Relevance NYC Reviews and Tickets

73%
(106 Reviews)
Positive
67%
Mixed
28%
Negative
5%
Members say
Thought-provoking, Relevant, Great acting, Ambitious, Intelligent

About the Show

MCC Theater's world premiere drama centers around a collision of ideals within the feminist movement. Who decides your worth?

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Member Reviews (106)

87
Funny, Entertaining, Reality tv(ish), Great acting

See it if You like trainwrecks. Well-written and intense. Funny.

Don't see it if You can see the misogyny behind the veil. You don't appreciate men depreciating women's attitudes. Read more

55
Ambitious, Thought-provoking, Slow, Disappointing, Verbose

See it if you love Jayne Houdyshell (who doesn't?); you want to see a polemic on feminism vs post-feminism with a bit of drama shoe-horned in.

Don't see it if sitting thru a 90-minute lecture on sexism, racism & the effects of social media on individuals' lives isn't your idea of compelling theatre

Critic Reviews (25)

February 25th, 2018

"Lee’s play descends into what feels like a clash of talking points that never jell into persuasive form...Shows an admirable willingness to wrestle with uncomfortable subjects. It also shares an honorable refusal to provide conclusive answers...or to tilt its sympathies heavily toward any one of its prickly characters. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to feel much interest in, let alone liking for, any of them...Feels like an intriguing rough draft prematurely thrown into public view."
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February 25th, 2018

"'Relevance' stages a power struggle between ambitious women of different generations...The cast is solid, and director Liesl Tommy does an impressive job of keeping the action lively even when the dialogue spins into highly intellectual territory, and Jeanette Oi-Suk Yew's stunning projections underscore the role of social media in driving a wedge between the old guard and the new. Fasten your seat belts: It’s going to be a bumpy conference."
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February 26th, 2018

"This sharp, disturbing examination of the shifting tectonic plates of contemporary culture stands out from the glut of insistent progressive issue plays. It earns its title by focusing not on a what, but on how we talk to one another today...In the new town square, we become competitors rather than communicators, snipers looking for hits. It’s this recognition, along with its quartet of powerful performances, that makes Lee’s play feel not only timely but frightening."
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February 25th, 2018

"It's admirable to see a playwright addressing such weighty topics, but 'Relevance' proves intellectually overstuffed and dramatically undercooked. Too often echoing the sort of academic symposiums that feature heavily in its plot, the play threatens to sink under its own weight. Only the talents of its formidable lead performers, Jayne Houdyshell and Pascale Armand, keep it afloat...'Relevance' emerges as a confusing muddle when it comes to what drives these two combatants."
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February 25th, 2018

"Liesl Tommy helms a production that often feels phoned-in...Still, Tommy succeeds in conveying Lee's story and ideas, and there are some big ones here...Even if you don't fully buy the play's contrivance, you cannot resist feeling something about the provocative themes behind it. Lee deserves points for bravely attempting these theatrical triple axels, even if he occasionally lands on his ass."
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March 7th, 2018

"The opening scene spells out the conflict within minutes...The always outstanding Houdyshell is perfectly cast...Despite Tommy's sharply-played production, the play's climax is a disappointingly sluggish scene where Hanneck attempts to publicly discredit Ukweli's authenticity, and the playwright asks us to consider the 'Revelance' of the truth when fighting for justice...Though focused on feminism, there is a universality to Lee's themes."
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February 26th, 2018

"Much of this amuses and a great deal of it is stimulating, but 'Relevance' suffers from a certain blurred focus...The problem, I think, has to do with the way the ladies are represented...Liesl Tommy's slick, fast-moving production goes a long way toward keeping 'Relevance' entertaining, even when it is at its most unbalanced, and her cast is topflight...'Relevance' is timely, never dull, and sometimes very funny, but there's better, deeper, more mordant comic drama lurking inside it."
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February 25th, 2018

"Until its ending, which fizzles disappointingly, Lee's 'Relevance' is terrific...Plays out like a high-stakes chess match...Lee's script careens off the cliff in spectacular fashion...The chasm between these women's races and ages is palpable and it's heartening that Lee explores it with such uncommon insight. It's too bad that 'Relevance' squanders its promise in the service of theatrical fireworks which don't ring true."
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February 27th, 2018

"A brilliant new play by JC Lee, Relevance is also receiving a brilliant production by the MCC Theater as directed with an intelligent precision by Liesl Tommy. It's the kind of theater-going experience that reminds a reviewer why he attends so much theater--only rarely as good as this."
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February 25th, 2018

"Exciting and highly intense intellectual drama...JC Lee weaves an intricate web that proves to provoke and ponder the big questions raised in this revealing and mesmerizing play. Remarkable Director Liesl Tommy moves the four characters forward and keeps the audience riveted...I will note that there is a good deal of repetition that would seem to warrant cuts in the script."
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March 1st, 2018

"The body of the play, directed with finesse by Liesl Tommy, primarily consists of confrontations that tend toward the pedantic as much as they do toward the patronizing from both women. But a caring corner of the play can also be found in the testy and tentative relationship that exists between Hanneck and David...Unfortunately, hardly any of the feminist blather is either enlightening or incendiary enough to warrant the amount of time allotted to it by the playwright."
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February 26th, 2018

"Lee keeps us off balance. For all the posturing and philosophizing, all the warfare of words, all the grabbing and gaining the upper rhetorical hand, the script is rich in incisive, intentional misunderstanding...Director Liesl Tommy maintains a furious pace in the polemic scenes and a gentle pace in the Theresa-and-David exchanges. She uses to advantage the natural imbalance between the old pros and the aspiring actors."
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February 27th, 2018

"Tommy keeps the energy of the impending war of words and ideas, ratcheting up moment to moment, almost with too much speed and urgency...The result is impressive, and keeps us leaning in...These concepts, revolving around ideas of inclusion, social media's importance, and the relevance of keeping our past heroes perched up high on their pedestal is astonishing at first, but as the play gallops into battle, Lee's words begin to lose their persuasive exactness."
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February 25th, 2018

"The large on-screen Twitter scroll...proves to be an all-too-apt metaphor for this ambitious, problematic new play...A viewer can no more keep up with the swift, steady stream of comments than one can with the overwhelming amount of ideas presented by Lee...While the author clearly has a lot on his mind, Lee can’t quite articulate all of it in a satisfying fashion...The play’s shortcomings cannot be blamed, however, on the superb efforts of its four-person cast, expertly guided by Tommy."
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March 8th, 2018

"The discussion remains largely unfocused, overshadowed by faux-academic dialogue and emotional fisticuffs...Too much reliance on conventional plot points regarding secrets...Lee knows how to stir the pot to create vigorously vitriolic dialogue but his situations and characters too often seem forced...Tommy's direction keeps the pot bubbling with intense confrontations but her staging has a rhetorical quality that makes even the most intimate discussions seem like debates."
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February 25th, 2018

"The substance of their disagreements is so vague and abstract as to make it difficult to figure out what the ideas are, much less to articulate them...Lee has created a remarkably unsympathetic portrait of two feminists – and therefore, intentionally or not, of feminism. Luckily for the playwright, director Liesl Tommy has assembled a terrific cast...Lee seems more passionate about the evils of social media...although there’s nothing especially new or insightful about it."
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February 26th, 2018

"It came across to me as a muddled look at important issues...The arguments about gender and race put forth by Theresa and Msemaji seemed circular and repetitive...The lack of a sympathetic character was an obstacle for me...Director Liesl Tommy did her best with a shaky script. I wish that the script were up to the high level of the production. To me, this is one more case where a play was rushed into production before it was ready."
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February 27th, 2018

"The contours of Theresa and Msemaji's intricate debate are not clearly defined...let alone hold interest, leaving the personal motivations of these characters unmoored. Crisper articulation of the big idea at the heart of the play would strengthen this otherwise flat and superficial dramatization that seeks to demystify a perceived monolith of modern feminism as being the province of elite, white women-a task that is in fact more relevant than ever, but not achieved here."
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February 25th, 2018

"Like other plays this season, it is seeking to be relevant, in its own case a little too hard. There are some zingers and some firecracker moments...There is also a lot of circular grizzling...The show feels like a lot of fraught hot air, long on rambling back-and-forths about who has the right or not to speak, but short on substance...This really doesn’t go anywhere, though the acting is nuanced enough our own loyalties swing behind both women at different moments."
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February 25th, 2018

"When the two women clash at an academic conference, high-minded discussion quickly gives way to a vicious, racially charged turf war. Lee’s script is most effective when dealing with the back-biting minutiae of that feud...The play becomes clunky when it moves on to ideological terrain...The positions adopted by both Theresa and Msemaji seem caricatured, banal, or simply confusing...Neither offers an original thought or comes across as a plausible intellectual leader."
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February 25th, 2018

"Gripping theater, focusing on many of the key hot-button issues that have led to rising hatred on the streets, in the government, and, of course, across social media...Houdyshell is a force of nature...Armand is tough as nails...Lee and Tommy do a superb job navigating the deeply intellectual and philosophical arguments being made...'Relevance' stands as a cogent reminder of what could possibly be accomplished if people could just come together and fight on the same side."
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March 6th, 2018

"One of the best off-Broadway shows gracing this current, theater season, 'Relevance' is key to its name...100 minutes of non-stop thought..So much to unpack about JC Lee's masterwork...Starts off with a bang...Houdyshell is a tour-de-force in giving Theresa a stubborn, moral dignity that dwindles into stout delusion...As a viewer, you are riveted by Houdyshell and Armand's delivery of dialogue...'Relevance' shows that truths are defined by times, but not held by them."
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March 2nd, 2018

"Lee’s playwriting can be strikingly effective...What Lee hasn't found a way to take his play to a higher plane of meaning...It reiterates arguments we've already heard...Its substance is too densely piled, its themes too rich with potential controversy...Probably could have used another draft...Tommy has done extremely well with her actors...Whatever 'Relevance's' failings, the opportunities it provides its cast make it a notable event."
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February 26th, 2018

"Deeply underwritten new play...Houdyshell not only delivers a one-note performance in which the few shifts in tone and response come across as untethered to any recognizable human behavior, she also flubs line after line...Nothing adds up to anything, least of all anything dramatic...It’s so obscured by academic jargon and buzzwords that finding a point felt like feeling your way through fog."
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March 7th, 2018

"Sharp and compelling...Very much a story about generational conflicts and the inability to establish a viable dialogue even among those individuals with whom we basically agree...Hanneck, a force of nature, and brilliantly played as such by Tony-winning Jayne Houdyshell...There is a real tragic element to this Lee play... Rounding out the outstanding cast is Masur who portrays David...Tommy directs 'Relevance' with a sure brisk hand providing tender touches."
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