New York | 1h 40m | Already closed

Oedipus El Rey

From 16 critic and 88 member reviews
Members say: Absorbing, Great acting, Ambitious, Intense, Great staging

About the show

The Public Theater and the Sol Project present this new take on the classic Greek tragedy, set in South Central LA. More…

Oedipus is reimagined as a troubled Latino whose dreams of controlling his own destiny soar above the barbed wire of the prison where he’s spent his life. But in a place where everyone is trapped—by desperation or fate, history or violence—no one man can change his story alone. Love, family, and belief collide in this chilling new play that asks: what’s fate, and what’s just the system?

Front Row Center

"I was profoundly moved by this play. The vision and artistry of the playwright, Luis Alfaro. The strength of the cast and the excellence of the production values. Not to mention the incredible courage of the actors playing Oedipus and Jocasta, and the sensitivity and deftness of the direction by Chay Yew, all combined to produce an experience I keep hearing and seeing in my head." Full Review


“A production that fully engages our senses and emotions...An adaptation that feels both urgently relevant and timeless...The whole stage pulses with life under the sweaty, passionate direction of Yew...An intimate moment between Jocasta and Oedipus is among the sexiest things one can legally see on a New York stage...Alfaro illuminates the ancient themes of the Oedipus story in thrillingly modern ways, giving us a new appreciation for the myth." Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

“Under the notably clean, clear, and focused direction of Chay Yew, this timeless tale remains as gripping as ever...Every member of the cast has caught the distinct urban rhythm of Alfaro's dialogue...Alfaro has taken one of the world's oldest stories and made it as new as today. That's a pretty mighty achievement all by itself; he delivers on the promise, made by the chorus, that the story of Oedipus is really a story about us.” Full Review

New York Theater

"Luis Alfaro’s modern adaptation of Sophocles’ tragedy turns it into something new and shocking, bringing on stage what the Greek playwright kept off stage, in an intense, visceral production...If it begins feeling stagey, 'Oedipus El Rey' becomes brutal and direct, but also graphically sensuous and oddly tender - ultimately in all ways gripping...'Oedipus El Rey' builds in power in large part due to its committed cast." Full Review

Front Mezz Junkies

"Thrilling...The play pulses with a rhythm much like a drive down a south central LA street...The Jocasta-Oedipus love story has always existed but only by implication with the text, and here in this deeper examination, we find the electricity...The look and feel of this production is as simple as it is powerful...No one is going to get out unscathed in 'Oedipus el Rey,' except for maybe all these wonderfully talented artists involved in this powerful and electrifying production.” Full Review

The New York Times

“Directed by Chay Yew with energy and flair...What Sophocles left offstage — the violence, the sex — Mr. Yew confidently stages. What preoccupied the Greeks — the shepherds, the oracles, the hunt for Laius’s murderer — falls away. This gives 'Oedipus El Rey' swagger, oomph and economy, but it also makes for a salacious watch...Mr. Alfaro’s version is both a reiteration of a classic tale and an invitation to flip the script.” Full Review

Theatre Reviews Limited

“Deconstructs the classic distilling it to its essence and reconstructs the tragedy with a painful and sometimes disquieting relevance to metamodernism...Mr. Alfaro’s play is something new and transcendent...The focus on the love between Oedipus and Jocasta is refreshing and transformative...Alfaro’s 'Oedipus El Rey' raises rich and enduring questions, some timeless, some relevant to the current socio-economic environment.” Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

“The playwright has filled the work with layers of meaning and with strong connections between the mystic and the naturalistic, while all the while keeping it convincingly planted with one foot in the realm of the ancient and the other in the modern...Under the astute guidance of director Chay Yew, is a well-conceived and original take on the Oedipus myth, nicely brought to fruition by a fine cast and production team.” Full Review

Exeunt Magazine

"The moral becomes something far more tangible and relevant than, say, the validity of fatalism...Alfaro’s adaptation takes a close look at the relationship between Jocasta and Oedipus. The scenes between them are tender and vastly different from the rest of the play...Director Chay Yew has a way with maintaining the rhythm of this complex, multigenerational epic...It is without a doubt a refreshing take on a familiar story, too familiar." Full Review


“This new version of Sophocles' ancient classic is marked with violence, rage, and passion...Playwright Luis Alfaro nimbly skates over the surface of the Oedipus story, only lingering when it comes to the love affair between Oedipus and Jocasta...As directed by Chay Yew, this all plays out as a soul-stretching experience, a great chance to experience Sophocles’ great classic in a steamy Latin key.” Full Review

Time Out New York

“'Oedipus El Rey' doesn’t come into its strength right away, but stick with it...Alfaro’s retelling of ancient myth builds to kiln-hot intensity...There are exchanges of real richness between Oedipus and Jocasta—their mutual seduction is extraordinarily brave and tender...It takes a while for Alfaro to find Sophocles, for director Yew to find Alfaro and for all the actors to find one another. But when they do, it turns out those old Greek timbers are more than ready to catch fire again.” Full Review

The Wrap

“A more apt title would be ‘Oedipus Sex’...One of the longest nude scenes on stage between two actors. Certainly, it is one of the most movingly crafted and perform...Chay Yew doesn’t so much direct as choreograph this very fast trajectory from prison to freedom to entrapment, spreading it across a vast panoramic canvas...Under Yew’s direction, Alfaro and his actors take the opposite route to the characters’ expected tragic ends.” Full Review

Edge New York

“Delgado brings a wanting and vulnerability to the unlucky queen, though the script's heavy foreshadowing in her dialogue lays it on too thick. The same is true for the chorus…The most impressive part of "Oedipus El Rey," is how it builds upon Sophocles' existential questions about the nature of humanity and grounds them in important social commentary about incarceration and people of color…An engaging new take on an old story.” Full Review

Stage and Cinema

“A spectacular production...Energetic performances, excellent use of a spare but effective set, dramatic lighting and music all make a powerful impression. This in spite of the fact that the play itself—though it begins well and is intelligent and often funny—in the end doesn’t satisfy....The writing never quite offers a sense of authenticity...One can feel the vibration of ideas within Mr. Alfaro’s work. But like so many problematic plays, this one feels like it can use a few rewrites.” Full Review

Village Voice

"Alfaro’s modern adaptation might leave you puzzled...The lengthy love scene emphasizes the performers’ nudity at the expense of their thoughts and emotions...The thought-provoking analogy between destiny and a system of oppression calls for more complexity...Produced in collaboration with Padrón’s excellent Sol Project, dedicated to creating space for Latinx playwrights...It’s a vital and necessary endeavor...Ditto Alfaro’s vision for contemporary L.A.” Full Review

New York Magazine / Vulture

"Often this 'Oedipus', both play and character, seems flattened out. As Alfaro checks off the boxes of the Greek tragedy’s backstory, he tends to drain the source material of its cosmic horror, ending up with a plodding coming-of-age story to which we all know the inevitable end...Alfaro’s 'Oedipus' undoubtedly examines a world that’s ripe with narrative potential, but tonally, he ends up shrinking the play instead of widening its scope. " Full Review

Absorbing, Profound, Relevant

See it if you think that the criminal justice system needs to be corrected.

Don't see it if you do not like nudity.

Riveting, Relevant, Refreshing, Must see, Great acting

See it if you want to see Shakespeare under a new light. And if you love GREAT ACTING!!

Don't see it if if you don't like to engage as an audience.

Ambitious, Great acting, Great staging, Edgy, Presentational

See it if you like visionary takes on classics, imported to a contemporary Hispanic cast, in-and-out of prison w/ energetic masterful acting & staging

Don't see it if you're opposed to daring, adult material, language, violence, male/female nudity, and a sophisticated high bar of theater, art, and politics

Riveting, Epic, Brilliant

See it if You are a fan of intelligent, exciting, thought-provoking theater, and brilliantly modernized Greek tragedy. Stunning.

Don't see it if You are squeamish about nudity on stage - although not at all gratuitous - or violence, although not bloody.

Absorbing, Ambitious, Great acting, Riveting

See it if If you like good, edgy theater. A wpnderful company.

Don't see it if If relevant nudity on stage disturbs you.

Thought-provoking, Riveting, Resonant, Relevant, Great cast

See it if you want to see a master playwright's culturally-specific take on Oedipus; if you want to encounter a brilliant all-Latinx cast of actors

Don't see it if you can't with contemporary retellings of classical plays; if extended nudity freaks you out

Intense, Clever, Edgy, Raunchy, Profound

See it if L.A. urban gang is beset by Greek tragedy. Humans dare to ignore/defy their gods/fate. Raw, sexual, brutal, powerful, alive.

Don't see it if You are not up for a violent expressionist modern rendition of a Greek classic. Full male & female nudity and a long sex scene.

Great staging, Relevant, Resonant, Ambitious

See it if You want to see Greek tragedy transported inventively to a modern Latino LA setting.

Don't see it if You want to see a light, escapist entertainment.

Ambitious, Clever, Relevant, Thought-provoking, Refreshing

See it if you want to see an expert and refreshing adaptation of the Greek classic, set in a socially relevant context.

Don't see it if you do not enjoy the Greeks or adaptations of them.

Absorbing, Ambitious, Great acting, Resonant

See it if you want to see a refreshing take on a classic play

Don't see it if you can't handle violence, nudity, or sexual situations on stage

Great staging, Visceral, Intense, Absorbing, Great acting

See it if You like fresh takes on classic plays that provide new insights on the original.

Don't see it if You are put off by violence and graphic sexuality.

Also Clever adaptation that grips you hard.

Edgy, Must see, Profound, Exhilarating

See it if appreciate where theater can go when we open to new questions, excellent writing and exhilarating performances

Don't see it if you are squeamish about words, images, truth or nudity

Intense, Clever, Great acting, Interesting modern interpretation of a classic story, Riveting

See it if you want to see this classic story modernized amidst an urban gang and prison setting. Well-acted, but intense and in your face.

Don't see it if you are uncomfortable with intense stories, graphic violence, graphic language, or nudity. All necessary to the story and tastefully done.

Also I thought this was a very interesting interpretation of the Oedipus st... Read more Read less

Riveting, Intense, Edgy

See it if you like a well-conceived contemporary spin on a classic.

Don't see it if you are not interested in a Greek tragedy, are uncomfortable with some blood, violence, and sex scenes between mother and son.

Absorbing, Ambitious, Great acting, Great staging, Riveting

See it if Riveting cast and script envelop you in this modern retelling; Inspirational staging and stagecraft

Don't see it if Intensity drop in middle of act; notable nudity and sexual situations

Absorbing, Clever, Entertaining, Great acting, Intelligent

See it if you want to see a fresh version of the Oedipus story acted with passion.

Don't see it if you want to see a traditional Shakespeare play or are offended by nudity.

Edgy, Relevant, Resonant, Thought-provoking, Ambitious

See it if want to see an amazing retelling of a classic story.

Don't see it if dislike classic greek-style theatre.

Absorbing, Ambitious, Great staging, Great acting, Intense

See it if Very Original innovative highly choreographed theater. A new twist brought to a classic story. Well acted . Exciting production

Don't see it if You are put off by brutal fights and sexually intense scenes - are offended by nudity and a classic play twisted into something original

Ambitious, Absorbing, Intense, Thought-provoking

See it if You enjoy well-devised, modern adaptations of classic plays

Don't see it if You're a traditionalist, are uncomfortable with full nudity, or the story of Oedipus itself

Great writing, Masterful, Ambitious, Clever

See it if adaptations of classic work dont mind you

Don't see it if you prefer not to see full frontal nudity for a very long time on stage

Clever, Delightful, Entertaining, Exquisite, Intelligent

See it if Oedipus set in East LA with a skillful Latin cast. Rhyme of Language add to the power of the story. Told with integrity and style. Great

Don't see it if if tired of the Shakespeare story, Small production at Public.

Absorbing, Clever, Edgy, Intense, Refreshing

See it if you want a smart, intense spin on a classic tragedy.

Don't see it if you're overly reverential of classic drama. You're looking for a light evening out.

Absorbing, Edgy, Robust, Intense, Refreshing

See it if for an interesting contemporary take of a Greek tragedy

Don't see it if you like your classics classic

Absorbing, Ambitious, Resonant, Intelligent, Brilliant retelling of a classic

See it if You appreciate intelligent reimagined productions of classics. You are a fan of are my ensemble acting.

Don't see it if You are easily offended by language, violence, or nudity.

Ambitious, Clever, Intense, Relevant, Edgy

See it if you want to see oedipus reimagined in the modern day and you are ok with theater shocking you

Don't see it if you don’t like to be confronted

Cast & Creatives (15)