Closed 2h 40m
Light Shining in Buckinghamshire
East Village
60

Light Shining in Buckinghamshire NYC Reviews and Tickets

60%
(103 Reviews)
Positive
36%
Mixed
38%
Negative
26%
Members say
Slow, Confusing, Disappointing, Ambitious, Great acting

About the Show

Three-time Obie Award winner Rachel Chavkin ('Hadestown') returns to New York Theatre Workshop with Caryl Churchill's incisive 1647-set drama about the power struggles in England after a brutal civil war.

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Member Reviews (103)

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74
Relevant, Intelligent, Absorbing, Mesmerizing, Confusing

See it if You have the patience to sit through many short scenes that often feel unrelated until you’ve seen the whole of the work. A lot of metaphor.

Don't see it if You want a plot that is easy to understand or even follow. Even though I often had no idea what I was seeing I was oddly attracted to it.

68
Ambitious, Disappointing, Indulgent

See it if Reformation drama from 1976 w/ 3 pop vocals feat. grey period costumes and ripped denim on a bare stage. Proprietary debate and The Rapture.

Don't see it if W/o the Churchill imprint, this period drama wouldn't be mounted. Easy parallels drawn to the relevance of today(1976), but @2:45? Slo slog

Critic Reviews (26)

May 7th, 2018

"The first of Churchill’s plays I’ve found indulgent and leaden. However wonderful it may be to perform, it’s a hard slog to sit through...An endless cycle of betrayal and hardship. When that bleak vision arises from characters interacting, it is sometimes beautifully crystallized...More often, though, the arguments aren’t dramatized so much as transcribed...It is hard to imagine a more diverse group of performers...That would hardly matter if they were not all excellent."
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May 7th, 2018

"Churchill has spoiled us, perhaps, with so many wonders of theatrical innovation that by contrast with them, this earlier work can seem drab and tendentious. The high point is a historically interesting account of the Putney Debates...But much of the play is weighed down in disquisitions on the injustices of God and property. The austerity of the production promises virtue, and expects it of us as well—especially the virtue of patience."
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May 7th, 2018

"Chavkin and her team are passionate about envisioning 'Light Shining' as a #Resistance play, and in certain ways that makes sense. In other ways, the play is actually less about the light that flared up in 17th-century England than about how it burned out...While Chavkin’s production earnestly attacks the play’s weighty, thorny text, it struggles...to find a sustaining engine...Its project is in many ways admirable and yet in others, unable to access the troubling nuances of the story."
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May 7th, 2018

"Why do so many audience members appear to be struggling to stake awake? It has nothing to do with a top-notch production from a company that knows how to do this material...Chavkin brings Cromwellian order to Churchill's unruly dramatic revolution with her clear and effective staging...Despite their best efforts, Chavkin and company cannot salvage this shaggy early effort by Churchill. Still, moments of revelation hide within its rolls of fat."
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May 8th, 2018

“A play that is simultaneously interesting and boring...Chavkin's production features a cast with the technical skill and sheer lung power to parse the script's long, complex speeches...A monumental work, but not admirably so. It presents its panorama without frills or enticements. It is there to be gazed at and, perhaps, admired. But a play that deals with such tumultuous events, such matters of the soul and society, without stirring one's pulse is, in some crucial way, deficient.”
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May 7th, 2018

“A fair-to-middling, actually puzzling revival...The work comes off as a mixture of lecture, oratorio, sketches, and panel discussion. Certainly, what the creators hoped to accomplish seems to have fallen shy of the mark, not to mention occasionally elusive...The production problem is compounded by the frequent difficulty of following the arguments. Many are abstruse...The history lesson dispensed isn’t adequate to the time spent imparting it.”
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May 7th, 2018

“An historical drama of considerable scope, perspicacity, and intensity...Something of a slog slog to endure, frankly, in spite of its intrinsic merits...Much as I can appreciate the versatile acting, the glimmering atmospherics, and many of the drama’s insights, this overlong show nonetheless registers as a heavyweight history lesson...Chavkin stages this challenging play with sharp actors and designers, and obviously with a bold vision to forge it into a meaningful show for audiences today.”
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May 14th, 2018

"There's a brilliant play buried somewhere in Churchill's 'Light Shining in Buckinghamshire,' a bottom-up historical epic about the English Civil War that the acclaimed British writer developed collaboratively with director Stafford-Clark and a group of actors back in 1976. Fifteen years later, it premiered stateside at the New York Theatre Workshop, where it has just returned for a ploddingly drawn-out second go-around that yielded a lot of empty second-act seats on the night I attended."
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May 10th, 2018

"Challenging both in form and content...To augment its dramatic potential, director Chavkin has cast an ensemble of six actors, diverse in age, race, and physicality, to play dozens of roles. It’s a noble effort...Admittedly, it’s a challenge for the audience to follow the narrative, sort out the characters, and absorb the voluminous material...We thank NYTW for reviving 'Light Shining' once again, to remind us of the range of Churchill's dramatic gift and the strength of her voice."
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May 15th, 2018

"The results are more muted than expected. Despite the direction of the talented Chavkin, 'Light Shining...' lacks the explosive energy needed to sell a difficult play about revolution and rebellion, instead getting mired in heavy-handed, over-the-top language or lengthy digressions that feel less than pertinent in a more modern context...At a few points, Churchill's dense language is so thick that, in delivery, the words feel divorced from meaning, as demonstration feels more like recitation."
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May 11th, 2018

“It is difficult to fault the actors, or the set and staging, or the direction...So I guess we are down to the script...If Churchill intended to make us weary of the argument by offering no way out, she got it done. It wasn’t pleasant, or moving, or enlightening...The six actors could not be a more motley crew, disparate in age and gender, race and physical ability...I’d go see any of these actors in their next plays. But, this play? At best it is a port in a storm.”
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May 14th, 2018

“An incredibly dense play...Feels more like...drudgery than it does enjoyable entertainment...Does offer some deep thinking points. The question is whether it's worth toiling through two and a half hours of bewilderingly experimental theatre to find those points...The diversity of the cast should be commended...They're all fine actors, perhaps this play is just incredibly difficult to act...Perhaps the show's most intriguing element is its unsettling sense of apocalyptic degeneracy.”
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May 11th, 2018

“A complicated piece of historical story-telling, drastically unique...Captivating, for the most part. Playing with historical semi-realness, mixed heavily with modernisms...Doesn’t move fast enough to keep me as thoroughly engaged as I wanted to be. The craftsmanship is outstanding and impressive, the cast perfect, the history fascinating, but the never ending preaching becomes agitating, as if I’m being attacked by an army of tyrants while trapped in a church pew.”
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May 15th, 2018

“Chavkin’s minimalist production offers a rich soundscape, evocative lightning, and solid performances, but at times the dense text can be an impediment. Though...moves with great agility, the hangover from the historical content is hard to ignore...Offers captioning at all performances and I was grateful...Since the actors were confusingly doubling up at times...Has a sense of the ‘now’... But despite Chavkin’s efforts the textual relevance is slippery and seems to come and go."
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T
May 29th, 2018

"Under Rachel Chavkin’s commending and assiduous direction that maintains an appropriate pace throughout, the actors grapple successfully with their characters and deliver exceptionally authentic and believable performances. Caryl Churchill gives the cast a stunning script...In their solo performances, each actor commands the stage with consummate professionalism and honors each word of the script with perfection...A must-see experience."
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May 12th, 2018

“So much…requires prior historical knowledge…or is buried in stylistic tics, that non-British audiences (and perhaps Brits as well) are likely to wish more light was shining on it…Tries to cover more than its time on stage can comfortably bear or an audience absorb…If you pay close attention, you'll appreciate some of Churchill's…observations…Nonetheless, as the play meanders toward its conclusion in an endless tavern scene about the…second coming of Christ, you may wish he'd show up already.”
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May 7th, 2018

"There are nuggets throughout 'Light Shining In Buckinghamshire' that are intellectually stimulating; entire scenes that are moving or mesmerizing. But it’s a challenging play to take in as a whole — a special challenge to Americans not well-versed in English history, but difficult for anyone because of Churchill’s dramaturgical approach...those expecting what we can call Chavkinian innovation will be disappointed."
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May 8th, 2018

“The actors try to wring as much sense from Churchill at her most linguistically rich and dense, but it’s tough work to make cohere...Despite Rachel Chavkin’s brisk and sensitive direction and Isabella Byrd’s brilliantly effective and evocative lighting design, the doubling of characters and actors and confusing segues and repetitive scenes lead to a drawn out, slightly over-stuffed performance of just under three hours.”
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May 8th, 2018

"Chavkin’s staging unearths plenty of close-to-home parallels in this story of betrayed revolutionary hopes...Even the climactic scene recreating the 1647 Putney debates, where Cromwell thwarted Leveller proposals for universal male suffrage, seems to echo current controversies about voter disenfranchisement and gerrymandering in the US...Chavkin and her multitasking troupe of six should still be applauded for turning revolutionary ghosts into (mostly) gripping radical theatre."
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T
May 16th, 2018

“A talented, diverse cast of six performs multiple roles each, without regard to age, race, gender, or physical ability...There are continuity issues; you don’t always know who someone is or what they’re doing...The entire show is open captioned on a small digital monitor near the back center of the stage. While it is admirable...its location is endlessly distracting....The different styles of language don’t always meld together; while some scenes are exceptional, others fall flat.”
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May 8th, 2018

“Chavkin here attempts to make the connections between Levellers, Diggers, and Ranters of the English Civil War and our modern protesters. Mostly, the connections seem obvious, forced, and not supported in the text...Plotless and often coming across more as a British history lecture...The problems lie in the text. The director certainly had a clear vision...The actors, too, are worthy of some praise...A good director and a more than competent cast cannot save 'Light Shining in Buckinghamshire.'”
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May 7th, 2018

“The problem is that these long and very specific debate sections reference historical details without context...Does Churchill prefer for these individual characters to be more indeterminate or not? The captioning provides a specificity that the competent but often generic costuming doesn’t always provide...The play’s political and religious themes resonate, but this production dampens the details. I fear something in Churchill’s original vision has been lost in translation.”
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May 20th, 2018

"The story is a series of dialogues that jump from place to place and character to character with typically Churchillian obliqueness. The effect is at once disorienting and thrilling...It’s in those spaces between people, however, that Chavkin’s staging falters. Churchill’s sense of humor is wicked and subtle, but the company’s readings of her dialogue are page-deep, almost completely missing the pitch-black cynical wit that underpins even the most banal scenes."
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F
May 21st, 2018

"While I found the leaden content of this play a thrilling challenge — indeed, Churchill writes with a gravity and plain truth unlike any other modern playwright — whether audiences will have, or should be expected to have, the stamina to sit out the slow descent of this behemoth is another matter entirely.But Chavkin has done well to reckon with Churchill’s monstrous task. She’s assembled a well-prepared, amicable cast with an obvious eye toward body diversity."
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May 31st, 2018

"A remarkably resonant play for the present moment...Rachel Chavkin keeps the proceedings crisp, clean, and clear. She expertly blends anachronistic elements into the historical setting to anchor the audience to the fact that though the events portrayed are historical they are relevant to our contemporary political discourse. She employs a tight ensemble of six actors while disposing of the original play’s conceit of having multiple actors play the same role."
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May 8th, 2018

"Unfortunately, it fizzles. It is a tiresome, flat, tedious, chaotic and uninteresting play full of hollow characters that run about the stage for nearly three hours and accomplish very little...The main problem with the play is that there is simply no story, no drama at all. It has no beginning, middle or end and the characterizations are pretty weak...There are a thousand interesting stories and titanic characters in this bit of British history, but we don’t get any of them here."
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