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Prodigal Son

From 36 critic and 107 member reviews
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. More…

'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.

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

Theatre is Easy

"Chalamet commands the stage with incredible force for an actor his age...In both writing and directing 'Prodigal Son,' Shanley is able to construct dialogue between his characters that is not only incredibly intelligent, but delivered in such a way that it engages the audience and is never once questioned for its authenticity in execution...If the purpose of art is to make you think and re-examine the way in which you live your life, then 'Prodigal Son' passes with top marks." 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

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

Entertainment Weekly

"Shanley crafts a captivating warts-and-all portrait of not only a budding artist but also an average teenager struggling to find himself...We all spent at least a few angst-ridden months (or maybe longer), like Jim, in 'a special, beautiful room in hell.' Thankfully, we have writers like Shanley to bring us back — for a brief, but intense, emotion-packed 95-minute trip." 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

Philadelphia Inquirer

"It's pure Shanley: big ideas embedded in lots of impassioned and sometimes funny dialogue spoken by characters you feel you know...In the central role of Jim, Timothee Chalamet is terrific—every tilt of his head and slump of his shoulders is perfectly calibrated to construct this character—a brilliant boy who reads intensely, greedy for ideas, desperate to grow up to be a hero, and tormented by adolescent angst...Nostalgia without sentimentality: a nice combination." 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

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


"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


"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

DC Metro Theater Arts

"The three central characters are complex, and Mr. Shanley has directed his play with a firm but loving hand...The small supporting cast is excellent as well...Because the play shows growth and resolution for Jim Quinn, and because it’s autobiographical, one takes double pleasure from it, knowing that Quinn is going to be all right, and that his playwright alter ego emerged from bad beginnings to make something meaningful of his life." Full Review

Let's Talk Off-Broadway

"A beautifully produced and inspiring play...Kindness and second chances help but these only take you so far. It’s an upsetting and disappointing confrontation with reality, and what Jim takes away from it, that puts him in throwing distance of redemption. Actually, I wish this point had been given more emphasis...The play is beautifully staged." 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

Act Three - The Reviews

"Mr. Chalamet seems to have already mastered the art of dialogue, humor, and on-stage charm that only a young boy can…For a play without much of a twist or gotcha moment, it tended to drag at points...Awkwardness aside, this top notch cast turns out an excellent story which will linger with you." 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


"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

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

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

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

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


"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

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

Theater Pizzazz

"One of theater’s most lauded playwrights, John Patrick Shanley, puts forth his own life in ‘Prodigal Son’…Is 'Prodigal Son' cathartic, narcissistic? Both…We visit with Jim Quinn, (Shanley’s young rude, inquisitive self) played by an incredibly talented Timothée Chalamet…Quinn doesn’t quite fit the mold, but has been rescued from his Bronx homeland by Alan Hoffman (a not quite suited for the role Robert Sean Leonard), a lit teacher at the school who thinks he can be Quinn’s savior." Full Review

Great acting, Great writing, Must see, Resonant, Absorbing

See it if You're a John Patrick Shanley fan.

Don't see it if You are under 14.

Absorbing, Exquisite, Great writing, Great acting, Masterful

See it if you like smart plays.

Don't see it if you like spectacle theatre.

Absorbing, Clever, Delightful, Entertaining, Great acting

See it if Anyone would like this show. I think that people in their teens and twenties would love it but I'm 54 and I loved it too.

Don't see it if Everyone would like it

Absorbing, Clever, Great acting, Epic, Intelligent

See it if you enjoy a drama with clever characters, lots of twists and an open ended ending.

Don't see it if you do not enjoy becoming part of the characters' lives, or if you want to know a final outcome to the story.

Absorbing, Great acting, Edgy, Intelligent, Thought-provoking

See it if you want to know more about what its like to be a teenager.

Don't see it if you want lots of laughs.

Absorbing, Clever, Great acting, Masterful, Profound

See it if you want to see a show with fantastic actors, enjoy a true story, can relate to anyone who hates school!

Don't see it if you don't like a show with no intermission.

Absorbing, Great acting, Masterful, Intense, Riveting

See it if You want to see Timothee Chalmont shine. You were ever young and trying to figure it all out. You enjoy watching human strength, hope win.

Don't see it if If you are in the mood for comedy, or are sick of prep school stories, but even then I don't see how this couldn't be riveting, relatable.

Also Favorite play of that season and I hope we see more of Timothee on sta... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Great acting, Great writing, Intelligent, Masterful

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.

Delightful, Great acting, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Masterful

See it if You enjoy amazing actors, an intense yet funny story line and a great set!

Don't see it if You won't enjoy themes related to an all boys boarding school 30-40 years ago

Intense, Thought-provoking, Absorbing

See it if you like Shanley plays

Don't see it if You want something light and silly

Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Resonant, Riveting

See it if you are looking for an absorbing drama to pull you into its story and for an outstanding performance by its young leading man.

Don't see it if you are not a Shanley fan because there is some familiar territory here.

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, Great staging, Great writing, Thought-provoking

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.

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

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

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

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

Absorbing, Great acting, Resonant, Thought-provoking, 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, Great writing, Resonant, Relevant

See it if you want to experience a veritable master-class in acting by the young lead actor.Enjoy autobiographical pieces that are beautifully written

Don't see it if you don't want to be faced with morally ambiguous characters.

Absorbing, Edgy, Great acting, Profound, Riveting

See it if Anyone who has struggled with adolescent angst and enjoys theater that addresses defiance in education.

Don't see it if You do not want to talk away challenged or if you want an easy night away from the stress of life.

Absorbing, Entertaining, Funny, Great acting

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.

Delightful, Clever, Absorbing, Funny, Inspiring

See it if You like art that is entertaining and thought-provoking

Don't see it if You want a song and a dance

Absorbing, Entertaining, Exquisite, Clever, Enchanting

See it if A brilliant show! Incredible writing and acting!

Don't see it if If you only like Musicals!

Absorbing, Refreshing, Intelligent

See it if you like good drama.

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

Great acting, Riveting, Intense, Absorbing, Intelligent

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.

Absorbing, Edgy, Great acting, Intelligent, Relevant

See it if First rate acting in a smaller, comfortable theater.

Don't see it if You only like musicals

Clever, Intelligent

See it if You are a literature buff and want to have a cerebral theater experience

Don't see it if Your looking for something easy and light. This is dense and intense theater

Cast & Creatives (12)