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. More…
On the fringes of the frontier, a messenger embarks on an arduous journey to collect a debt from a man he’s never met. Friends set out to atone for a mistake that can’t be undone. Strangers look for a little bit of comfort wherever they can find it.
"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." Full Review
"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." Full Review
"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.'" Full Review
"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." Full Review
"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." Full Review
“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.” Full Review
"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." Full Review
"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." Full Review
“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.” Full Review
“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.” Full Review
"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." Full Review
"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." Full Review
“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.” Full Review
"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." Full Review
"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." Full Review
See it if The show used great tactics from ancient theatre and the minimalistic set was astetically pleasing. You were inside the set.
Don't see it if You do not like stories that have sub stories. Also if you do not like theatre similar to how the Greeks produced it.
See it if you enjoyed Cormack McCarthy's novels and feel like more of the same in the experimental theater setting. Also, if you love Paul Lazar.
Don't see it if you need your theater linear, your characters true to life, and your staging traditional.
See it if you appreciate challenging material, poetic language, unusual staging.
Don't see it if you prefer linear narrative theatre, don't like Steve Earle or require comfortable seating.
See it if This is why I choose off-Broadway. An uncomfortable juxtaposition: insignificant as any one or two lives are, it's incumbent upon us to do.
Don't see it if ...the right things; we know what they are even when we don't want to perform them. Fine commentary on living humanely altho nature is blind
See it if you're interested in experiments, you don't mind or actively seek to be confused, frustrated and intrigued.
Don't see it if you need a legible narrative and soft comfy seats (though pillows on the crates were not so bad). Note that the play is 90 min, not 50.
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
See it if You are familiar with (and a fan of) Maxwell's work. If you enjoy non-traditional staging and text that takes itself very seriously.
Don't see it if You are familiar with Maxwell's work and not a fan. You have any physical problems with sitting on uncomfortable chairs.
See it if you enjoy experimental theater & poetic storytelling. Falls short sometimes, but everything has intention. Not as bad as other reviews say.
Don't see it if You prefer straightforward plays that don't require any thought or analysis. Still a work in progress. The seating is very uncomfortable
See it if You already like the playwright (I forgot that I don't so this is my fault) - it seems consistent with his work.
Don't see it if You want a more straightforward play with more typical staging & seating (as a short person, my second-level seat was uncomfortable).
See it if You really enjoy avant-garde work and you're more interested in the script than the performances.
Don't see it if You prefer linear plots, elements that fit together, or are looking for strong, memorable performances.
See it if you want to see a fairly standard Annie B. Parson dance number and a run through of the lighting cues close out this disappointing show.
Don't see it if you dont want to see how so many great artists- Maxwell, Benson, Earle, Lazar, Faudree, Frey... seem to amplify each others' weaknesses.
See it if you appreciate the more technical aspects of theatre. Very interesting staging, lighting, costuming, and music.
Don't see it if you look for some sort of definitive plot line with a conclusive ending. The writing for this show could have been developed further.
See it if Greek or tragic theatre interests you, you want to explore its expression in a futuristic setting, and you like long monolog and bagpipes.
Don't see it if you prefer light or comedic genre, musicals, interesting sets and music, and clear plot lines, themes and resolution.
See it if experimental plays are your cup of tea. Story is slow that makes you wonder why they didnt condense it to show more of the characters story
Don't see it if experimental plays are your cup of tea. Story is slow that makes you wonder why they didnt condense it to show more of the characters story
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.
See it if Can't think of anything to recommend this particular show other than it is an ambitious attempt to entertain that ultimately fails totally
Don't see it if You don't want to see something that you might only have imagined during that experimental period of your life in the 60's
See it if You are looking for something abstract/different/challenging. You enjoy new kinds of music in theatre.
Don't see it if You're looking for a clear message/plot/characters/setting. You're looking for something classical or show-stopping.
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