Nat Turner in Jerusalem
Closed 1h 40m
Nat Turner in Jerusalem
74

Nat Turner in Jerusalem NYC Reviews and Tickets

74%
(107 Reviews)
Positive
77%
Mixed
20%
Negative
3%
Members say
Great acting, Thought-provoking, Slow, Relevant, Absorbing

About the Show

New York Theatre Workshop presents Nathan Alan Davis' new two-hander about slave revolutionary Nat Turner and the lawyer who shared his story with the world.

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Member Reviews (107)

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68
Great acting, Disappointing, Resonant, Slow

See it if Two powerful performances fail to ignite the combustible events of iconic slave Nat Turner's life; sometime lyrical prose softens dullness

Don't see it if You lack patience & historical perspectives; often preachy narrative can grate

79
Clever, Intelligent, Thought-provoking

See it if you need a refresher course re: pre- Civil Was A two-hander worth seeing.

Don't see it if have trouble with small cushions for wooden bleacher type sets.. (only 90 minutes or so though)

Critic Reviews (27)

The New York Times
September 26th, 2016

"What suspense there is lies in waiting to see if Turner will respond to Gray’s plea and, more important, if the prisoner will in any way change the thinking of the other men. The answer to both turns out to be a qualified yes, and the ways in which Davis comes to these conclusions have a certain dialectic ingenuity. Mostly, though 'Nat Turner in Jerusalem' is a static work, as iconography tends to be. Sandberg-Zakian’s direction brings little kinetic energy or surprise to the proceedings."
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Time Out New York
September 26th, 2016

"Davis’s way into the material is neither historical pageant nor postmodern abstraction; he and director Megan Sandberg-Zakian opt (almost quaintly) for poetic naturalism with theatrical flourishes...Such a stolid, talky approach puts the burden, unfortunately, on the acting. Brannon’s Turner has an unexpected sweetness that grows on you and makes his flashes of righteous rage all the more rattling. But Vickers, as Gray, is too callow to add nuance or depth to his scenes."
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New York Magazine / Vulture
September 26th, 2016

"Davis resists any singular reading, let alone an overtly political one. He prefers to let the tale remain as mysterious and open-ended as possible, and thus, in its way, more terrifying. Plays that try to walk that line usually trip, but Davis, who is 36 and whose work is largely new to New York, has smartly erected a sturdy scaffold around the material...The production, directed by Megan Sandberg-Zakian, has nerves of steel."
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The Hollywood Reporter
September 26th, 2016

"Unfortunately, despite the incendiary nature of its subject matter, 'Nat Turner in Jerusalem' emerges as a tedious, lifeless affair...Brannon takes up some of the evening's slack with his fiercely commanding performance as Turner, but Vickers struggles in his two roles...'Nat Turner in Jerusalem' should have much more dramatic urgency than it does. Performed often in near-darkness, the sluggish play succeeds less in stirring emotions than lulling you to sleep."
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Theatermania
September 26th, 2016

"The most interesting part of the creative exercise is not the activity inside Turner's cell, but the breadth of its implications about our relationship with history as a whole — whether 200 years past or flooding your Twitter feeds as we speak...The dialogue employed is filled with lovely prose and discerning metaphors. Though with little in the way of plot to prop up the dense language, and characters who seem immovable, the story can occasionally amble through the long night."
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Lighting & Sound America
October 3rd, 2016

"Davis' current effort contains any number of gripping passages, but stumbles while trying to find a dramatic framework...The production is aided enormously by the performance of Phillip James Brannon...He doesn't make a single false step...But if Davis' words sing, his handling of dramatic structure still needs work...Time and again, the play works up an atmosphere of tension, only to let it dissipate. It's a stop-and-start approach that keeps us from becoming fully engaged."
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Talkin' Broadway
September 26th, 2016

"All this makes 'Nat Turner in Jerusalem' an affair that's as staid as it is well meaning, and as dull and dreary as it is portentous. When historical facts preclude traditional suspense, they need to be replaced with something to substitute for it...Also a problem is Megan Sandberg-Zakian's oppressively conceptual staging which tries to impart motion and energy on the swiftly flowing waterway of progress, but looks alternately suffocating and silly."
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TheaterScene.net
October 4th, 2016

"Davis’ play has an inventive but murky scenario that’s given an overwrought presentation and doesn’t ignite. It's only fitfully engrossing despite the efforts of those involved...Structured as a series of short scenes that are well written, the play cumulatively doesn’t hold interest...Brannon is compelling...Vickers is outstanding...If the production relied on this element it is possible that it would have been more satisfying. Instead there is a reliance on concepts and effects."
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Theater Pizzazz
September 26th, 2016

"If it all sounds monotonous, it is, but it also has redeeming features. Playwright Davis’s dialogue can be a little stilted, but it has a strong poetic spine. It’s rich with Biblical references and provocative images...And then there’s Brannon as the title character. Right from the start, when he’s talking to his chains, he’s fascinating...'Nat Turner in Jerusalem' gives life to a familiar but easily forgotten name from the history books, but it doesn’t coalesce into a satisfying drama."
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CurtainUp
September 26th, 2016

"Appears as timely and topical...The play is a series of short, not particularly revelatory scenes...Most commendable is Brannon's ability to make words sound spiritually inspired even as they then suddenly ricochet off his targets like bolts of lightning. How they bounce off the more contemptuous personalities of both Gray and the guard is the most interesting aspect of the play...Davis's play is ultimately overly preachy and determinedly testy in its redundancies."
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Front Mezz Junkies
September 26th, 2016

"We float between the horror of what is described, and understanding his rage and reason for vengeance. It’s a delicate balancing act that both writer and performer do a superb job with, although the direction doesn’t carry much forward movement...Through this play, which at times is a bit slow, erratic, and static, we are forced to see the connections of slavery and racism that have spanned generations in this country and invade our modern daily lives."
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T
October 3rd, 2016

"The play raises the kind of enduring questions that are vital to the conversation needed around the issues of systematic racism and white privilege...Megan Sandberg-Zakian’s staging is effective and she utilizes Susan Zeeman Rogers’s stark set to simulate the various points of view extant in Mr. Davis’s matrix of moral ambiguity and treasure trove of rich and enduring questions...Nathan Alan Davis’s remarkable new play reveals that ultimately justice does not always prevail."
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Broadway Blog
October 5th, 2016

“Turner’s story has particular resonance in our racially charged climate but I’m not certain Davis’s flat treatment does a lot to alter the dynamic. For all his suffering, it’s hard to sympathize with the messianic Turner, who ascribes his bloody actions to the word of God, not some deeply ingrained conviction invoked by slavery’s inhumanity, although he clearly propounds such beliefs. The chief reason to see the play is Brannon’s striking portrayal of Nat Turner."
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C
September 28th, 2016

"More effective–and affecting–as a statement on how far we haven’t come in this country when it comes to race relations than as truly riveting drama, 'Nat Turner' is worth 90 minutes of your time...The best reason to see the work is to witness the galvanizing performance of Phillip James Brannon as Turner...While some of Davis’ writing is quite lovely, viewing 'Nat Turner' can also feel like watching Al Sharpton preach for 90 minutes: exhausting in both good and bad ways."
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DC Theatre Scene
September 26th, 2016

"Unfortunately, the experience of actually sitting through the 90 minutes of 'Nat Turner in Jerusalem' is not as rewarding as one would hope. I wondered about the point of many of the choices...Yet, for all its missteps, there is no denying the beguiling presence at the center of the play – that of Phillip James Brannon’s performance as a Nat Turner who is both uncommonly intelligent and otherworldly."
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Times Square Chronicles
October 2nd, 2016

"Mr. Brannon as Turner is so underplayed we never feel his faith other than the words, his conflict or his struggle...Vickers is an interesting actor and I would like to see him in something else...Davis’s play is monotonous and boring though at times beautifully poetic. Megan Sandberg-Zakian, direction moves the set, but not the audience."
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The Guardian (UK)
September 26th, 2016

"This is a play in search of its conflict. The lightly anachronistic language sits heavily in the mouths of the actors...Davis has an interest in and a seeming reverence for history that doesn’t always serve him well. A playwright with a more distinctive approach to language and genre might have found surreal terror or brutal comedy in these events. But Davis’s version, under the stolid direction of Megan Sandberg-Zakian, is disappointingly static."
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The Huffington Post
September 26th, 2016

"Playwrights have full license to tell their story the way they see it. Davis’s version is not all that convincing or all that compelling...Sandberg-Zakian keeps the story moving, yes; but one can wonder at her device of overloud rock/gospel music between scenes...Despite the potentially explosive subject matter, 'Nat Turner in Jerusalem' turns out to be non-compelling. Let it be added that this is a case where the program note is more intriguing than the play itself."
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Newsday
September 27th, 2016

"'Nat Turner in Jerusalem' takes on the important 1831 slave revolt with the seriousness deserved by this legendary and famously brutal insurrection. Alas, the 90-minute hair-shirt of a drama by Nathan Alan Davis is didactic, preachy and airless in ways that seismic history must never be...Brannon never gets beyond the beatific martyr in director Megan Sandberg-Zakian’s production, staged on a runway with audiences on either side. Every so often the platform moves. The play does not."
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NorthJersey.com
September 28th, 2016

"Nathan Alan Davis' rather static play about the event centers on a detail of the rebellion...The play is essentially a dialogue between Turner (a powerful Phillip James Brannon) and Gray (Rowan Vickers), a more-or-less decent man...The evening, directed by Megan Sandberg-Zakian, keeps promising to climb to something more, but that never happens...It's a frail reed on which to hang a play about a watershed moment in pre-Civil War American history."
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Off Off Online
October 9th, 2016

"Working with a small canvas Davis paints a portrait of a prophet of sorts...The duologues Davis has devised between Turner and his two visitors are engaging and often eloquent...Yet occasional moments ring false...Credibility aside, the production by Megan Sandberg-Zakian is deftly pared down and engaging, and Davis’s poetic language is given full weight."
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NJ.com
September 26th, 2016

"Davis' handling of this potentially galvanizing material is dramatically inert...He seems far more interested in overly theatrical, poetic monologues about faith, friendship and justice than he does about creating an actual conflict...Consider seeing it for Phillip James Brannon, who is very effective at conveying the depths of Turner's unshakable faith and searching nature."
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Act Three - The Reviews
October 5th, 2016

"Regardless of the embellishment or not, the interaction between Mr. Turner and Mr. Gray was at times mesmerizing and at other times preachy. What did stand out is that the conflicts that took place in the 1800's are not all that different from the conflicts and struggles today. The circumstances may be different but the roots remain the same...Set simple, lighting a bit spotty, theatre configuration innovative, thoughts of a repeat - scary."
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Village Voice
September 28th, 2016

"The sparse, persuasive two-hander examines America's racial history, but feels disturbingly close to the present day...Brannon's Turner is tough to look away from: fervent, fearless, and unconcerned with eliciting pity...Occasionally, the dialogue becomes repetitive: Davis parses every piece of subtext and symbolism, often explaining things he doesn't need to. The scenario he's placed onstage speaks eloquently enough to our national past, and to our present."
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The Huffington Post
November 10th, 2016

"Playwright Nathan Alan Davis vacillates between lyricism and minimalism in the piercing two-hander 'Nat Turner in Jerusalem.' Centered on the last moments in the title character’s life after leading a slave rebellion, there are no easy answers here...Even the well-meaning white characters are brainwashed by racism, but still there are great moments that approach understanding and even kinship."
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NY Theatre Guide
September 26th, 2016

"Davis’ script is a taut piece with moments of sublime language. He is able to aptly show each character’s psyche, their relation to society, and the intense effect Turner’s revolt had on Southern society. Sandberg-Zakian has brought the best out of Brannon and Vickers while also crafting an atmosphere that draws us intimately into their dialogue and relationship. 'Nat Turner in Jerusalem' is a magnificent, powerful play that looks at a violent past that still reverberates into our present."
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B
September 21st, 2016

"This particular version does not shed much light or heat on events and is too dependent on gimmicks. To give playwright Nathan Alan Davis his due, he does not attempt to sugarcoat Turner’s brutal murder of white women and children...After 185 years, Nat Turner’s slave rebellion and its aftereffects still evoke deeply conflicted reactions. Perhaps it is enough that the play reminds us of that, even if it doesn't contribute much to the ongoing conversation."
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