MCC Theater's world premiere drama centers around a collision of ideals within the feminist movement. Who decides your worth? 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.
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"'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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
See it if hard hitting show about authors and the personas they cultivate
Don't see it if the play deals with the shattering of images and iconoclasts, also frank discussions of race & sexual assualt
See it if U WANT 2 C OUTSTANDING INTELLIGENT, WRITING ON WHAT IS MOST RELEVANT AND IMPORTANT TODAY BROUGHT TO LIFE BY A FANTASTIC ACTING ENSEMBLE
Don't see it if U MUST MISS LIFE CHANGING THEATER WHICH I HOPE GOES TO BROADWAY OR ATLEAST TO ANOTHER VENUE.. THIS PLAY SHOULD HAVE A FUTURE
See it if You want to watch a battle between the old and new guard with no easy answers. The debates over identity, privilege, and power interest you
Don't see it if You’re looking for easy resolutions or comforting answers. It’s a profoundly uncomfortable show because no one gets off easy.
See it if You want all the intersectional feminist drama that you can handle. The acting is POPPIN. The story is POPPIN.
Don't see it if If you don't want to reckon with the way in which white women are also part of a white supremacist system.
See it if not afraid of confrontational drama tackling racism/feminism. Ms. Houdyshell finally lands role to exhibit her range. Who owns the trenches?
Don't see it if you require a play with more action than talk or if you cower at strong women who have something to say about gender politics. Discourse.
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.
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.
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.
See it if You are interested in the struggles and interpersonal dynamics of professional women in a male-dominated field. Excellent ensemble work.
Don't see it if You are not interested in women’s issues, don’t care for character-driven plays.
See it if current topics on feminism and change are on your mind, you love a good play where women are empowered and are not damsels in distress.
Don't see it if you're looking to escape from your day-to-day politics, or strong intelligent women don't interest you.
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.
See it if You are interested in the dynamics of academia intersecting feminism and race
Don't see it if You want action . This is mostly talk . If you want answers so do the characters , but life is not that clear.
See it if a modern day take on the struggle of old school vs. new school’s vision of the best path for women is the right one.
Don't see it if a the battle between old school and new school notions of a woman’s place in the world isn’t something you find interesting.
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 are engaged in the current discussion of race and feminism in our country and don't mind seeing characters who are deeply flawed.
Don't see it if You have no patience for seeing the worst (almost) of human beings onstage and want to come away from the theatre uplifted.
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.
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
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
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.
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