Closed 2h 15m
Notes From the Field
Midtown W
89

Notes From the Field NYC Reviews and Tickets

89%
(121 Reviews)
Positive
98%
Mixed
2%
Negative
0%
Members say
Absorbing, Great acting, Relevant, Thought-provoking, Intelligent

About the Show

Second Stage Theatre presents acclaimed solo artist Anna Deavere Smith's new documentary show about people impacted by America’s school-to-prison pipeline.

Read more Show less

Member Reviews (121)

Sort by:
  • Default
  • Standing in our community
  • Highest first
  • Lowest first
  • Newest first
  • Oldest first
  • Only positive
  • Only negative
  • Only mixed
80
Engrossing, Thought-provoking, Well-acted, Ambitious, Intense

See it if you are interested in racism, incarceration, and education. Problems and solutions are presented. ADS transforms into many characters.

Don't see it if you want a show with a plot. NFTF explores issues from different angles, but is not a traditional play. A few characters went on too long. Read more

85
Educational, Inspiring, Relevant, Intense, Thought-provoking

See it if You want to learn about disadvantaged people in our society. You want to see the world through their eyes. You want to open your own eyes.

Don't see it if You are not interested in watching Ms. Smith present a serious documentary in which she plays all the characters.

Critic Reviews (30)

November 2nd, 2016

"Though her command of different voices is what’s most obviously dazzling in theatrical terms, that mimetic talent wouldn’t count for much if it didn’t make us share the intent focus she brings to her subjects...That’s what makes Ms. Smith so invaluable. She creates a dialogue out of monologues among souls who, in real life, might never have occasion to speak to one another...Ms. Smith draws us into an ever-mutating, ever-expanding discussion."
Read more

November 2nd, 2016

"In the audacious and mind-opening 'Notes from the Field,' Anna Deavere Smith delves into poverty, police brutality, mass incarceration and educational failure. Even as she shifts, with almost insouciant skill, among 17 characters of different sexes and races, she never disappears...Her probing intelligence and fair-mindedness retain a tangible presence, assembling the monologues like puzzle pieces to form a larger picture."
Read more

November 2nd, 2016

"Each segment — well, maybe one or two are less riveting than the others — is fairly astonishing, with apt climaxes and startling kickers. The overall argument, too, is theatrically structured, moving from abstractions to specifics and from causes to results to a form of transcendence...In a way, what she does is more like a summoning or a séance than a play. I’d even call it anti-theatrical, except that it’s unquestionably great theater."
Read more

November 2nd, 2016

"She portrays dozens of real-life figures with dazzling, chameleon-like versatility...There are many powerful moments in the show...Despite the performer's skills and the vital importance of the social issues discussed, 'Notes from the Field' proves too diffuse to have the intended impact. The piece never quite comes into dramatic focus, instead accumulating its horror stories to punishing rather than illuminating effect...The show ultimately becomes as numbing as it is provocative."
Read more

November 2nd, 2016

"Smith’s scope is greater than a look inside classrooms. Here she finds connections to a failed justice system, police violence and even to the civil rights movement of the ’60s. All this—and a bravura performance—make for a stunning production...The broader connections take time to build in strength—and sometimes the storytelling strays—but Smith lays out a compelling case for the bigger picture...The solo stories are staged with efficiency and grace by director Leonard Foglia."
Read more

November 3rd, 2016

"Despite some structural shagginess in the script, Smith keeps us riveted with her mystifyingly real performances...Smith masterfully weaves facts around personal narratives, giving the numbers a human face...While both of these passages succeed at ending the play on a hopeful note...It's only a feel-good ending if you haven't been paying attention for the previous two hours. Still, Smith undeniably convinces us that this is a discussion worth having."
Read more

November 5th, 2016

"A theatrical treasure known for decades for her solo performances, Smith uses the familiarity of these scenes to offer an intimate look at America's school-to-prison pipeline that systematically directs its citizens of color to a life of poverty through substandard education and imbalanced treatment...While Smith's superb acting skills give each contrasting character an individual completeness, the strength of her art is that she never allows the performance to overwhelm the words."
Read more

November 23rd, 2016

"Smith has dived deep into her subject, traveling the country to assemble a gallery of people whose lives have been touched by this phenomenon and using her considerable editorial skills and gifts as an actress to create a kind of mural out of their points of view…As always, she is riveting…Everything about Foglia's production has been arranged to show off Smith and her incredible talent to maximum effect."
Read more

November 2nd, 2016

"Though Leonard Foglia's staging moves well, there are times it could put even more emphasis on Smith than it does. Foglia does, however, help Smith elicit great beauty from her time onstage. She is as capable of wrenching tears as cheers, both in the construction of her writing and her pungently sensitive performance...Even when the events Smith covers in 'Notes From the Field' are at their most depressing, such sounds are music we're all better off for having heard."
Read more

December 6th, 2016

"A powerful new work that gives voice to the victims of the low-income public education system…Smith is, without pretense, brilliant. Her passion, attention, and commitment to each speaker’s essence is unwavering. As a creator and playwright, Smith has drawn out the poetry of each individual's perspective with the utmost respect and dignity…'Notes From the Field' is a stellar production and a true example of the power of activism and theatre in action."
Read more

November 2nd, 2016

"Smith is an incisive interviewer. Not that we see any actual inquiries, although we almost feel like we do...Smith does her homework, gathering material that’s often provocative and always genuine. She then slides into her characters without judgment and without preaching. Director Leonard Foglia keeps his star moving, and lighting designer Howell Binkley deftly keeps her in the spotlight."
Read more

November 8th, 2016

"The people whose cadences and exact words Smith captures with remarkably emotional nuance and authenticity during the course of two hours, intensify the magnitude of the school-to-prison-pipeline situation...But meeting these people as so masterfully embodied by Ms. Smith will hardly send us out the door especially hopeful...She's a true blue visionary and her commitment to this school-to-prison pipeline project is not limited to this potently entertaining play."
Read more

November 14th, 2016

"Playing 19 people, all the dialogue transcribed from interviews, Anna Deavere Smith is a powerhouse, a tour de force, a troubadour and mirror of ourselves...Smith is supported so beautifully by director Leonard Foglia and composer and fellow performer Marcus Shelby, who is often onstage with Smith and with his bass accompanies her words perfectly...This performance, this story should not be missed."
Read more

November 2nd, 2016

"The detail and depth of this dissertation is epic and powerful. To whittle this piece down to a few sentences feels like a disservice to her, and to us...The expanse and detail of the topic is mind blowing and emotional...These powerful messages Smith serves will stay with you long after leaving the theatre. She wakes us up and preaches to us in a way that is subtle and stimulating. Tears will come."
Read more

November 24th, 2016

“Unlike 'Fires in the Mirror' and 'Twilight,' each of which focused on reactions to a very specific event, 'Notes from the Field,' as its title suggests, is more wide-ranging; while it makes many important points about a poor educational system leading to incarceration, its broader focus tends to weaken the overall impact...Because of the filtering process of Smith's chameleonic artistry, it clarifies the racial issues roiling our nation more potently even than seeing her characters in person.”
Read more

November 8th, 2016

"Smith comes out on stage and offers an inspiring performance, portraying 17 disparate characters with her usual dazzling virtuosity...She intends these monologues to help us see how those outwardly unrelated preshow facts about prisoners, school discipline, and police killings are all connected. It’s admittedly a struggle to connect some of these moments directly to Smith’s central thesis...Still, it has to do with race in America and hope for America, and besides, it’s a good story well told."
Read more

November 8th, 2016

"None of the tragedies in Smith's documentary work are exactly news. We've read about them, protested them, and anguished over their seeming intractability...Indeed, 'Notes' theme is this tangible sense of a burden pressing down, one that too many are suffering under every day. But Smith's powerful style of living journalism uses the collective, cathartic nature of the theater to move us from despair toward hope. She shows us beautifully how we might—and that we must—share the weight."
Read more

November 2nd, 2016

"Anna Deavere Smith’s latest might be flawed, but there’s enough energy and anger to make her exploration of racially motivated imprisonment a standout...This is one of Smith’s particular gifts, to disappear into the people she plays, to take an assemblage of interviews and recorded talks, and bring them to astonishing and visceral life onstage. She finds a distinct voice for each...It is less divisive and less cohesive than it might be. Here, too many of the voices are of the same opinion."
Read more

B
November 3rd, 2016

"Some of the moments were painful to relive. Much attention is devoted to the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore. The sermon at Gray’s funeral is one of the most powerful sections of the evening...Although there is an attempt to shed a ray of hope at the end of the evening, I did not find it convincing or comforting...Some of the dialects and intonations came across as artificial...The material lacked a clear arc and some of the excerpts should have been trimmed."
Read more

November 12th, 2016

"An impressive and often moving roster of witnesses but while the stories they tell are compelling, they fail to add up to a sustaining narrative or to offer any fresh insights...Missing for me were the subtleties and complexities Smith offered in her earlier shows…The show ends on a 'Kumbaya' moment that doesn't seem earned or, given the current political climate, likely."
Read more

November 2nd, 2016

"With little more than a change of jacket or a shift in her vocal rhythm, the virtuoso theater medium and social-science reporter morphs into indelible characters. If anything, her portrayals feel even more distilled, nuanced and complete than the ones she epically recreated through the decades...Leonard Foglia has expertly directed with screens of pertinent video and more production values than usual."
Read more

November 4th, 2016

"It’s hard to imagine a more urgent and evocative work of theatre than 'Notes From the Field,' Anna Deavere Smith’s latest masterful documentary performance...Bracing though this vision of the big picture may be, Smith’s approach is human in scale...Under the seamless direction of Leonard Foglia, the production also makes powerful use of video and projections...She doesn’t indulge in caricatures or do impressions, but has an unparalleled performance style all her own."
Read more

November 3rd, 2016

"In a remarkable scene in Smith’s transfixing one-woman show, she channels a Baltimore minister...Without attempting an actor-like impersonation, Smith had so precisely captured a personal voice, its identifying tone and rhythm, that she took us on the speaker’s journey. It’s the kind of magic she achieves again and again during the evening...Smith is so good in conveying the distinctive personalities of her people, and the urgency of what they have to say, that our attention seldom drifts."
Read more

November 2nd, 2016

"Each emerges as a distinct individual, evoked by Smith primarily through her voice and bearing and physical expression...Smith again and again finds moments of uplift and calls to action for an audience that might be otherwise inclined to absorb its lessons with head shakes and a sense of futility. That resistance to despair may be this powerful playwright and performer’s greatest gift."
Read more

October 27th, 2016

"The show, when it covered the prison system and the education system, really hit high notes. However, Smith seemed to have a need to highlight police brutality and the recent headline stories…While I am happy to have seen such an intelligent and moving performance, I do not consider this to be a play that I would have wanted to see. It was more like a 92nd Street Y performance. I also wish the emphasis on education was stronger and the sensational racial headlines were less."
Read more

August 29th, 2016
For a previous production

"Smith is chameleon-like in the way she revolves from one character to the next…Perhaps director Leonard Foglia will help Smith sharpen her focus to include more school incidents rather than the extended attention to the murder of Freddy Gray, which, terrible as it was, is a disconnect with Smith's main through-line concerning public education. However, Smith's eloquence and passion in the face of injustice is strong as ever."
Read more

August 27th, 2016
For a previous production

"Smith becomes the voice of the people, channeling the personae of about a dozen and a half real-life characters with a stunning range of mannerisms, tone and emotions…It must be incredibly difficult for Smith to narrow the selections for inclusion in the final product, but each is compelling on its own merits. In the aggregate, the effect is a sustained emotional and intellectual pounding that is overwhelming and discomfiting, as it should be…Powerful and profound…Do not miss it."
Read more

9
August 27th, 2016
For a previous production

"She does not so much mimic her subjects — though she does that with preternatural accuracy — as render them soul, stance, dialect, tics and all…As a theatergoer who came for Smith’s profoundly affecting, activism-propelled art, not to share in mild conversation triggered by it, I can’t say that lightning struck during my particular 'act two.'…Smith’s subjects shine a light — ably cupped in the performer’s hands — on an immensely distressing problem."
Read more

B
August 26th, 2016
For a previous production

"A sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes frustrating, yet always thought-provoking piece…Smith, every minute a virtuoso, juxtaposes these scenes with vignettes about the police violence that has risen to public consciousness…Smith is a brilliant interviewer, yet the piece still feels like a work in progress, with some extraneous characters and other voices begging to be heard…That said, Smith’s performance is majestic."
Read more

T
August 31st, 2016
For a previous production

"Smith is a powerful performer…To my mind, this show isn’t up to her best efforts, though some of its problems will most likely be taken care of over the course of the run…Smith’s focus in ‘Notes From the Field’ also meanders…One of Smith’s great merits as a dramatist is that she brings together conflicting points of view, even opinions that are unsympathetic to a liberal audience. But for some reason there is little of that ideological expansiveness in 'Notes From the Field.'"
Read more

Watch This Next (3)

83
Great
1K+ Reviews
Open run
NYC: East Village

This family-friendly show celebrates the power of percussion and the sheer joy of banging on things.

Buy
82
Great
500+ Reviews
Open run
NYC: Midtown W

An actor drinks heavily (in the vein of Comedy Central's 'Drunk History') and then tries to corral others into…

Buy
81
Great
30 Reviews
Opens Aug 09
NYC: Upper W Side

Shakespeare in the Park is back this summer with Jocelyn Bioh's joyous adaptation of "Merry Wives."

Buy