Members say: Great acting, Absorbing, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Great writing

About the show

Manhattan Theatre Club presents John Patrick Shanley's world premiere starring Robert Sean Leonard about a 17-year-old from the Bronx attending a private school in New Hampshire.

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'Prodigal Son' is a portrait of a young man on the verge of salvation or destruction. A 17-year-old boy from The Bronx finds himself suddenly in a private school in New Hampshire. He’s violent, gifted, alienated, on fire with a ferocious loneliness. Two faculty members wrestle with the dilemma: Is the kid a star or a disaster? Shanley directs his new play, and Robert Sean Leonard stars.

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See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews

The New York Times

"It is filled with the sort of self-worshiping, self-flagellating self-centeredness you associate with boys tormented by their raging hormones. Even when it portrays other characters, 'Prodigal Son' is inescapably all about Jim...Jim is a character in search of an author to explain him to himself. Strangely enough, the man that Jim would become seemingly has yet to achieve the distance to make this struggling artist-in-­the-­making worthy of a play of his own." Full Review


"Shanley has done an excellent job of directing his own play, entrusting the role of this overindulged youth to the extraordinarily gifted Chalamet…The real but largely unexplored drama lies in the conflict between the literary Jim, who writes beautiful poetry and philosophical essays, and the self-destructive Jim, who drinks, steals, and seems determined to get himself kicked out of school." Full Review


"Despite the central character's aggressions, Shanley directs the ninety minute drama as a soft and sentimental memory. The action is sparse, the tension is mild and the plotting always seems more or less familiar. Leonard's character describes Quinn as 'the most interesting mess we have this year,' but 'Prodigal Son' is neither interesting or nor messy enough to make an impact." Full Review


"On the whole, though, 'Prodigal Son,' both on page and in production, never completely rises to the level of curiosity we feel about its protagonist...It doesn't offer particularly new insights into the genre...The script moves slowly, and a solid half of the 100-minute running time is devoted either to exposition or to mood setting. And a late-in-the-game twist registers with more of an 'of course' than an 'a-ha.'" Full Review

New York Magazine / Vulture

"Telling the story of the two teenage years he spent at the Thomas More School confirmed him in his artistic path, it displays all of his mature talents for moral inquiry, rich dialogue, and compelling scene-making — and not incidentally creates a role that the 20-year-old actor Timothée Chalamet is able to knock out of the park. But 'Prodigal Son,' like its biblical namesake, is also a mopey and vexing testament to the confusions of self-regard." Full Review

Time Out New York

"A keen, passionate portrait of the author as a poetry-spouting romantic punk torn between literary dreams and his roots in the Bronx...He directs his own production with a tender hand...The play is lean and cool-headed, but it contains one or two emotional explosions that cast the previous action in a new light...The night’s revelation is lanky Chalamet as Jim, nailing the Shanley accent and swagger. He gives one of the most impressive stage debuts I’ve seen in years." Full Review

The Huffington Post

"'Prodigal Son' is interesting and likable. It is also uneven...The overall results are more than workable, but one suspects there's a considerably stronger play in 'Prodigal Son' than what we see at City Center. The trouble with writing autobiographical plays is that the author can be overly concerned with what actually happened, the way it happened; this sometimes leads to accurate reporting but less-than-scintillating dramaturgy." Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"The young actor Timothée Chalamet captures the exact temperature of Jim's fevered intellect, guiding us expertly through the logical hairpin turns and alarming mood swings that make him such a bracing, if exhausting, fellow to have around...The playwright forces a climax that tries to address this and several other key points, but it is little more than a hurried, unsatisfactory attempt at wrapping up the play in a single grand gesture." Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

"'Prodigal Son' may be a complacent and somewhat predictable work, but it is also a savvy and often moving one...While the plotting is formulaic, it is also satisfying. Perhaps Shanley’s adolescence really did resemble a genre exercise. Life does have a pesky way of imitating art...The acting is uniformly fine." Full Review

Cultural Weekly

"The fluid and sharp script from Shanley, who also directs with subtlety, and a keenly well-observed performance from young Timothée Chalamet, rescue Jim from being seen as a self-centered know-it-all...The noteworthy ensemble is completed by David Potters as Jim’s nerdy, supportive roommate." Full Review

DC Theatre Scene

"'Prodigal Son' comes off as Shanley’s strained effort to work out in public his own adolescence...If Shanley as playwright does not do his best work in 'Prodigal Son,' Shanley as director oversees an appealing production that does much to offset the flaws in the script...But it’s the five-member cast that most draws us in." Full Review

The Hollywood Reporter

"For a work that announces itself as highly personal, this is an opaque portrait revealing little beyond the author's romanticized self-image as an embattled hero...The writing doesn't match the elegance of the production...The chief reward is the acting, which keeps the play involving even as it grows more frustrating." Full Review

The Wall Street Journal

"Finely directed by the author himself and exceptionally well acted by a five-person cast led by Timothée Chalamet, 'Prodigal Son' is a heart-sore portrait of adolescent turmoil that bears the stamp of hard-earned truth on every scene…I want to see 'Prodigal Son' again soon, and I expect I will...It strikes me on first viewing as the best thing that Mr. Shanley has given us since 'Doubt.' You can’t get much better than that." Full Review

AM New York

"The 95-minute drama is raw and choppy, with long gaps in time between some scenes, meandering discussions of philosophy and a heavy reliance on direct narration. At times, it resembles a heavy-handed takeoff of 'The Catcher in the Rye.' But on the whole, it is an engaging and candid coming-of-age piece." Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

"'Prodigal Son' is not without merit. And it describes, if in oblique terms, the perils facing this artist as a young man...But it's tough to escape the fact that, for all his high talk, Jim is not particularly interesting at the head of his own story...So formulaic is Shanley's writing (and, by extension, his direction), in fact, that there's nothing on hand to detract from it." Full Review

New York Daily News

"Thoughtful and measured, the show takes its own sweet time to reveal itself...Shanley, who directs, skillfully guides the actors well. His production is less successful. The scene changes are slow-moving, as trees slide and snap into place. The music, even though it’s by the likes of Paul Simon, tugs too heavily on the heartstrings. But those are all quibbles with this satisfying play." Full Review


"A compelling, well cast memory piece that benefits from MTC's as usual superb stagecraft...While packed with incident and passionate interchanges, the new play as directed by Shanley, plays out in just 90 well-paced minutes...Instead of exciting swordplay to bring all these tensions to a head, the climax in 'Prodigal Son' is fought with verbal confrontations, the most poignant and disturbing between Jim and Alan Hoffman, the always supportive English teacher." Full Review


"Shanley overloads the ending with too many revelations on the part of the faculty, secrets which have not been properly foreshadowed. Nevertheless, the play is always engrossing and the portrait of Jim is fully three dimensional…It may just be Shanley’s best play in years...Also see the play for the remarkable debut of Timothée Chalamet from whom much more should be seen in the future." Full Review


"The writing is simply not strong enough to juggle all of these side stories...It probably doesn’t help that Mr. Shanley himself serves as the director; another eye might have helped shape things better. There is no faulting the acting, however, and Timothée Chalamet is a real find, a bundle of nervous energy with just the right mix of allure and obnoxiousness to paint the portrait of a teen on the verge of either exploding gloriously into the world or imploding into self-destruction." Full Review

The Wrap

"It doesn’t have much to offer as a play, it does tell us much about this writer’s high opinion of himself...'Prodigal Son' is without conflict for most of its 95 minutes...Two scenes under Shanley’s own direction emerge as real howlers before we get to the play’s action-packed denouement." Full Review


"You could rightly argue that no one needs to see another play that is essentially a portrait of the artist as an angry young man. And then along comes John Patrick Shanley’s excellent new work to prove you wrong...Shanley – who has also deftly directed the work –keeps his canvas small, focusing on Jim’s interactions with these three adults...One can’t help but wish at times that the author had chosen to paint on a larger canvas." Full Review


"We are deeply in the thrall of Timothée Chalamet. The gifted actor, with his long, floppy limbs, dangerous energy and fierce dare-you eyes, is giving a breakout performance, embodying layers of the contradictions and complexities of a fish-out-of-water kid...Shanley ably directs." Full Review

New York Theatre Guide

"The language in Shanley’s script is beautifully crafted. Actors live their entire lives and don’t get to say such original and juicy turns of phrase. But it must be said that Chalamet does not rest on the strength of the words, he brings this tortured young boy right to you. He touches a common memory in our hearts; he’s that dangerous brilliant young man you never could have brought home to your parents and/or the young lonely person that you were at fifteen." Full Review

Wolf Entertainment Guide

"As much as one may admire the acting of Chalamet and others, it is possible to tire of Quinn’s relentless self-exploration, as if there were no one else in the world. True, that may be exactly what a young person unsure of himself may do, but it makes for severely repetitive angst...Although the drama is only 90 minutes without intermission, much has been packed into it In the way of plot threads and revelations, perhaps too much." Full Review


"In a sequence of mostly two-person scenes in this intimate, well-crafted play, which Shanley also directed, we see Jim's struggle to find validation, a center to his life...The rest of the cast is equally strong...'Prodigal Son' is obviously a play that's extremely personal for its author, but it's a work that also allows the rest of us in, to participate in his experience." Full Review

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews

Absorbing, Great acting, Must see, Relevant

See it if you like coming of age stories. good acting

Don't see it if no reason not to

Dizzying, Confusing, Disappointing, Excruciating, Slow

See it if you want to take a nap. The whole show is about making the world see this "great young actor". He was ok but way over did it

Don't see it if This is the worst show I have seen all year. there is nothing good about it.

Funny, Clever, Great acting, Intense, Entertaining

See it if you enjoy coming of age stories. The playwright explores his with this play.

Don't see it if you don't enjoy coming of age stories or are looking for a diverse cast.

Great acting, Intelligent, Resonant, Great writing, Great staging

See it if You want to see a brilliant young performer.

Don't see it if You are looking for a light hearted romp.

Indulgent, Insipid, Slow, Dated, Dull

See it if you think the subject matter sounds compelling and you've never seen a play like this before. Competent performances, nothing being said.

Don't see it if you don't think Italian girls sound "exotic." This dated play doesn't make a good case for its relevance and the ending proves it.

Funny, Banal, Cliched, Insipid, Entertaining

See it if You like coming-of-age stories.

Don't see it if You want something entirely original.

Absorbing, Clever, Great acting, Intelligent, Must see

See it if It is a must see not only for the question re: morals but to see a star in his youth. 20 year old Timothee Chalmet is superb.. Let us watch

Don't see it if you want fluff.

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

See it if Love Great writing and staging. If you want to see superb acting with a riveting storyline.

Don't see it if You are uncomfortable with religion being discussed or boys in boarding schools.

Banal, Disappointing, Cliched, Overrated, Dated

See it if You're Shanley fanatic.

Don't see it if you're expecting a revelation.

Absorbing, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Resonant, Great staging

See it if You like autobiographical stories about unsettled teens navigating a rocky adolescence guided by "adults", some damaged themselves.

Don't see it if You'd find a very personal story about adolescence indulgent; if you believe everyone needs to pick themselves up by their own bootstraps.

Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Masterful, Great writing

See it if you love John Patrick Shanley -- and if you like boy's school dramas. The fugue of past, present and future at the end is masterful writing.

Don't see it if don't like interior dramas without much outward action. -- or if you don't want to see an extraordinary performance from a gifted young man.

Great acting, Intelligent, Indulgent, Slow

See it if you want to see a promising young actor at the beginning of his career.

Don't see it if you don't like plays which assume that anything that happened to the author when he was young is intrinsically interesting to the audience.

Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Riveting, Great writing

See it if You like Shanley, want to see a young actor with a big future, remember the agony of being 16, smart, & desperate to figure out who you are.

Don't see it if you've seen too many coming of age stories set in prep schools

Funny, Clever, Great acting, Intelligent, Great staging

See it if You want to realize that so young actor can handle entire play

Don't see it if You don't remember your teen ages

Funny, Absorbing, Great acting, Entertaining

See it if You're a fan of John Patrick Shanley's plays and/or Robert Sean Leonard, and if you like stories looking back at growing up in the 60s.

Don't see it if Don't like period pieces or stories that question the tenets of Catholicism.

Original, Absorbing, Great acting, Great writing

See it if enjoy a well performed coming of age story with angst & drama.

Don't see it if you do not enjoy memoirs or coming of age stories.

Original, Indulgent, Excruciating, Overrated, Slow

See it if You are a big Shanley fan, who can dismiss his vanities. Good acting.

Don't see it if You like a drama that makes a point.

Great acting, Intelligent, Entertaining

See it if only to see some remarkable acting from Timothée Chalamet. He stands out among a very fine cast.

Don't see it if your expecting to see John Patrick Shanley at his best. This is good, but not his best work. Good play, could dig deeper into characters.

Indulgent, Banal, Disappointing, Meh, Strong acting

See it if you're up for strong performances in a talky play. Set in an all-boy Catholic school in 1966, the play stacks the deck for the young "hero".

Don't see it if you want engaging moral and philosophical discussions. This is the playwright's show-off autobio: see how great I turned out

Absorbing, Intelligent, Refreshing

See it if you like good drama.

Don't see it if you don't care for playwright self reflection.

Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Intense, Riveting

See it if like coming-of-age bio-dramas, intense scenes of teen angst & confusion, & great acting by Robert Sean Leonard & Timothee Chalamet.

Don't see it if're bored by autobiographical memoirs & tales of teen angst and are not a fan of Robert Sean Leonard or plays by John Patrick Shanley.

Banal, Disappointing, Cliched, Insipid, Short!

See it if You like hearing Holden Cauffield-like whining. Timothée Chalamet gives an interesting and thought-out performance.

Don't see it if you find teenage angst tiresome and whiny.

Great acting, Intelligent, Indulgent, Great staging

See it if you want a coming-of-age tale that very much feels that it was written by a literate, 60 y.o. playwright making sense of his adolescence.

Don't see it if nostalgia steeped in literary references is not your thing or if you have no interest in examining the difficulties of one's mid-teen years.

Clever, Great acting, Slow

See it if author's autobiograpy is easy to spot here, sometimes unhappy to watch, always riveting with this new young lead

Don't see it if another coming-of-age, fish-out-of-water story is uninteresting to you

Thought-provoking, Profound, Great writing

See it if love Shanley's work. love plays that have a spiritual component. love a complex and nuanced exploration of teen years.

Don't see it if are looking for a yuk fest.

Cast & Creatives (12)