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Signature Plays

From 15 critic and 58 member reviews
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. More…

'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.


"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

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

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

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

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

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


"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

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

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


"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

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

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


"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'...is 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

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

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

Absorbing, Clever, Great acting

See it if You arent able to pay a lot. Very entertaining at great prices.

Don't see it if I see no reason not to...unless you dont like up close and personal. Not as big as broadway theatres but roomier.

Absorbing, Great acting, Masterful, Must see, Great staging

See it if Quite possibly the best thing on Broadway right now. The three plays slay, especially Adrienne Kennedy's fearless "Funnyhouse of a Negro".

Don't see it if There is no reason why you shouldn't see this. Oh. Maybe if you go for more touristy theater with its high kicks and happily ever afters.

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.

Great acting, Masterful, Riveting, Great writing, Great staging

See it if Immaculately directed by Lila Neugebauer, stunning performance and written by the best.

Don't see it if Don't see it if you don't like to think.

Ambitious, Dizzying, Great acting, Great writing, Great staging

See it if you're fascinated by theatre of the recent past, especially the more offbeat and experimental kind.

Don't see it if you get bored easily or you find experimental theatre silly or dull.

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.

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.

Great acting, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Great writing, Confusing

See it if Fond of absurdist plays about death and emotions. Like Edward Albee and do not expect to be hand fed internal meanings

Don't see it if U are a lazy thinker, get confused easily Nudge your neighbor to ask ?????? during the one acts. Cannot follow a plot.

Enchanting, Great acting, Intelligent, Refreshing, Great staging

See it if You like absurdist theatre done extraordinarIlya well

Don't see it if You don't like challenging theatre

Absurdist accomplished, talented cast

See it if Three absurdist, metaphorical one-acts. Albee's The Sandbox is a nifty short take on death with Fraser, Wood, Somerville and the awesome RJ

Don't see it if Kennedy's Funnyhouse of a Negro is the black experience if seen in an amusement park fun house. Stylish and extravagant with a large cast

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"

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.

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

Absorbing, Dizzying, Thought-provoking

See it if You are ready to think... and have a serious discussion afterward.

Don't see it if You're looking for mindless entertainment.

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.

Original, Ambitious, Thought-provoking, Confusing, Great staging

See it if a fan of these playwrights & like absurdist fare that doesn't necessarily add up to 1+1=2. Kennedy play is complex and excitingly staged

Don't see it if Absurdist plays not your thing,If racially charged examinations of Black experience don't interest you. Fornes annoys the hell out of you.

Great acting, Entertaining

See it if It was well acted, amusing. If you don't see it wouldn't miss it

Don't see it if If you are looking for a more serious play

Intelligent, Intense, Quirky, Confusing, Slow

See it if you want to see three rarely-produced avant garde pieces- Funnyhouse of a Negro is a stunning production I doubt we will see again soon.

Don't see it if you have no patience for (very) opaque experimental theatre of varying quality- some of it is slow and impenetrable (Drowning).

Edgy, Surreal, Confusing, Disturbing, Challenging

See it if absurdist disturbing weird

Don't see it if the above

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.

Ambitious, Edgy, Intense, Experimental, Uneven

See it if you enjoy experimental themes and staging you enjoy thought provoking subjects of the three - enjoyed the 1st and 3rd plays/one-acts

Don't see it if you only enjoy traditional thematic timelines you don't like to think beyond the actual words or actions (look for higher meanings)

Great acting, Quirky, Confusing, Great staging

See it if You love avant garde theater-- in this case Albee, Fornes and Kennedy.

Don't see it if You don't like challenging theater. The Kennedy play is the most challenging of the three with its subject of racism and violence.

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.

Quirky, Indulgent, Overrated, Dated, Great staging

See it if you fondly recall the days of avant garde theater, think pretentious is a compliment, like a program of one acts by 3 writers, want to think

Don't see it if you have trouble following the vague, odd, pretentious, let's be weird for weird's sake type of shows, are put off by the odd and bizarre

Ambitious, Great acting, Indulgent, Confusing

See it if You like theater of the absurd, or any of the 3 playwrights. Interesting stories. I failed to grasp the inner messages

Don't see it if You like more accessible theater, want clear story lines. There is 1 intermission and one 9 minute break-sit in the dark with actor & radio

Cast & Creatives (20)