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New York | 1h 30m | Already closed

Knives in Hens

From 8 critic and 11 member reviews
Members say: Absorbing, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Intense, Slow

About the show

59E59 presents this brutal fable of awakening consciousness: a stark, fierce study of sex and knowledge set in a timeless and spartan rural community. More…

In a preindustrial rural world, poised on the cusp of transformation, a ploughman and his wife live a simple existence until they, along with the hated local miller, are drawn into a struggle of power and attraction. 'Knives in Hens' unpacks the subtle power of words and ideas to liberate, empower, and lift the mind and soul.

The New York Times

"A becomingly modest production...Simply a simple story that vibrates with ever-widening resonance and implications...It’s the linguistic aspect of 'Knives in Hens' that is so profoundly moving...Takacs and his movement director, Yasmine Lee, give expressive life to the physical relationships among these characters...The performances are precisely focused without being intensely emotional. Nonetheless, the sum effect of their talk and actions is deeply emotional." Full Review

Woman Around Town

“’Kerr, Taylor and Haqq pour out with furious intensity Harrower’s almost musical staccato dialogue...The tension between the actors is palpable. It may be winter in the story, but these three performers create intense heat...The characters forge intense connections with one another, but the Young Woman’s transformation is astonishing in the short period over which the story takes place.” Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"Harrower’s characters may appear simplistic but they are complex and multi-layered because of their unconscious impulses and sensitivities revealed in their dreams...The director’s staging is impeccable and concise...The hauntingly lovely music during the movement sequences heightens the symbolism of the lovers’ dance...In some instances, clarity was sacrificed to convey the demographic of Pony and Young Woman." Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

"Compelling if occasionally opaque...Has the feel of an Appalachian folk tale that has been shaped through many generations of retelling...Spare and often lyrical in its exposition and dialogue, 'Knives in Hens' is open to varied interpretations...But director Paul Takacs keeps things anchored largely within the post-Eden analogy...The play truly belongs to Robyn Kerr, who beautifully captures the transformation of Young Woman from a state of child-like innocence to one of self-determination." Full Review

Front Mezz Junkies

"The visuals are ripe and perfectly set for the telling of this multi-dimensional fable... Surprisingly though, with so much intensity and engagement from the talented cast, 'Knives in Hens' remains head bound, and doesn’t translate down into our heart and our emotional core...Although Harrower’s seminal work suggests an inner quest for knowledge and freedom from the norm, the play and this production is surprisingly unmoving." Full Review


“Scottish playwright David Harrower's poetic and metaphoric ‘Knives in Hens,’ produced in Edinburgh in 1995, is now first having its New York premiere. Best known in New York for the two-handers, ‘Blackbird,’ ‘A Slow Air’ and ‘Good with People,’ this play expands his cast to three but is a great deal vaguer about time and place. Unlike those plays, we aren't given much information about the characters or their lives in this challenging play which will infuriate some and fascinate others.” Full Review

Theatre's Leiter Side

“Takacs has crafted a production combining elements of theatricalism and naturalism, but the result is drearily sluggish, uninvolving, and not particularly enlightening. There's no way a viewing of this production would inspire thoughts of a 'modern classic'…Little in the production plumbs the potential depths of Harrower's play. The actors, dressed in garments of indeterminate vintage…muffle the poetic starkness of the language and fail to do more than communicate the basic narrative.” Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

“Ninety minutes of inarticulate characters struggling to express inchoate feelings in language stripped of any specificity…Instead of simulated sex, the production offers movement sequences, adding another level of off-putting stylization to a production already loaded with them. Nothing good can come of this and indeed, before long, a killing will occur -- although, since it is impossible to care about what happens, it unfolds to little effect.” Full Review

Going to split the audience: some will see as a confusing snooze, others as a beautiful and profound allegory

See it if uses beautiful choreography/precise script 2 tell story of Eve-like woman; packs power of Biblical story/infidelity-murder-tree of knowledge

Don't see it if some will find this quiet tone poem to be insufferably slow and pretentious; I found woman's description of finding God in nature inspiring

Also Focus on the power and concomitant danger of language is central to th... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent

See it if you appreciate a pared down stage with 3 excellent actors performing a many- layered, somewhat inscrutable script.

Don't see it if it is not for everyone...you need patience and concentration to appreciate this show.

Also I was really swept up and captured by the rhythms and nuances of this ... Read more Read less

Great acting, Thought-provoking, Profound, Quirky

See it if you like a well-acted show in an intimate setting and you are comfortable with ambiguity.

Don't see it if you are not comfortable with a show in which the meaning is open to interpretation.

Also On the surface, this show is about a woman who learns to love language... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Great acting, Thought-provoking

See it if You want to see a haunting play about a woman’s self discovery. The mysticism in the play is enhanced by the intimate stage and setting.

Don't see it if You don’t like dark plays or fables.

Also The acting was exceptional, particularly Robyn Kerr as the Young Woman... Read more Read less

Intense, Thought-provoking, Raunchy, Slow

See it if you like plays that involve relationships among people you probably never come across in your daily life; you like serious plays

Don't see it if you want to see something that's fun; you don't like plays that you might find tedious

Confusing, Slow

See it if You want to watch a team of capable actors try to tackle this confusing snooze.

Don't see it if You don't want a 90 minute slam poem that's impossible to hold focus on.

Absorbing, Exquisite, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Resonant

See it if You like to be challenged. If you enjoy stripped down, bare, visceral stimuli. If you can analyze art from varying perspectives.

Don't see it if You are looking for cheap slapstick humor. If you are only entertained by over the top productions.

Also Superb acting. Very intimate space and thoughtful movement choreograph... Read more Read less

During previews
Absorbing, Exquisite, Slow

See it if You want to see tremendous acting in a cozy setting.

Don't see it if A bit slow of a show. I personally didn't care for the movement. Also the double ending threw me.

Also Even though there were things I didn't care for, I so appreciated the ... Read more Read less

During previews
Absorbing, Ambitious, Intense, Profound, Refreshing

See it if You like unconventional theatre, you enjoy really artful movement work, you want to see a show that is exciting and refreshingly dramatic

Don't see it if You like linear, straight-laced theatre, you are sensitive to some dark topics

During previews
Self consciously poetic, Elemental fable, Unconvincing production, despite committed acting

See it if you appreciate experiments in theatrical imagination, you like creations of worlds where people speak and behave in non-realistic ways

Don't see it if you are impatient with attempt to create a mytho-poetic rural past or incantatory language that no human ever spoke

Also I was interested in this play mainly on the strength of the playwright... Read more Read less

During previews
Absorbing, Great acting, Intense, Profound, Visceral

See it if you want an intense and visceral show with beautiful choreography representing making love, a morality play about awakening senses; rawness

Don't see it if you want an easy to understand and view play about nonsense or a musical; this show is fierce.

Cast & Creatives (11)