Samara
48

Samara NYC Reviews and Tickets

48%
(47 Reviews)
Positive
26%
Mixed
25%
Negative
49%
Members say
Confusing, Disappointing, Slow, Ambitious, Quirky

About the Show

Soho Rep. presents the world premiere of experimental theater maker Richard Maxwell's new play, featuring an eclectic cast ranging in age from 14 to 88, including Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Steve Earle.

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Member Reviews (47)

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74
Ambitious, Confusing, Thought-provoking, Intense, Slow

See it if Maxwell's quasi-last frontier (aka death) drama given an intriguing staging by Benson but fails to coalesce into anything linear (intent?)

Don't see it if Mythic themes, great soundscape & fascinating actors provide ample clues towards esistential meaning but to no avail Potent despite artiness

40
Slow, Overrated, Indulgent, Excruciating, Disappointing

See it if You enjoy poetic pieces with minimal dialogue, conflict, or character development.

Don't see it if You can't stand esoteric, experimental pieces that don't necessarily have a traditional, linear plot structure.

Critic Reviews (15)

The New York Times
April 16th, 2017

"As is usual in recent works by Mr. Maxwell, one of the great original voices of experimental theater of the past several decades, 'Samara' seems to be situated at the corner of the everyday and eternity, where the earth meets the sky and mortality is a force of gravity...A fuller and richer work, reflecting welcome new directions that its author has been pursuing of late...This impeccably realized show gives us story and subtext in one breath."
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Time Out New York
April 17th, 2017

"With 'Samara'? Let’s just say Maxwell’s moral fable goes full Cormac McCarthy Beyond Thunderdome...Benson’s direction is daringly blunt and transparent—despite an abundance of stage effects...Structurally, 'Samara' is unpredictable, beautiful and wild: a violent quest narrative that morphs into mythic poetry then pure audio and visual stimuli. Even after following his work for 20 years, I’m still shocked anew by Maxwell’s broken worlds."
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Theatermania
April 17th, 2017

"It's a compelling space with infinite possibilities, making it all the more disappointing when the characters tasked with filling it fail to realize its potential...No one quite has an identity, nothing exactly makes sense...It's all very much in keeping with Maxwell's aversion to linear storytelling, but it doesn't change the fact that with no clear through line nor tonal consistency among any of the performances, the experience of 'Samara' is one of being upstream without a paddle."
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Lighting & Sound America
April 19th, 2017

"Some of Maxwell's fans insist that the problem is he ceded the direction...I think the actors are making a good faith attempt at conjuring the signature affectless line readings of Maxwell's productions. I can certainly say that these are some of the flattest, most stilted performances I have seen since maybe forever...Something tells me that even his hardest-core fans will find this to be something of a trial. You can only strip away so many fundamentals of drama before there is nothing left."
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TheaterScene.net
April 19th, 2017

“The play seems to be in the genre of the classic Western movie though highly poeticized and slow-paced. It resembles the 60's films of Sergio Leone and Sam Peckinpah but with much less plot and without the scenic vistas. It follows the rules of the old West but creates a mysterious world of its own. Very little is revealed by the characters, most of whose names are generic. Much could be read into the events but they remain opaque and obscure as do the characters who reveal little.”
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Theatre is Easy
April 17th, 2017

"Maxwell has written a series of gorgeous monologues that would delight anyone who appreciates the playwright’s poetic language...Unfortunately, the play lacks a strong focus. The narrative doesn’t have much complexity...The play’s lack of focus is somewhat salvaged by Benson’s direction: she does a splendid job bringing out the beauty of the script, and making use of every inch of the space...With a clearer theme and a stronger narrative, 'Samara' has the potential to soar."
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CurtainUp
April 16th, 2017

"Speaking as someone who has, in the past, found rewards in grappling with the complexities and provocations Maxwell sets out, this play felt frustratingly opaque and, at times, unfocused...By the time it's all said and done, the line between poetry and pretension has become dangerously hazy...There's an inherently anti-theatrical essence in his work that feels constantly at odds with the more dramatic staging that we're offered here."
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Stage Buddy
April 17th, 2017

"A daring piece that both questions and confirms life as we know it. With a diverse and talented group of actors, and a script that's breathtaking in its use of language, there's a lot to love in this production, and certainly a lot to think about…More like an extended poem than a traditional piece of theater…While I know for a fact that I didn't grasp every nuance in the play, I know that I won't easily forget the experience of watching 'Samara.'"
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Theatre's Leiter Side
April 17th, 2017

“Some of the acting has a flat, uninflected quality, but there's also a sharp infusion of naturalistic behavior mediated by dramatic pauses that come not single spies but in battalions…This visitor didn't find Maxwell's decaffeinated play good to the last drop…The action makes sense but mood is just as important here; with no characters or plot to care about, and a pace that makes paint drying seem fast, you may feel like a container of curdling milk in that huge carton surrounding you.”
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4Columns
April 26th, 2017

“Instead of trying to pursue her own vision, Benson has her own cast try to imitate the New York City Players anomie-affect. Despite some lovely moments, it’s a failed attempt: ironically, by pretending to be a Maxwell show, the production runs counter to his work’s ethos of—not pretending…While Blackwell, Lazar, Burrows, and Faudree are all usually marvelous performers, they seem lost here, roaming between conventional expressiveness and pseudo-deadpan.”
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Times Square Chronicles
April 16th, 2017

"Torturous in every way...It felt like you were in a prison camp. Once the show begins, lifeless narration by Steve Earle assaults us. Later on the show deviates and goes into some beat generation hipster pretentious babble...The plot is so convoluted, that I just gave up caring and wanted to escape...The direction by Sarah Benson is stilted and tries too hard to be creative. There is atonal music by Mr Earle, again perplexing as nothing seems cohesive."
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T
April 17th, 2017

"An eloquent and poetic existential Western that takes audiences on a soul-searching journey across a dark, mysterious frontier...Just as there are no standard rules in Maxwell’s plays, there are nonstandard narrative guidelines in 'Samara'...Maxwell and Benson provide just the right mix of abstraction and exposition, packing a whole lot into a small amount of time...'Samara' is another superb foray into the known and the unknown by Maxwell."
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Village Voice
April 19th, 2017

"Produced by Soho Rep in Sarah Benson's smart production, 'Samara' is a western in the key of Greek tragedy—a humane meditation on various ventures into parts unknown...Benson choreographs these harsh encounters with precision, and the cast imbues them with an emotional specificity that prevents the scenes from collapsing under their existential weight...Though hinting at these deeper connections, the production luckily stays in the realm of abstract imagination."
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Off Off Online
April 21st, 2017

“The dancing lights and disembodied sound start to feel like one abstraction and about three endings too many, but the effect is pleasurable, if not entirely convincing. Maxwell has entrusted Benson with his strange baby, opening the way for an expressive clarity not usually associated with his writing. The cost of that clarity is an acting palette that borders on the slapdash; it is often nigh on impossible to divine if acting choices are anti-naturalistic or just not very good.”
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Paste Magazine
May 9th, 2017

"A journey play that often feels stagnant...There are cowboys but no clear villains or heroes. Also absent are clear resolutions...The characters in 'Samara wander,' their goals obscured by regret or a general lack of purpose...There’s a beautiful moment where the stage is dark while Earle reads a descriptive passage of the landscape...Clouds appear and it’s as if we are floating above all of the limitations that acted as cages for these characters and for a brief moment there is utter clarity."
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