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?

... Read more

Theresa Hanneck is a celebrated author and veteran feminist warrior; Msemaji Ukweli is a promising young writer who is quickly becoming the leading cultural critic on race, class, and gender for a new generation. When a heated exchange between the two women goes viral, Theresa finds herself ill-equipped to manage her message in the era of 140 character tweets-especially against a rival whose time may have come.

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See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews

The New York Times

"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." Full Review


"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." Full Review


"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." Full Review

The Hollywood Reporter

"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." Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"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." Full Review

DC Theatre Scene

"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." Full Review

Theatre's Leiter Side

"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." Full Review

Front Row Center

"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." Full Review

Front Mezz Junkies

"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." Full Review

Gotham Playgoer

"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." Full Review


"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." Full Review

Financial Times (UK)

"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." Full Review

Time Out New York

"'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." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"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." Full Review


"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." Full Review

Daily Beast

"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." Full Review

New York Magazine / Vulture

"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." Full Review

Village Voice

"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." Full Review

This Week in New York Blog

"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." Full Review


"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." Full Review


"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." Full Review

Diandra Reviews it All

"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." Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

"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." Full Review

Stage Left

"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." Full Review


"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." Full Review

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews

Intense, Thought-provoking

See it if you like an intense drama. Good acting, interesting premise with many ideas to ponder.

Don't see it if want a play with a less confusing climax. Without spoiling things, I did not fully understand why a noted person acted the way she did.

Ambitious, Confusing, Disappointing, Some nice acting (j.h), Possibly relevant

See it if Jayne Houdyshell. Some feminism, racism, social media issues.

Don't see it if You want to like or respect any of the characters.

Also Still not sure what this was trying to say. The biases of social media... Read more Read less

Thought-provoking, Relevant, Disappointing, Predictable

See it if you enjoy plays that feel current, relevant, and politically-minded. You like plays about feminism and other social issues.

Don't see it if you want to be left guessing at every plot point—the events in this plot are very predictable. Not as insightful as one would hope.

Ambitious, Thought-provoking, Disappointing, Slow, 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

Cliched, Slow

See it if you love Jayne H. and aren't looking to have to think too much.

Don't see it if you are looking for a play that lands a punch and makes its point. It's not horrible, but should be better.

Thought-provoking, Confusing, Unfocused, Repetitive, Relevance: is this to do with content or media?

See it if you would enjoy attending the kind of literary/cultural conference depicted here, replete with academic jargon and dealmaking over drinks

Don't see it if the above makes you want to run from the conference room; you want a cogently presented conflict; you dislike trumped up betrayals

Also Lee's script is both underwritten--we don't know enough about Houdyshe... Read more Read less

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

See it if You are interested in the dynamics of how social media has affected the fight for equality, both for the good and the bad.

Don't see it if The fight for feminist causes is not something you want to spend time with. This is for theater goers who like to think!

Also I have seen Jayne Houdyshell in many plays over the past decade, and t... Read more Read less

Intelligent, Intense, Relevant

See it if Like seeing difficult subjects handled head-on. The intense discussion of sensitive political issues is generally under good control.

Don't see it if Almost unrelenting stridency gives you a headache. Although the acting is good, the same notes gets sounded repeatedly.


See it if you've ever fantasized about revenge or feared losing status/power/money in your community. Fascinating.

Don't see it if you find it hard to believe that an "intelligent" person, blinded by revenge, would make rookie mistake of abusing power.

Also I don't see this as a play about feminism per se. The underlying messa... Read more Read less

Relevant, Pretentious, Excellent set design, Fine acting, Tedious debate

See it if you like excellent acting and set design and plays about women's and moral issues with vicious antagonistic character clashes,

Don't see it if you dislike plays that contain a lot of unenlightening, pretentious tedious debate and argument.

Great acting, Banal, Disappointing, Insipid

See it if You enjoy intellectual discussions with wonderful acting by the cast.

Don't see it if You want to see a play that is relevant and meaningful to the present time.

Also I couldn’ Wait for the play to end. It was too long and not relevant t... Read more Read less

Ambitious, Clever, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Relevant

See it if You are interested in academia, the women's movement, social change, or if you want to see good performances.

Don't see it if You want one laugh after another.

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

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.

Also To enjoy this pay one must see it as an episode of reality TV. Nothing... Read more Read less

Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Profound, Relevant, Riveting

See it if you want to see an incredible peace of theater starring the incomparable Jayne Houdyshell and the incredible Pascale Armand. A knockout!

Don't see it if you're not into lectures. It takes place at a conference and a considerable amount of time is used for the speeches within the conference.

Intense, Banal, Excruciating, Talky, Obnoxious

See it if I found this show to be obnoxious and talky. Jayne Houyshell's character was hard-assed and closed minded. A lot of people gave this a

Don't see it if good review. Did they see the same show. Richard Masur was great. He exuded warmth and was like a teddy bear. Skip it.

Also I understood the basic story. a woman of an older generation who has f... Read more Read less

Ambitious, Great acting, Provocative, Short but dense, Left the show invigorated but ambivalent

See it if the show has verbal pyrotechnics, condensed ideology going for it even if it’s negligent in areas. Stimulating even if not wholly satisfying

Don't see it if you dislike plays so open to interpretation they might deadlock the conversation, or so full of triggers they preclude clear thinking

Also Typical of how Lee provokes: The end refers to Hillary’s election loss... Read more Read less

Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Resonant, Visually stagnant

See it if you enjoy thought-provoking work full of characters with prevailingly ambiguous moral compasses.

Don't see it if You enjoy escapist entertainment, or expect dazzling lighting and scenic work.

Absorbing, Thought-provoking, Great set and lighting, Curiously relevant

See it if you want to see something about feminism that does not give you a headache. Great acting, tersely written, and surprisingly rewarding.

Don't see it if you've had enough of this subject.

Also I keep thinking I saw a different show beneath what was being presente... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Ambitious, Tackling a difficult subject it was good bu flawed;deserves to be seen

See it if if you are interested in a serious, though imperfect play about contemporary politics

Don't see it if you want a cleanly edited piece of traditional theater

Disappointing, Excruciating, Slow

See it if You want to see race and gender politics discussed in hap-hazard and slightly chauvinistic ways

Don't see it if You expect more from your thought-provoking plays. You like well-rounded female characters.

Clever, Great acting, Intelligent, Intense, Relevant

See it if you like a story about strong women and issues such as women's rights and racism. There is intense dialogue from the two main characters.

Don't see it if you want any answers to issues such as women's rights and racism.

Also I found this play depressing since it showed two women who could make ... Read more Read less

Ambitious, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Relevant

See it if You like strong women characters debating cross generational feminism with no easy answers

Don't see it if You don’t like talky shows with an intellectual focus

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

See it if Like a play with strong intelligent woman. Discussions/debates, ladder climbing, ego bruising, petty behaviors lead to ... go find out.

Don't see it if You do not like talky, thought-provoking. plays, much of which is debate like.

Indulgent, Slow

See it if If you enjoy hearing characters talk ad-nauseum about womens' studies (feels like a PhD thesis, not a play). Penultimate scene is fun.

Don't see it if You want realism, as the show feels forced & fake. Very unnatural dialogue.

Clever, Great acting, Intelligent, Great writing, Great staging

See it if are Caucasian and do not have understanding of that privilege.

Don't see it if are already fully versed in the subject of racism and can spend your money elsewhere to further that cause.

Cast & Creatives (12)