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Our Lady of 121st Street

From 32 critic and 188 member reviews
Members say: Great acting, Funny, Entertaining, Great writing, Absorbing

About the show

Signature Theatre presents a new revival of Pulitzer Prize-winner Stephen Adly Guirgis's brash and dark comedy. A vivid comic portrait of what happens when old friends meet old wounds and how old habits die hard. More…

After the death of the beloved Sister Rose, a group of her former students return to their Harlem neighborhood to pay respects. But at the Funeral Home, there's a problem—her dead body has been stolen. Directed by Phylicia Rashad.

The Hollywood Reporter

"The flimsy plotline is less important than its procession of darkly hilarious scenes...This superb production, staged to perfection by Rashad, provides a master class in how it's done...The characters unveil their hopes, fears and disappointments in a series of confrontations that are frequently as moving as they are riotously funny...Makes a strong case for the playwright as one of our most essential theatrical voices." Full Review

Gotham Playgoer

"This ensemble piece is more like a series of connected sketches for pairs of actors than a plot-driven narrative, but with sketches that display Guirgis’s talent for writing inspiredly raunchy urban dialogue for a variety of damaged characters, that’s enough to keep me happy...As these characters engage, the ensuing dialogue is most often hilarious, although there are tender and sad moments as well. The actors are all solid...Rashad’s direction is smooth and assured." Full Review

New York Stage Review

"Guirgis is a true and pure present-day poet. When an impeccable production of one of his plays comes your way, grasp it...What a joy is 'Our Lady'...The magic comes, in great part, from the playwright’s character skills...Guirgis seems never to have written a standardized character...The language soars, over and over again, as the playwright unravels his story with small scenes...This is a playwright to savor, and we can only look forward to wherever he chooses to take us next time." Full Review

Daily Beast

"Uproariously fun and viscerally piercing...Guirgis has such a talent for how people speak and relate to one another, we instantly believe all of the characters on stage...Profanity, painful truth, confession, jokes, baiting: this is discourse at its most human...Like being caught in a brilliant, funny, invective-packed slipstream...Our time with these folks after two beautifully written and directed hours feels like it should have only just begun." Full Review

New York Stage Review

"Dialogue that can make you snort with laughter or sigh with recognition as readily as it can rip your heart out...The raw, exquisite pungency of Guirgis’s language and, particularly, his insistence on looking for truth and even hope in dark corners elevate his work above those of other dramatists...The emphasis is on the individual and interwoven struggles of the characters, each of them drawn so richly and vividly that you want to follow them after the curtain falls." Full Review

Front Row Center

“Missing several elements that are usually vital to a play...Resembles an uptown version of ‘Seinfeld’. Not a lot really happens in terms of plot...But the characters get under your skin, and their quiet and not-so-quiet struggles to stay afloat in a hostile world, and their ability to see the humor in the darkness, is like water in the desert. You thirst for more. Hats off to a superb cast, insightful and powerful script by Stephen Adly Guirgis and deft direction by Phylicia Rashad.” Full Review

City Cabaret

“A dark, insightful, and strangely hilarious local slice of life...The cast is colorful, verbose with earthy, profane, jivey NYC street talk...The ending is left unresolved, keeping questions unanswered, much like the characters who continue their searches of why life is like it is...Quirky idiosyncrasies imbue the characters with mixes of humor and simpatico...No problems were solved...The play ends as these diverse characters finish this part of their stories, profanity and all.” Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"If it doesn't seem sporting to introduce such an extravagant plot device with no intention of resolving it, the cast of characters, each one a profoundly damaged smart aleck, provides plenty of compensation...Rashad's production is firmly on the author's savage, usually hilarious wavelength without obscuring the terrible pain behind each ruthless takedown...The opportunity catch it in this darkly sparkling production shouldn't be missed." Full Review

Theatre's Leiter Side

"A superbly acted revival…An essentially plotless two hours…Rippling, sinewy dialogue that commands attention and ignites raucous laughter…'Our Lady' has loose ends, several vaguely drawn characters,…and an uncomfortable depiction of…two gay men. Despite the play's structural problems, its characters and language are so electric that, even when the laughs subside in the more serious Act II, you remain invested in these damaged souls." Full Review


"A memorably hilarious very dark human comedy...Rashad has assembled an excellent top to bottom ensemble and competently guided them to prove that Guirgis's characters do indeed have enough color and humanity... A production that may not have the intimate feel of the very first staging in the LABrynth's own modest home, but it strongly supports the fluidity of the transitions from desperately comic confrontations to down deep revelations." Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

"A play that lets fly with a constant bombardment of lunatic interactions...Don't go looking for much of a plot. 'Our Lady' is a character-driven play...The playwright, the excellent cast, and Rashad deliver the goods by bringing these quirky individuals to life as they make us laugh out loud...The playwright's finely tuned ear for dialog shapes even the most unsavory moments into a theatrical feast." Full Review

Wolf Entertainment Guide

"It preserves the author’s quirky look at quirky characters and is just as entertaining and relentlessly profane. The new cast delivers impressively, and Rashad’s direction nails the play’s unusual qualities and the diverse people under inspection...The motley black and white characters in Guirgis’s play spew collective vocabulary not for those who wince at profanity—they’ll have to engage in lots of wincing in listening to these folks delivering the author’s salty and amusing dialogue." Full Review


"The current staging of 'Our Lady' at Pershing Square Signature Center, directed by Phylicia Rashad, magically now comes across as an addled, profane sitcom. It's entertaining and at times moving, but the real magic is that the very same words can be tended by a solid director-this one obviously experienced in sitcoms-and refresh a theatrical experience so completely. Rashad has shown that scathing can be scathingly funny. This time I left laughing." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"All too funny, poignant, and earthy...Each of the characters are rich and ripe as they eagerly and easily throw themselves out into the unknown, unafraid and ready for battle, insults flying...This is wacky-ville like you’ve never seen it as director Phylicia Rashad takes the reins and willingly lets go allowing her cast to fly untethered...Be prepared for the unexpected and enjoy the ride! Guirgis is a genius when it comes to dark irreverent comedy." Full Review

This Week in New York Blog

“A wickedly funny adaptation...The action unfolds across ten scenes in two acts...Superbly directed by Rashad, who gives ample space to each actor to establish their character and deliver Guirgis’s incisive dialogue, which sizzles like street poetry...What shines through the writing itself...The cast is exceptional, an outstanding ensemble that hits all the right notes...A ferociously funny tale about realistic people facing tragedy in realistic ways.” Full Review

Broadway Blog

"The play’s more significant driving force is its array of colorful Harlem inhabitants. Rashad has assembled an exceptional cast to tackle Guirgis’s visceral dialogue that riffs and improvises like a great jazz set...'Our Lady' transcends time and place by exploring themes that continue to resonate: our obligation to family, self-worth, how we love, unresolved anger, regret. The heightened language...offers an emotional playground for the cast, but it also settles into reflective sincerity." Full Review


"This sampler of Gothamites in motion hits the ground running in director Phylicia Rashad's crackling production...The play is grounded by its most moving relationship, that of building super Edwin and his mentally challenged brother, Pinky...Skillfully gliding from sharp, scatologically-expressed humor to realistic pathos, 'Our Lady of 121st Street" is a terrific collection of genuine New York stories." Full Review

The Wrap

"Guirgis demonstrates a flare for firecracker dialogue that grabs our interest and underscores his beaten-down urban characters’ capacity for hair-trigger outbursts of anger and despair...Rashad keeps most of the scenes tethered to a kind of heightened reality, allowing her uniformly talented cast to dig into the juicier disses...While the episodic nature of the play never grows tedious, it also never manages to gather much in the way of narrative momentum." Full Review

Show Showdown

"An imbalanced work, but ultimately its strengths win out over its weaknesses. I wish like hell I'd known before I'd seen it that it's wonderful when it comes to affectionate, deft character analysis, but that it doesn't tie up all its loose plot threads in nice little bows by the end...Go. See it. Enjoy the very fine production and the numerous three-dimensional characters. This is a very good episodic, day-in-the-life play. It is well acted, insightful, and often genuinely hilarious." Full Review

The Modernist Beat

"His plays are the poetry of the people – the people that most works of American culture refuse to see – and his great gift is to take the language of the streets and transform it into music...The revival of 'Our Lady of 121st Street' is a propulsive production...The music of Guirgis relies on rapid-fire dialogue and idiosyncratic monologues. They are entertaining, shocking, funny...The production has assembled an ensemble of actors that understands that the language is active." Full Review

Front Mezz Junkies

"The play itself is more a collection of wildly funny and hypnotic scenes...but if you are looking for and expecting a full arc to the story and a resolution at the end, this is the wrong place...The performances are all pretty solid...Some resonate deeply, while others leave you scratching your head a bit...It’s a solid compilation of audition-worthy scenes for actors to play with and sink their teeth into, and they do, happily and successfully, but to what overall effect?" Full Review

The Wall Street Journal

"The results, if uneven, are mostly pleasing, and the play itself, of which much the same could be said, comes through with all sails billowing. It isn’t perfect, but it’s smart and touching—and fun...In the hands of a less talented playwright, this premise would lead to a steady accumulation of gooey she-touched-my-life sentimentality, but Mr. Guirgis is hunting bigger game...The problem with 'Our Lady of 121st Street' is that it’s essentially plotless." Full Review


"Accomplished production, with director Phylicia Rashad building a vibrant yet subtle energetic network within her brilliant ensemble of actors...An amorphous narrative where conflicts are left unsettled, crimes are left unsolved, and goals are left extremely undefined. That essentially means the play's ending is where Guirgis abruptly decides to stop showing us the lives of his characters. If after 'Our Lady of 121st Street' we feel somewhat unsatisfied, that means we're hungry for more." Full Review


"The acting is terrific all around; this is a truly unbeatable cast that flawlessly captures the humor and near-vaudevillian speed of Mr. Guirgis's writing." Full Review


"Entertaining dark comedy...While they wait for the return of their beloved teacher, there's not much to do but rehash old beefs and start some new ones, which we see in brief scenes that Rashad keeps moving right along...A character study, pure and simple. What an odd assortment of crazy, mixed-up characters Guirgis has given us.” Full Review

Entertaining, Funny, Great acting, Must see, Great writing

See it if You love language, you love actors, you love NY.

Don't see it if You're verbally squeamish and think the world is a pretty only place.

Clever, Great acting, Quirky, Refreshing, Must see

See it if You enjoy dark comedy and great acting

Don't see it if You are not of fan of irreverent dark humor

Absorbing, Clever, Entertaining, Great acting, Great staging

See it if I'm biased because I do like Stephen's plays and I had to act out a "Edwin/ Pinky" scene, in high school, which is near and dear to me. The

Don't see it if Acting was great, overall. Loved the staging. Talkback was entertaining. I highly recommend- there is lots of cussing, however. drugs.

Funny, Entertaining, Great staging

See it if it's great comedy with people from every denomination. See it if youre a Harper Hill fan.

Don't see it if the plot was fine but it didn't answer the question on everybody's mind.

Absorbing, Entertaining, Great acting

See it if You enjoy a great group of actors all at their peak with smart dialog

Don't see it if Cursing or offensive language would affect your reaction to the show

Absorbing, Great writing, Hilarious, Thought-provoking, Edgy

See it if You love great writing. It is funny, sad, and moving. The cast is uniformly brilliant and the direction is great.

Don't see it if You are not comfortable with serious subjects that are very emotionally provocative.

Clever, Great acting, Funny, Great writing, Masterful

See it if You appreciate great acting by an outstanding ensemble cast. Contemporary, in your face stories filled with emotion and laughter.

Don't see it if You don’t like urban stories with adult language and multiple yet overlapping stories.

Absorbing, Clever, Entertaining, Funny, Great acting

See it if We attended with a group of students . They all were in the 90%-100% range for rating. .The various mini-sagas hit home for many .

Don't see it if Foul language may upset some theatergoers, stories of the various mourners although dissected are not solved. This may also present a prob.

Absorbing, Edgy, Intelligent

See it if You want to see a well-written, unique play about gritty life and relationships.

Don't see it if you want something that looks at life through rose-colored glasses

Delightful, Refreshing, Hilarious, Great acting

See it if A real & honest show @gritty 1980’s East Harlem. The block’s quirky characters will have you in stitches & you will fall in love with them!

Don't see it if You are offended by profanity, or you don’t like shows that deal with the dead in a comical way.

Clever, Great writing, Great acting, Masterful, Raunchy

See it if Hilarious & tragic tale of events surrounding a funeral. Writing & humor are razor sharp.

Don't see it if Raunchy, irreverent, boozy, exposes the failures & flaws of ALL of it's characters, even the person being memorialized.

Entertaining, Hilarious, Great writing, Raunchy, Riveting

See it if want to see a hilarious show with well crafted stereotypical urban dialogue that will keep you absolutely engaged.

Don't see it if you need "resolution" in your plots or dislike realistic street language. The plot is spare, but the dialogue is hilarious.

Also Stephan Adly Guirgis is a master at crafting street based dialogue tha... Read more Read less

Clever, Great acting, Hilarious, Confusing, Edgy

See it if enjoy dark comedy featuring inner city characters and dialogue. Don't mind that there's no solid plot

Don't see it if expect a smooth flowing story; are offended by some vulgar descriptive dialogue

Also Funny, well-done show, different. Each little scene with its different... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Delightful, Entertaining, Funny, Hilarious

See it if The Cast is great

Don't see it if Please see

Ambitious, Funny, Great writing, Thought-provoking, Quirky

See it if You enjoy excellent dialogue, and like to see numerous strong characters bounce off each other as you gain a window into their lives.

Don't see it if You need a single central character to identify with or you need all of the plot threads to wrap up.

Absorbing, Intelligent, Relevant, Brilliant ensemble acting, Brilliant sensitive direction

See it if You enjoy plays about close community problems and situations. This play is structured around unique characters, each very believable.

Don't see it if Only reason not to see this wonderful play is if you absolutely cannot deal with rough street language spoken throughout.

Absorbing, Great acting, Refreshing, Entertaining, Funny

See it if you want to see an outstanding ensemble create funny and moving characterizations. Set is terrific as is the direction. I thoroughly enjoyed

Don't see it if you don't like profanity, if you want a linear plot, or if you are offended easily. I don't think the ending of the show works; it just ends

Clever, Edgy, Great writing

See it if You enjoy a fast-paced play made of up of multi stories that more or less get resolved. Good writing and acting so you don't lose track.

Don't see it if You don't like fragmented stories but want a unified narrative. Won't like the raunchy humor and talk that bounces from person to person.

Great acting, Great writing, Funny, Quirky, Urban

See it if if there's another great NYC revival like this one. Sadly, I'm writing this after the Signature Theater production has closed.

Don't see it if you prefer plot over character. This being said, sometimes eccentric personalities hold your attention better than storylines.

Also Guirgis is one of those delightful playwrights who seemingly writes in... Read more Read less

Entertaining, Great acting, Intelligent, Great writing, Funny

See it if You like strong characters and funny, yet serious story lines

Don't see it if you are uncomfortable with profanity. Definitely lots of colorful language!

Absorbing, Entertaining, Great acting, Relevant, Funny

See it if You like well acted shows with great dialogue that show a specific slice of life with funny, touching, interesting characters.

Don't see it if You prefer plays with a clear resolution.

Super cast, great re-write, must-see

See it if superbly written, acted, directed and produced theater is what you crave. Saw the original and was apprehensive. No need to be concerned.

Don't see it if Following multiple character story lines that demand lots of attention is too much work for you. It is funny, sad, moving but complex.

Also Sometimes seeing revised or updated productions is a disappointment bu... Read more Read less

Clever, Funny, Profound, Sad, Devastating

See it if Dark comedy that grabs you with its humor, then sinks you with regret, pain and longing. Brilliant writing and language. Brutally honest.

Don't see it if You would not enjoy a play that explores lack of fulfillment in the human condition, where life gets worse and nothing is resolved.

Masterful, Intelligent, Great writing captures street chatter, Great ensemble acting

See it if The funeral of a nun who touched many lives brings people together in twos and threes allowing the audience to discover who they are.

Don't see it if You want plot with a resolution rather than a continuum of real life interactions that leaves you wanting more. Rough & irreligious language

Absorbing, Entertaining, Great acting, Funny, Thought-provoking

See it if You like good acting, relationship oriented, gritty material with humor

Don't see it if If you have delicate sensibilities and are easily offended by a little bit of raunchy humor

Cast & Creatives (19)