Closed 1h 45m
Mrs. Murray's Menagerie
West Village
78

Mrs. Murray's Menagerie NYC Reviews and Tickets

78%
(69 Reviews)
Positive
78%
Mixed
15%
Negative
7%
Members say
Great acting, Funny, Clever, Intelligent, Entertaining

About the Show

Ars Nova presents The Mad Ones new work in which the creators of a 1970s children’s television program have commissioned a focus group to probe the parents of the show’s target audience. 

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Member Reviews (69)

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73
Delightful, Funny, Intelligent, Profound

See it if If you want a comedy about surveys

Don't see it if If you want a musical or something serious

63
No story, Like work, Pointless, Flat

See it if You’ve never seen a focus group. It’s like going to work. No story. Limited tension, drama that results in nothing. Felt like going to work.

Don't see it if You prefer storytelling. None to be found here. Performances were good but...

Critic Reviews (26)

April 8th, 2019

"Though not quite as emotionally powerful as its predecessor, it is just as funny and, in some ways, more momentous...How such minutiae mount into a crisis is a mystery built into the company’s method. Some of it has to do with the subtle, super-sharp direction by Mad Ones member Lila Neugebauer...Nothing is handed to you or signposted. The process of exposition is rigorous and ingenious, forcing you to become an active agent in the discovery of the play’s themes."
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April 8th, 2019

"It’s delicate and refreshingly anticlimactic, very funny but joke-free, a seemingly unassuming but pointed example of the kind of painstaking group character study that the company has marked as its turf...Lila Neugebauer guides from the outside with her characteristic understatement and precision...It’s the unanswered questions and implications, the mountain of what goes unsaid, that give dimension to 'Mrs. Murray’s' premise."
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April 17th, 2019

“The collaborative troupe the Mad Ones has a winning formula...Its newest production, again under the note-perfect direction of Neugebauer, winds back the clock to the late seventies, as six parents, plied with coffee and doughnuts, participate in a focus group for a beloved children’s TV show. Under a barrage of inane research questions - they reveal more about their home lives than they realize, and understated tensions flare. Particularly brilliant is LaVoy.”
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April 8th, 2019

"While the company's attention to detail is admirable, their work feels like the theatrical equivalent of — go on, call me a philistine — a Frederick Wiseman documentary. The authenticity is undeniable, but it makes for tedious viewing...Although all the ensemble members deliver finely detailed, canny performances featuring welcome doses of understated humor, there's too little substance in the play to make us care about their characters."
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April 8th, 2019

"Engrossing, hilarious and ultimately sobering...Director Lila Neugebauer ratchets up the tension in the room, expertly layering the drone of questions and answers under the shifting allegiances...The piece invites us to play sociologists...We don’t know these people’s families or inner lives, so maybe we’re projecting our own issues. And with actors this good, the guessing-game is a nifty moving target...The Mad Ones make pressing your nose against the glass a voyeur’s delight."
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April 8th, 2019

"At every step, Neugebauer and the Mad Ones exhibit an attention to realistic detail that is impressive to behold — even if it doesn't add up to the laugh-out-loud comedy of the year. Instead, 'Mrs. Murray's Menagerie' is the kind of intricate, quiet comedy that grows more resonant in the hours and days following the curtain call...We expect that we will be rewarded with a spectacular foot-stomping demolition. Disappointingly, that moment never comes — although that may be the point."
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April 9th, 2019

"If 'Mrs. Murray's Menagerie' is a pleasure, it is an oddly muted one...'Mrs. Murray' has no underlying dramatic structure; each time it looks like something might happen, it trails off in another direction. It's never dull, but it never really goes anywhere...In all other respects, the production is solid-to-inspired...Acting students...will find much to learn from an performance style so real it is almost surreal. If its results are uneven, this remains one of our most distinctive theatrical troupes."
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April 8th, 2019

"An occasionally amusing study in human behavior, the point of 'Mrs. Murray’s Menagerie,' if there is one, proves elusive. Sometimes a slice of life is simply no more than a slice of life, no matter how nicely it may be executed by the designers and actors. Although some spectators (who are so inclined) can certainly admire the ultra-real quality of these subtle performances, others are likely to find this event to be a total snooze."
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April 15th, 2019

"Those who loved The Mad Ones' 'Miles for Mary' will be greatly disappointed by their latest group effort called 'Mrs. Murray's Menagerie'. The beautifully renovated Greenwich House offers the first show of the Ars Nova residency a lovely venue for this new play and the Lila Neugebauer production is impeccably acted and designed. However, this fictional recreation of a focus group, like most cinéma vérité, has no discernable dramatic event, making it a long 90 minutes."
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April 8th, 2019

“Wonderfully quirky and hilarious...While 'Mrs. Murray’s Menagerie' is a delight, it does require patience. The first half of the focus group session goes off without a hitch, which means that for much of the play, there is not a single conflict in sight...You may find yourself wondering (as I did) what am I watching, and why? But by the end, my enjoyment flourished because I felt like I had gotten to know each character intimately."
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April 12th, 2019

“This is one very talented group of people. Their performances are all precise, honest and smart. Under Neugebauer’s direction, it is evident that a flawless ensemble is at work...Only one problem: there is no play here...You spend ninety minutes trying to figure out when what you are watching will catch fire...Then, when it ends, you're left...Not only puzzled, but slightly infuriated...Drama equals conflict...Sadly, ‘Mrs. Murray’s Menagerie’ is devoid of such things.”
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April 8th, 2019

"About half an hour in, I felt that I was simply watching six people sitting around and talking, but not coming up with anything all that revelatory or meaningful about the show, themselves and the era during which they and their kids got to know the show's human and puppet characters...To my surprise and disappointment, even Lila Neugebauer is not at her best here."
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April 10th, 2019

"We might think our audience experience is primarily voyeuristic, but we’re more involved than we realize...Neugebauer’s direction is most deeply felt through the subtle orchestration of social cues, outwardly perceptible but in a way that only the viewers can unlock for themselves...A testament to this unavoidable influence of implicit bias, powered by privilege and agency...A tense, messy, amusing revelation of human communication and identity."
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April 8th, 2019

"Even at its funniest, the show evokes the kind of quiet amusement one might feel if you were stuck in an actual long meeting and trying to keep yourself secretly entertained...It’s possible that parents with young children might appreciate 'Mrs. Murray’s Menagerie' more than I did...There’s another reason why young parents might be a better audience for 'Mrs. Murray’s Menagerie.' They’ve been forced to learn to be extraordinarily patient."
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April 10th, 2019

"The dramatic temperature barely rises, there’s a minimum of physical activity, and the same kinds of questions are repeated with variations. All we seem to be waiting for is the next big laugh...The humor gradually dissipated as we wondered what the payoff would be. As a mildly satirical take on the vapidity of such focus groups, ‘Menagerie’ is on target. As a discussion of average parents’ responses to children’s programming, it now and then says something bordering on pertinence."
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April 9th, 2019

“The actors are uniformly excellent...Neugebauer once again demonstrates her skill directing an ensemble cast. Unfortunately the play has more valleys than peaks and offers little in the way of catharsis. Such restraint may be admirable, but subtlety does not always lead to compelling theater. I thought it was a step backwards from ‘Miles for Mary’.”
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April 11th, 2019

"Absorbing new comedy from The Mad Ones that finds six parents, each with an instantly recognizable personality, playing off one another during a market-research session at a pace that can only be described as musical...Under the always clever direction of the ensemble’s longtime collaborator, Lila Neugebauer, there are no drastic actions or unforeseen twists."
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P
April 8th, 2019

"Directed and acted to quiet perfection, it's a pitch perfect execution of a simple idea...The show is directed by Lila Neugebauer so invisibly that you half believe the audience is sitting behind a one-way mirror and watching an actual focus group...This is an ensemble in every sense of the word and each actor is doing exceptional work. Director Neugebauer works with them and a terrific creative team to create one of the most finely tuned productions I've seen in ages."
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April 9th, 2019

“This Mad Ones' production is just as subtle and direct in its wonderful writing and characterization...There are no big emotional speeches by any members of this group, but instead we watch a steady accumulation of life detail and tensions around sexism and racism that simmer while questions about the show are asked and answered. It's both very funny and extremely excruciating...’Mrs. Murray's Menagerie’ is both plain and intriguing.”
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T
April 9th, 2019

"'Mrs. Murray’s Menagerie' is exceptional theater. The entire cast is superb. A creative idea has been carefully cultivated to bloom by these actors and this theater company. Inventive and hilarious, the play succeeds in elevating a very specific situation into a psychological study of ourselves and how our viewpoints shape how we see the world. No lecturing, grandiose speeches or pontificating needed. Just watch, listen and think."
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I
April 20th, 2019

"The Mad Ones’ latest delves further into naturalism, potentially risking losing the audiences in the process...A triumph in meticulously calibrated and crafted theatrical realism. Now a known commodity, director Lila Neugebauer once again shapes the piece with her trademark attention to detail...The ensemble cast is impeccable, creating fully-formed characters out of subtle looks and gestures. To single any one out would be to do the others a great disservice."
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April 8th, 2019

"The Mad Ones imbue the ordinary with hilarity...This tone of zaniness that is also realistic is something the Mad Ones have mastered, as they capture the inherent awkwardness of so much of human interaction...There’s simply something wonderfully different about a Mad Ones production because of their unique method of composition... But at its core, 'Mrs. Murray’s Menagerie' is great character-driven drama with a dose of all-too-real absurdity."
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G
April 9th, 2019

“A very interesting play. Well written...Ego, self righteousness, and indignation make this a very humorous play...What is a pretty even paced play, it tends to slow after the first hour for about fifteen minutes, before ending strong...Neugebauer holds our attention throughout, and it makes for a nice evening...All the acting was good...’Mrs. Murray's Menagerie’ is a different kind of show. Both well staged and directed, it made for a really entertaining one you do not see very often.”
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April 8th, 2019

"How do I love 'Mrs. Murray’s Menagerie'? Let me count the ways. Extraordinary attention to detail, captivatingly committed performers, songs that are no less catchy for being incidental, and wicked bad hair on heads and faces...It amounts to the most fun I’ve had in the theater since the first Ars Nova production I ever saw: 'Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812.'"
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April 8th, 2019

"'Mrs. Murray’s Menagerie' succeeds only by showing the struggle against such reduction: the subtle ways in which these parents, sometimes with only the choice of a single word, manage to maintain their humanity in the face of such aggressive neutrality...It’s easy to respect 'Mrs. Murray’s Menagerie' on an intellectual level, but its always-at-arm’s-length subtext makes it hard for us to appreciate or connect with the material on an emotional level."
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L
April 10th, 2019

“The question of how to raise children, what to prioritize, and what the goals are for American parents is at the core of the show...Set in the style of a 1970’s legion hall...This nostalgia for past eras of American realities is something The Mad Ones do best. Their research, attention to detail, tone, nuance, and attitude are pitch perfect...The story of the focus group, conducted in real time, is nearly plotless. Nevertheless, the ideas and character reveals are compelling enough to drive the play.”
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