Snappy

See it if you love twisty, contemporary stories about modern America. A great performance by Eisa Davis and a delicious role for Zach Grenier.

Don't see it if you're so fed up with politics that you crave real fire-and-brimstone, burn-it-all-down fury. This play doesn't believe that's realistic.

Also You wish the script could punch up the jokes. There are several lines ... Read more Read less

75
Ambitious, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Relevant

See it if you are politics junkie who is up to date on current debates regarding policy and want a fast-paced political drama.

Don't see it if you're not into politics. It likely won't resonate with you.


Cast & Creatives (11)