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Radiant Vermin

From 27 critic and 73 member reviews
Members say: Great acting, Clever, Original, Funny, Entertaining

About the show

Part of 59E59's Brits Off Broadway fest, Philip Ridley's dark comedy is about one of the defining social dilemmas of our time: the need for everyone to have a family home. More…

When a young couple is offered an ideal house by a mysterious stranger, it prompts the question: How far would any of us go to get our dream home? A fast-paced, pitch-black comedy, 'Radiant Vermin' is a provocative satire about the housing market, homelessness, and inequality.

Front Mezz Junkies

"It’s a superbly funny abstract comedy...I was blown away with the final birthday party scene, in full amazement of their ability to give us the rapid-fire delivery of all these characters and moments without missing a beat...My heart was racing when, magically, they stop and revert back to asking us directly, 'What do we value the most? Property or life?' And then, they ask us our verdict. My verdict was a standing ovation." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"Superb, playful writing, zany, magical plot arcs, pristine characterizations, and acutely rhythmic and cleverly paced humor throughout. Ridley adroitly manages to be paradoxical, ironic, satiric by using hyperbole and understatement in tropes that hit the bull's-eye of truth...It’s the marvelous divine comedy with all its beauty and ugliness and you won’t stop talking about it much after the lights come up at the end." Full Review

Theatre is Easy

""Often hilarious and at times rather poignant, Ridley’s contemporary new play is a 90-minute frenzied fall down one couple’s materialistic rabbit hole...It’s in the performances by Johnson and Verey, and their complete physical involvement in describing every detail, that we are able to vividly imagine what each scene must look like...Director David Mercatali is a genius in his direction of 'Radiant Vermin'...A wildly hilarious, dark, and incredibly fun look into serious first-world obsession." Full Review

Woman Around Town

“Playwright Philip Ridley’s black comedy is timely, original, and skillfully produced. Even when you realize what’s going on, small surprises and manifest reactions make taking the trip a buoyant pleasure. Ridley’s ending is priceless. Director David Mercatali straddles stylization (exaggerated, precise, sometimes incredibly rapid movement) and naturalism. The empty stage is well utilized with cogent mime. No point in analyzing. It works.” Full Review

NY Theatre Guide

"A horrifyingly humorous play…The plot is madness, but the charisma of the two leads allows you to buy the craziness with few questions. Their stunning portrayal of the moral disintegration of the two protagonists leaves you uncomfortable. Verey and Johnson are exceptional in this play…You will laugh and drop your jaw at the physical and spiritual stamina they use to keep you enthralled…Ultimately, the play is a riveting look into the power of money and greed." Full Review

Stage and Cinema

“The outstanding cast delivers exhilarating performances under David Mercatali’s brisk direction. Ms. Johnson and Mr. Verey share a wonderful chemistry...Mr. Mercatali helps the duo achieve a satisfying balance between their use of theatrical grammar and the fact that the storytellers, Jill and Ollie, are not themselves performers. The result is a slightly less 'actorly' but more intimate and inclusive telling.” Full Review

Plays to See

“David Mercatali’s direction is brisk and brutally bouncy...An absurdist satire, at once an indictment against not only the housing crisis, but our godless society and social indifference toward the less fortunate...Why do we find this humorous and entertaining?...A distance has been created by the playwright between the word and the reality of the action through humor, clever dialogue and the virtuosity of the actors to use pantomime to create their slow progress into hell.” Full Review


"A gripping dark comedy, adroitly directed by David Mercatali...Ms. Johnson is the pick of a stellar cast, whose talent is sensibly allowed to shine unadulterated against the backdrop of an admirably spare and uncluttered set. Think of Lady Macbeth midwifing Rosemary’s Baby to get some sense of the demonic kinetic energy she summons…A play whose central message has never been more of the moment." Full Review

Off Off Online

“Ridley is known for examining the darker side of humanity, and ‘Radiant Vermin’ is no exception...Between Ridley’s fantastical writing, Mercatali’s direction, and Verey and Johnson’s acting, numerous neighbors come to life in a frenzy of mime, dialect, and comedic timing...Verey and Johnson are the heart of this fast-paced black comedy, delivering Ridley’s satiric dialogue...If this is the best Britain has to export, long live Brits Off Broadway.” Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"A witty, if overextended, black comic sketch...Johnson and Verey have the knack of creating a pair of cartoon figures who are just enough like real people to make them impossible to dismiss....Director David Mercatali has found exactly the right satirical tone...'Radiant Vermin' makes its points early and often, but Jill and Ollie make a fine pair of unreliable narrators, and their tale is presented with considerable verve and wit...It's impossible not to feel the sting." Full Review

Front Row Center

"'Vermin' is a cheeky and sanitized allegory taking aim at young parents who will do anything in the name of their new baby…Verey and Johnson convey the tale directly to the audience with ample amounts of physical comedy and high-speed patter…More a storytelling machine than fleshed-out characters, Verey and Johnson run the risk of becoming unsympathetic, or worse, uninteresting. Fortunately, Ridley gives each role one dollop of depth, just enough to be likable." Full Review

Theatre's Leiter Side

"Ridley’s play is not only a grotesque satire on dealing with those useless people we call 'homeless,' but on consumer excess, greed, the problems of home ownership, and the distorted preoccupations of obsessive child-raising...A serious problem, though, is that once the play has made its point it keeps circling back with very little place to go, and drags on far longer than is necessary." Full Review

The New York Times

"Directed at a bouncy pace by David Mercatali...'Radiant Vermin' is a blithely told fable for the age of unaffordable housing...A little over 90 minutes, it is probably too long for its pithy purposes. Once you grasp its basic conceit, there aren’t too many places for it to go…'Radiant Vermin' by Mr. Ridley’s standards is unusually blunt in its moralizing and unusually direct in implicating its audience. Still, it makes for nasty and energetic fun." Full Review

The Huffington Post

"In order to go along with the mounting macabre proceedings, patrons have to believe that the two homemakers are extremely gullible when Miss Dee first appears, but maybe that’s easily enough done...During a lengthy prior-to-closing sequence, the actors play all the neighbors who show up for their offspring’s first birthday party. It’s a tour de force with an emphasis on the force." Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

"Ms. Johnson and Mr. Verey are excellent as Jill and Ollie, but, at least as directed by David Mercatali, their characters are basically cartoonish caricatures out of an ironic fairy tale. Thus, the play foregoes a sense of creepy horror that might have raised our level of concern…It is Jill and Ollie's ability to self-justify their every greed-driven decision that gives the play its only real bite, even as it all-too-gently attempts to make the audience feel complicit in the enterprise." Full Review


"Johnson and Verey nail the yuppie vibe in their chipper and tireless performances…Original, entertaining, and witty, in addition to offering what is probably a field day for its nimble performers. The play is stymied, though, as it becomes mired in contradictions. The story is so absurd that it's hard for it to have a strong, resonant emotional impact. Meanwhile, its darkness curtails the humor that could be found in this absurdity." Full Review

Ethan Kanfer: New York Theater Reviews

"Bitingly droll up to a point, but after Jill and Ollie have lost their souls there’s nowhere for the plot to go...The story spins its wheels for too long before the denouement arrives. David Mercatali’s direction is clear and brisk, and it’s fun to see the normally somber Ridley exploring his comedic side. But the satire here seems unfocused. To be sure, the rampant consumerism of today’s society is a deserving target for ridicule, but that alone is not enough to fill a full-length play." Full Review

The Arts Desk

for a previous production "Endlessly inventive…Every element of the show works perfectly, with the well-signposted birthday party from hell arriving as a suitable climax in what is an episode of bravura directing and acting. At this point, the sheer joy of the performers is wonderful to watch...Whether because of the heartbreaking testimony of a homeless woman, or the cast’s vivid representation of the temptations of consumer capitalism, 'Radiant Vermin' will shine brightly in my memory." Full Review

The Reviews Hub

for a previous production "Philip Ridley’s scathing, darkly comic and terrific play, 'Radiant Vermin', explores just how far we are prepared to go to get our dream home…His findings are bleak but the play around it is devilishly entertaining with tour-de-force performances and constant laugh-out-loud zingers…A terrific piece climbs another gear with a 20-minute section towards the end as a neighbourhood BBQ falls spectacularly apart...Brilliant!" Full Review

Financial Times (UK)

for a previous production "It’s a deeply macabre, stingingly funny modern fairy tale that shows its two protagonists wading deeper and deeper into murky moral territory…It’s deliberately outrageous and surreal but Ridley pulls it off brilliantly, poking away at the remorseless temptations of consumerism and the desolate creed that 'enough is never enough.' In David Mercatali’s jaunty, precisely pitched production, Gemma Whelan and Sean Michael Verey give virtuoso performances as Jill and Ollie." Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

for a previous production "A darkly funny morality play that implicates the audience without hitting it over the head…In outline, it sounds like one of those Ionesco plays of the 1950s in which an absurd premise is pursued with remorseless logic. But Ridley’s play is far subtler than that insofar as it shows how decent people are driven by desperation to stifle their consciences...Ridley suggests we live in a madly materialistic world where enough is never enough." Full Review

The London Evening Standard

for a previous production "Philip Ridley’s plays tend to be grotesque and explosive. Their language is dense and their characters monstrous. Here he returns to a familiar theme — that apocalypse is imminent — but his approach is more accessible and overtly political than usual…He’s on stingingly funny form…Director David Mercatali is an experienced interpreter of Ridley’s work and infuses his production with fierce energy. There are dazzling performances from Gemma Whelan and Sean Michael Verey." Full Review

The New York Times

for a previous production "David Mercatali’s adroit production also feels like a theatrical game, albeit a hugely pointed one...Mr. Ridley casts a sidelong glance at contemporary mores with a satiric finesse worthy of his vaunted former countryman Jonathan Swift...Mr. Ridley has a field day setting the apparent sunniness of his young lovers against their escalating misdeeds in a play that questions whether we are our brother’s keeper or his destroyer." Full Review

The Stage (UK)

for a previous production "It’s heavy-legged and obvious in places, but it is finely tuned in its way, a fable-like tale, glittering with menace and laced with the supernatural...There’s this absolutely extraordinary sequence where Whelan and Verey, recreate a garden party; they populate the entire stage with characters, and it’s the most precise, intense and breathtaking piece of performance, masterfully directed by David Mercatali, and it kicks the whole production up into the realms of the brilliant." Full Review

A Younger Theatre

for a previous production "I am amazed to admit that, despite some glaringly obvious moral defects, our leading couple are just plain likable...This post-show dilemma is also testament to the triple threat combination of excellent acting, writing and directing. The script is quite brilliant with some knock-out one-liners and lovely little self-aware nods...This was not an easy undertaking but the result was clear, concise and very entertaining. This was a truly earnest production and definitely worth seeing." Full Review

Entertaining, Great acting, Original, Relevant, Intense

See it if You appreciate a brilliant biting satire with incredible acting. You want to leave the theater feeling "wow".

Don't see it if You are uncomfortable having your values questioned.

Clever, Great writing, Great staging, Great acting, Original

See it if you are a fan of Ridley's work, and are a fan of writing (and acting) that pushes past the comfortable.

Don't see it if you need a traditional script and/or genre, or cannot keep with a pace that starts fast and speeds up from there.

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

See it if An original show with some dark teists made light, makes you think, great pure acting with no set and changing accents

Don't see it if You don't like ridley, you don't like British comedy, or entirely minimalist shows

Clever, Entertaining, Great acting, Relevant, Hilarious

See it if you enjoy somewhat dark British humor and are not offended by murder; you like over-the-top acting and story line with a relevant message.

Don't see it if You don't like any of the above; you do not like unrealistic story lines.The last "party scene" was waaaay too long, but well presented.

Clever, Great acting, Absorbing

See it if you enjoy great acting on a bare stage. Very inventive.

Don't see it if You have trouble suspending disbelief.

Absorbing, Clever, Funny, Dark, Original

See it if you want to see wonderful, physical acting, you like topical themes such as the housing crisis and materialism, you have a good imagination.

Don't see it if you are not interested in dark satire, the condemnation of the consumer society, beautiful sets are necessary for your enjoyment of a play.

Entertaining, Great acting, Edgy

See it if you like dark comedy and intense acting. The storytelling is very satirical, engaging, and has important subtext and social commentary

Don't see it if you were expecting an elaborate production, don't like crude dialogue or dark humor

Great acting, Dark, Funny, Quirky, Original

See it if you like dark comedy; you want to see what two energetic young actors can do on a bare set; you envy your neighbors with nicer apartments.

Don't see it if you prefer drawing room comedies or plays about relationships.

Clever, Entertaining, Funny, Great acting

See it if you are looking for a clever thriller yet intriguing and entertaining

Don't see it if you don't want to see a play or you are offended by murder

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

See it if you want to see a thought provoking work wrapped in the guise of an absurdist comedy, brought vividly to life by a great cast & a few props.

Don't see it if you don't like black box theater, allegorical plays, or stripped down theater with a small cast and virtually no scenery.

Absorbing, Clever, Entertaining, Funny, Relevant

See it if you want to see an original portrayal of greed and desperation. A young couple agrees to take a free house of their dreams. Then mayhem...

Don't see it if you don't want to know how far you might go to get what you want without considering the consequences. Nothing is free...

Clever, Delightful, Exquisite, Funny, Great acting

See it if These two actors do it all. I was not expecting anything like this when I saw this show. So kool what they were able to pull off here.

Don't see it if If you don't want to use your imagination. But its so fun to use it and get lost with this show.

Ambitious, Great acting, Dizzying, Edgy, Disturbing

See it if you'd enjoy a brilliantly performed, scathing examination of our materialistic keeping-up-with-the-Joneses-at-all-costs culture.

Don't see it if you need a sympathetic protagonist in your theatre experience. There are none to be had here!

Great acting, Hilarious, Original

See it if you enjoy watching a real acting 101 workshop and have a good imagination.

Don't see it if nothing can keep your attention for more than 20 minutes at a time and you prefer plays with more props than just a white backdrop w/ lights

Clever, Quirky, Thought-provoking, Ambitious

See it if You think that murdering homeless people could possibly be funny ; & you appreciate energetic actors who are trying very hard & good staging

Don't see it if You have any sort of a conscience and are not an entitled yuppie.

Absorbing, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Refreshing, Must see

See it if You love great acting and interesting/original stories. I left the show wanting to immediately see it again.

Don't see it if You want an elaborate set or to use your imagination. These actors do a great job of creating the world of the story and really is a mustsee

Clever, Edgy, Dark, Funny, Thought-provoking

See it if you enjoy dark comedy

Don't see it if you don''t like british accents

Clever, Funny, Great acting, Dizzying

See it if you have a great imagination as the stage is bare and like physical comedy.

Don't see it if cannot keep up when they play multiple parts in the span of 10 min towards the end. This is the dizzying part.

Quirky, Edgy, Great acting

See it if You appreciate quirky and black UK comedy. And tour-de-force acting turns.

Don't see it if You find over-the-top comic premises tiresome.

Edgy, Great acting, Original, Thought-provoking, Darkly humorous

See it if You want to meet a likable young couple who will commit execrable acts to obtain their dream home.

Don't see it if You do not enjoy dark humor and are repelled by a morbid solution for achieving one's materialistic desires.

Clever, Disappointing, Dizzying, Cliched, Intense

See it if you like dark British humor and are not offended by story lines that deal with murder. You like to see two energetic young actors.

Don't see it if You can't stand a bare set and unrealistic story lines. The last party scene was way, way too long.

Dizzying, Confusing, Great acting, Intense, Overrated

See it if You like extremely black comedy. You like absurdist plots acted by just 3 actors.

Don't see it if You can't deal with excruciatingly loud, erratic movement and unintelligible dialogue. You don't like a bare stage No furniture or props.

Well-acted, Thought-provoking, Rushed, Tedious, Entertaining

See it if you want to see three excellent actors grapple with this material. You like artificial, meta thought experiments over personal, real stories

Don't see it if you don't enjoy modern morality plays. If you're already "woke" this play will just get a bit tedious as it problematizes without solving.

Antic, Frantic

See it if You would like to see the hard working actors accelerate through the proceedings with humor and determination.

Don't see it if You can't ignore that it is a one joke production, however well staged. Also, is it dark humor, or just judgement free?

Edgy, Original, Thought-provoking

See it if you like dark and edgy comedies. You like a fast-paced play and don't mind a bare stage. Be prepared for a somewhat confusing scene (bday)

Don't see it if You don't like actors talking to the audience. You don't like a minimalist stage and a bit exaggerated acting

Cast & Creatives (8)