Members say: Ambitious, Great acting, Confusing, Great staging, Disappointing

About the show

In honor of its 25th anniversary, Signature Theatre presents an evening of three one-act plays by a trio of American masters.

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'Signature Plays' features works by three Signature Theatre Legacy playwrights: Edward Albee’s 'The Sandbox,' María Irene Fornés’ 'Drowning,' and Adrienne Kennedy’s 'Funnyhouse of a Negro.' Directed by Lila Neugebauer, these plays, all produced during their respective authors' original Playwright-in-Residence seasons, celebrate Signature’s rich and diverse history over the past quarter century.

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See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews

The New York Times

"Under the accomplished direction of Lila Neugebauer, these works still have the power to engage, amuse and, above all, disturb…In every case, this first-rate creative team has done its job. That is to say, they’ve created unfamiliar worlds that somehow feel deeply, ineffably familiar — the sort of places that you visit as you’re falling asleep. And all the places you’ve ever lived, and all the people you’ve ever been, start to mingle and merge into one eerie, endlessly reflected entity." Full Review


"Two of the plays, the Albee and Kennedy entries, premiered in the 1960s, a time when 'downtown theatre' was defined by the kind of experimentation and symbolism that baffled as many as it inspired...This is one of those rare instances where an Edward Albee play can be considered the most accessible of a collection...'Drowning' a lethargically-paced play...'Funnyhouse of a Negro' at its time, was a rare instance of a black woman writing about black women." Full Review


"A trio of brilliant plays…In each work, Lila Neugebauer's direction is nothing short of extraordinary. With the impeccable performances of her cast, she combines the diverse tones, techniques, and themes into two humorous and frightening hours of theater...This electric production is a feast for the eyes as well as the brain. It's also further proof that Lila Neugebauer is one of the theater's most versatile and accomplished directors working today." Full Review

Time Out New York

"Although wildly diverse, the three pieces that make up Signature Plays are all grappling with death...Albee, Fornés and Kennedy have been breaking rules since the late ’50s and early ’60s, and today’s most daring playwrights have absorbed their influences—but what a joy to hear this raw music straight from the source. Director Lila Neugebauer delivers each work with a custom-tailored design and approach to performance, treating them not as museum relics." Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"A kind of sampler of the avant-garde from the last several decades...The results are distinctly mixed...'Funnyhouse of a Negro' more than lives up to its bizarre gothic atmosphere, making itself the only one of the three plays on display to feel thoroughly contemporary...If the first half of ‘Signature Plays’ offers less than one has any right to expect, the opportunity to see a first-class production of Kennedy's play is not to be missed." Full Review

Cultural Weekly

"'Signature Plays,' a triple bill of one-acts, offers bizarre examinations of death, loneliness, and race...Not for the easygoing theatergoer who just wants to sit back and be entertained...The uneven evening concludes with Kennedy’s 'Funnyhouse of a Negro'...Too bad Neugebauer only gets the right tone for the witty 'Sandbox.' She lets 'Drowning' drown and 'Funnyhouse' is more like a haunted house." Full Review

New York Theater

“How well do these plays hold up? They’re at the very least fascinating as period pieces….Director Lila Neugebauer gives all three a competent production; she and her design team are especially effective in the stagecraft of Kennedy’s play. It’s harder for me to judge the acting, since the intent of these playwrights was to keep us from naturalism, and the director’s aim seems above all to respect their intent.” Full Review

Theatre's Leiter Side

"‘Signature Plays’ is best considered as a well-produced educational event; it offers a seminal play by one of America’s best-known playwrights and two plays, one barely known and the other widely respected (if rarely performed), by ethnically diverse female dramatists. I suspect it will be of interest chiefly to academics and theatre students; for the general theatregoer, not so much." Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

"The Sandbox,’ ‘Drowning,’ and ‘Funnyhouse of a Negro’ are all major pieces worthy of examination, and given thoughtful, well-considered mountings here under the direction of Lila Neugebauer, so they do not seem depressing per se. What you get instead is a potent, pungent look at how three different towering American theatre artists have approached the difficult subject of identity and conquered it on their own unique, highly theatrical terms." Full Review

Bob's Theater Blog

“For someone like me who has a limited tolerance for absurdist theater, the results were not gratifying. Yesterday’s avant garde often seems quaint or just annoying today. Edward Albee’s ‘The Sandbox’ at least offered a bit of drollery and a chance to see three fine actors...The production values are first-rate with sets by Mimi Lien, costumes by Kaye Voyce and lighting by Mark Barton.” Full Review

Theatre is Easy

"A wonderful evening of absurdist plays…The star of the evening is director Lila Neugebauer. Any lesser talent may fumble with the three plays’ absurdism, or lose sight of the distinctions between each play’s unique approaches to heighted language. Neugebauer excels in finding relatable ties to unfamiliar worlds...It is her acute dramaturgical eye that ties all three distinct plays together in a cohesive evening of theater." Full Review


"Directed by Lila Neugebauer, the 'Signature Plays' are beautifully (it's tempting to say ideally) cast...Each offers a distinctive slant on existential angst, finding humor as well as pathos in the characters' suffering...As studies in loneliness, alienation, and unease, the Signature Plays fit together nicely as a single evening...The themes and the zaniness that marked the mid-century avant-garde are so familiar now, on stage and off, that they're no longer viewed as absurd." Full Review

Village Voice

"In Lila Neugebauer's production 'Signature Plays,' the new triple bill of familiar works doesn't create the electric charge these beloved creations have had for me in the past...Neugebauer has done little to make the works register; her impulse to add wildness to the wild work already in hand tends to muffle the scripts rather than helping them speak out...The impulse to direct does not always rest content with what a poet's words can achieve. More's the pity." Full Review

Magical MissTari Tour

"I thought they were amazing. All really crazy, off-kilter, not-entirely-completely-successful, but thoroughly mesmerizing and so worthwhile. Directed and designed with incredible imagination...It's hard to imagine these three landmark plays ever being performed together again in such a first-rate production, so I do highly recommend you get yourself over to the Signature Theatre." Full Review


"With its eerie music, strobe lights, and in-unison chanting, 'Funnyhouse of a Negro' is clearly a wacky show. If you peel back the layers however, it’s meant to show the symbolism between white power and black…The message here is an interesting one, but it would have been more easily understood if there had been a resolution to the conflict. The ending did not help. It is just a cliffhanger, and sadly the audience never really gets a clear cut answer on what actually happened." Full Review

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews

Absorbing, Ambitious, Exquisite, Thought-provoking, Refreshing

See it if handsome stagings of slippery symbolic shorts. Atmospheric & precise, with meticulous attention to rhythm and composition.

Don't see it if these plays are oblique throwbacks with idiosyncratic architecture- sometimes inscrutable, always interesting.

Clever, Thought-provoking, Quirky

See it if you missed out on the absurdist movement of the 1960-1970'x. It is fun to reflect back on.. What was this?

Don't see it if you need less thought provoking theater. One has to laugh and cry at the Albee 15 minute play It was the first time for us for the last play

Original, Thought-provoking, Quirky, Riveting, Mesmerizing

See it if you like absurdist short plays or want to experience well-done, moody pieces that get you thinking.

Don't see it if you want a traditional play/story that is easily digested.

Ambitious, Indulgent, Confusing, Disappointing, Cliched

See it if you want to see experimental theater.

Don't see it if you don't like theater that remains obtuse from start to finish. The Sand Box by E. Albee was okay. The other 2 were really bizarre.

Banal, Confusing, Disappointing

See it if an amuse bouche of Albee is sufficient for a confused appetizer and stale entree.

Don't see it if you're really hungry.

Ambitious, Thought-provoking, Disappointing

See it if you are a fan of any one of these playwrights and want to see their early, lesser shown work. Or if you enjoy the absurd

Don't see it if like to know what is going on or if you prefer traditional theatre.

Ambitious, Disappointing, Worthwhile, Off-key direction, Significant

See it if you relish a rare chance to see important playwrights' early, essential work, performed by talented actors, but in a muddled production.

Don't see it if you couldn't wait for what Neugebauer directed after making Wayside Motor Inn seem better than it is. She makes these seem worse, but worthy

Ambitious, Great acting, Intelligent, Great writing, Great direction

See it if you want to see three gems by playwrights who made their mark in the theatre of the absurd. Some great performances, too.

Don't see it if you like light-weight fluff.

Edgy, Indulgent, Confusing, Disappointing, Excruciating

See it if You like very avant-garde theater that have no real story line or requires a wikipedia synopsis before viewing.

Don't see it if This was not my cup of tea. Having said that, the plays were brilliantly executed, the actors were top notch, and the staging was excellent.

Ambitious, Great acting, Intense, Confusing, Great staging

See it if you love Albee as the first piece of the three is far and away the best. The second and third confusing and disturbing

Don't see it if Surreal theater is a downer for you

Disappointing, Excruciating, Overrated, Pretentious

See it if you enjoy avant garde theatre. I LOVED Albee's Sandbox. The rest was pretentious drivel.

Don't see it if you hate shows that are over the top.Just don't enjoy shows that are trying so hard to be cutting edge.The Albee is terrific.Skip the others

Ambitious, Great writing, Dated

See it if you are interested in the history of the avant-gard in NY; these are important texts, which, while do feel dated, are still valuable.

Don't see it if the direction focused more on aesthetics rather than the actual material (looks beautiful but missed the point)

Confusing, Disappointing, Excruciating, Overrated, Slow

See it if If you want to see the Albee play, you can leave about half an hour in. The other 2 aren't worth it

Don't see it if Honestly, don't see it. Don't put yourself through this.

Ambitious, Intelligent, Intense, Disappointing, Oddly paced

See it if you know these plays/playwrights well and want to think through them with this thoughtful and ambitious production

Don't see it if you have no prior investment in foundational voices of the 20th century experimental theatre

Absorbing, Ambitious, Edgy, Intelligent, Thought-provoking

See it if you're willing to be challenged by expert staging of 3 brilliant examples of 60s avant-garde theatre, still powerful & relevant today.

Don't see it if you have no interest in examining the human condition, acceptance, memory and identity, explored in captivating, unconventional ways.

Edgy, Surreal, Confusing, Disturbing, Challenging

See it if absurdist disturbing weird

Don't see it if the above

Great acting, Excruciating, Slow, Great staging, Experimental

See it if you want an inexpensive night out to see three lesser known plays by known playwrights; you like good acting

Don't see it if you do not enjoy working very hard to follow the essence of the plays; you are looking for action, fast pacing; you want a feel good evening

Indulgent, Disappointing, Excruciating, Slow

See it if The Albee was the best: entertaining, interesting and funny. Second play was OK but so slow (on purpose). Last play was confusing & boring

Don't see it if Probably don't see it. If you do go consider leaving at intermission. The first two of the three plays were fine.

Edgy, Quirky, Indulgent, Confusing, Slow

See it if you want to witness pieces of early experimental theater history. The Albee is witty, the others tiresome and pretentious.

Don't see it if you want to experience understandable concepts, characters or plot. you need patience and stamina to get through this program.

Original, Ambitious, Dizzying, Great staging, Challenging

See it if you love experimental theater. All have fascinating moments w/strong staging and acting. Sandbox is punchy; Drowning slow; Funnyhouse weird!

Don't see it if you like traditional theater. This is highly challenging, unusual material. Not easy enjoyment. Not my thing, but memorable.

Ambitious, Thought-provoking, Great staging, Bizarre

See it if you enjoy experimental theatre by well-known playwrights. If you are familiar with the plays and curious to see them done live.

Don't see it if You aren't into weird, surreal stuff. If you want easy-to-understand stories and characters.

Edgy, Banal, Confusing, Disappointing, Slow

See it if you are interested in the history of theater and like incredibly slowly-paced, confusing pieces

Don't see it if You have other options

Great acting, Quirky, Riveting

See it if You like great productions of obscure plays by important playwrights. If you like theater that you "feel" rather than "understand"

Don't see it if You need to know what a play "means"

Disappointing, Slow, Dated

See it if you like watching paint dry

Don't see it if you want a plot

Ambitious, Thought-provoking, Quirky, Slow, Great staging

See it if You're a theatre aficianado and want to see a great production of three rarely staged plays.

Don't see it if You dislike more abstract/experimental theatre pieces that tend to test your patience.

Cast & Creatives (20)