Slave Play NYC Reviews and Tickets

78%
(154 Reviews)
Positive
82%
Mixed
11%
Negative
7%
Members say
Ambitious, Great acting, Absorbing, Edgy, Thought-provoking

About the Show

In this provocative new play, Jeremy O. Harris rips apart history to shed new light on the nexus of race, gender, and sexuality in 21st century America. 

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Member Reviews (154)

79
Great acting, Thought-provoking, Intense, Raunchy, Riveting

See it if Compelling acting and situations. Unique play, deals with important issues about race in a surprising way.

Don't see it if Very explicit sexual situations, nudity, sexual and racial language. Could be awkward with the wrong friend/family member. Be aware of that. Read more

66
Ambitious, Clever, Overrated, Resonant, Jeremy o. harris: a playwright to watch

See it if you want to see the first work of a young up-and-coming playwright. This play is not entirely successful—two-thirds of it are good.

Don't see it if you don't mind plays with structural problems and tons of repetition. I don't think Robert O'Hara was the right choice to direct this play. Read more

Critic Reviews (32)

December 9th, 2018

"Willfully provocative, gaudily transgressive, and altogether staggering...Its urgency and sheer cultural heft, deployed like weapons in a furiously entertaining production...Harris manipulates white discomfort expertly...Until I encountered his potent brew of minstrelsy and melodrama I hadn’t known it was possible to cringe and laugh and blush at the same time...It asks a lot of its superior cast, whose portrayal of arousal and fury and shame feels terrifyingly real."
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December 14th, 2018

"What is it, exactly? A satire? A sex comedy? An exploration of identity as performance, in the vein of Jean Genet? A topical political provocation? A sincere dissection of race in America? All of these things are true, but even together they don't do justice to what Harris has cooked up...’Slave Play’ is funny, probing, and, at times, disturbingly sexy. It snaps like a whip, and its aim is often outward...It asks a lot of its spectators, and has a lot to give in return.”
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December 10th, 2018

"The piece understands the old-fashioned showmanship of a good twist...The pitch-perfect and vulnerable-as-hell performances by the play’s splendid octet of actors are what keep the sense of compassion in Harris’s work at the forefront. Not only does director Robert O’Hara embrace the fierce, fast comedy of the script; he’s also helping his ensemble to go to places that feel simultaneously raw and immensely rewarding."
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December 18th, 2018

“The play acts like a whittling knife, refining and clarifying as it cuts. The first act is broad and impressionistic, and each of the next two sections is more realistic and denser with psychic danger than the last...What ensues is not only a deft exploration of what happens when love and power collide but also an excavation of a newly common kind of political-academic talk...Harris shows how the language of critical theory and that of Freudian talk therapy have come to echo each other."
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December 9th, 2018

"This wildly imaginative work asserts itself with a daringness rarely seen on our stages these days...'Slave Play' doesn't fully live up to its considerable thematic ambitions, suffering from stylistic overindulgence and repetition. But it definitely marks its...author as a talent to watch...Harris effectively taps the vein of today's white-hot, charged debates...But after the big reveal, the themes are hammered home in overly expository, heavy-handed fashion that feels laborious and overextended."
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December 10th, 2018

"Robert O'Hara directs this cringe-inducing comedy with a frank, unrepentant honesty that keeps us shifting uncomfortably in our seats. Yet to shy away from the play is to miss out on one of the most thoughtful and challenging theatrical works on interracial relations, institutionalized racism, and their effects on people of color since Antoinette Nwandu's 'Pass Over'."
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December 10th, 2018

"Extremely daring, highly original and undoubtedly thought-provoking satirical drama...What makes 'Slave Play' so intriguing is its focus on how these residual racial issues may affect the intimacy between committed partners in some interracial relationships...This reviewer will leave it to the better qualified to discuss Harris' success in exploring the multi-layered issues at hand, but will certainly praised 'Slave Play' as completely engaging and emotionally challenging theatre."
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December 21st, 2018

“’Slave Play’ is a good stab at a sociopolitical shocker, even when hampered by structural oddities, a taste for repetition, and a rather too-obvious need to ride the audience's nerves. It's an original, audacious, sexually explicit work...Boldly exploring the link between oppression and eroticism. Even when it irritates you can't say you've ever seen anything like it...‘Slave Play’ begins with shock-and-awe tactics, but ultimately, it nearly talks itself to death.”
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December 9th, 2018

“A production as provocative as it is uneven...Harris has laid out an interested premise, but he and O'Hara don't have the courage of the writing's convictions...Here's the problem. The actors in this production are so good it feels wrong to laugh at their attempts to make sense of what they've gone through and are feeling...He undercuts his message by failing to address the issue with the seriousness it deserves."
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December 9th, 2018

"Although 'Slave Play' studies an intriguing thesis, its development disappoints...Humor dissipates with the passage of time as everybody keeps yakking away. The product of a young, talented writer who obviously is in love with every word he commits to paper...It is to this promising writer’s credit that one ponders the quandaries lurking within his play even when its dramaturgy and staging remain far from satisfying."
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December 28th, 2018

“Clint Ramos' minimalist set which is backed by a mirror shows the audience itself which makes us both participants and complicit. The play will impress some, and infuriate others. Nevertheless, it is a Theatrical Experience for those who are willing to go on this wild ride. Incidentally, the title is ultimately a pun, both a play seemingly about slaves on a Southern plantation and a psychological game of role playing to reach reconciliation between the races.”
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December 19th, 2018

"'Slave Play's' three-part structure is surprisingly neat if not conventional. However, I was disappointed by the play's simplistic point of view instead of the complexity it strives to offer...What becomes problematic is that because we don't learn much about each couple, every problem gets reduced to race...These points of view are unyieldingly binary, creating a perspective that is both simplistic and pessimistic."
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December 9th, 2018

"The show's second section is devoted to exploring the couples' dilemmas (which may feel familiar to anyone involved in a long marriage), as well as a hearty dialogue about identity, racial and otherwise, in today's America. Phillip claims he doesn't really feel 'black,' until the session triggers a painful memory. Gary beautifully expresses his sense of being the undervalued partner in a society where African-Americans are almost immediately considered second-class citizens."
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December 17th, 2018

"What is so striking about Harris's writing is its accessibility and biting humor in dealing with complex and serious subject matter...The play asks a great deal of its ensemble, and the excellently cast group—under the skillful direction of Robert O'Hara, in whom Harris has found an ideal and sympatico collaborator—proves worthy of the challenge...In this laudable debut, Harris has his cake and eats it too, offering us a story that is both transporting and inescapably pertinent."
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December 14th, 2018

“A must see...The universal theme of what initially attracts a couple and what it takes to create a mutually satisfying relationship is explored through the lens of four couples. At times comedic with heart wrenching raw emotion interspersed, as these couples who really care for each other, struggle to make sense of it all...’A Slave Play,’ a double entendre is about slaves and at the same time a highly sexually charged innuendo conveying a message that would be offensive to state directly.”
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January 2nd, 2019

"It’s provocative and uncomfortable, pushing boundaries and buttons that are hidden within every single soul in the theatre, daring us with staggering urgency to take notice and check our own prejudicial thoughts and politics...So sign up for this sexy and dynamic experiment and become engaged in a conversation that will likely continue long after the last group member leaves the stage."
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December 12th, 2018

"The play and the production unflinchingly steps into the most wince worthy aspects of America’s profoundly conflicted id...It takes a cast and director who possess a firm affinity with the playwright to commit to the work’s tonal leaps and hairpin turns and to find their way into both the humor and deep vulnerability required...All the actors are superb and perfectly cast...'Slave Play' is provocative in every sense of the word. Its explicit sexuality is necessarily confronting."
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December 9th, 2018

"Some of what we hear is thought-provoking; there are a few laughs. But there is not as much insight or humor as the playwright seems to have intended. And, at two hours without an intermission, it’s simply too long, and too repetitive. The production of 'Slave Play' at New York Theatre Workshop is certainly in good hands. Robert O’Hara is the director, and the cast is first-rate…and brave."
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December 11th, 2018

“A bristling, genre-crashing new work tinged with soft porn...The scenes pack enough slave-era satirical shock and awe to drop your mouth agape and get your woke wheels turning...The work is too visceral to intellectualize. It is also incredibly funny...Harris asks us to listen to, feel for and empathize with all his characters while forcing us into sensory overload...The performances are bold, real, captivating and nuanced across the board, a true ensemble piece.”
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December 14th, 2018

"The…play fails to convince that racial attitudes are behind their sexual problems, which…seem no different than those affecting anyone…The lines are often fodder for long-winded monologues affording each character one or more operatic arias of self-exposure. Fortunately, each of the actors is emotionally alive and verbally adept…'Slave Play'…is verbose, its characters more symbols than people, its dramatic tension secondary to its theoretical pyrotechnics, and...too damned long."
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December 10th, 2018

"I can say that it involves interracial sex and is not just sexy, but also hilarious, provocative and highly theatrical...It’s better not to know a lot in advance. The cast is uniformly strong...Director Robert O’Hara, whose direction of his own plays has not always been optimal, does a smooth job here, capturing the play’s many moods. I assure you that you won’t be bored, although I do feel that the long second act could use a trim."
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January 11th, 2019

“Harris explores multifacted takes on race and sex in a surprising and satiric comedy...A riotous, uncompromising look at how black and white people see and react to each other, staged with the right balance of outrageous humor and prickly reality...The eight-member cast delivers intensely funny and searingly dramatic performances...Gay, straight, black, white, psychological, and sexual issues are give an unscrupulous eyeballing in this uncomfortably laugh-filled play.”
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January 8th, 2019

“A scintillating and unique way to dramatize and explore urgent and fascinating questions of race, gender, and sexuality in contemporary America...Jeremy Harris’ scintillating debut play, 'Slave Play'...is not what you think it is, packing twists, some heavy satire, graphic sexuality, and an important discourse on race, gender, and sexuality in contemporary America. To write about it is to spoil its surprises, but this sold out run will no doubt inspire future productions.”
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December 18th, 2018

"Jeremy O. Harris makes an impressive splash with 'Slave Play,' a fascinating, often hilarious, sometimes bumpy, and ultimately serious look at sex and power in modern interracial relationships...Even if Harris’s control of his considerable talent wobbles occasionally, the results are riveting and thought-provoking."
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December 21st, 2018

"'Slave Play' is a hard-hitting look at America’s shameful past, an investigation into slavery, racism, white privilege, and political correctness that will have you laughing nervously as you shift uncomfortably in your seat...Harris and Obie-winning director Robert O’Hara keep the audience rapt but uneasy throughout."
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January 1st, 2019

"'Slave Play' is rich and lively and exciting, instructive but not didactic, hopeful but not comforting. It's the best new play this year."
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December 22nd, 2018

"Harris's comedy is so ferociously original, so daring, and so funny that your foreknowledge won't ruin it...Harris’s premise is fascinating and it moves the discussion beyond surface talk of who is racist and who is not...The conversations around these questions are raw and unflinching. Yet 'Slave Play' is funnier than you might expect...And the characters feel real, not people devised to illustrate a point. This is masterful storytelling, searing and illuminating, and not to be missed."
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December 9th, 2018

"A giant trigger warning in three acts...An ambitious, at times uneven satire about race and sex and power and politics that seems designed to provoke...’Slave Play’ can be saggy; each of the three acts would benefit from some trimming...At no point do we believe that these are flesh-and-blood humans; they seem more like props for Harris’ provocative message about the dreadful state of race relations,..’Slave Play’ announces the arrival of a bold and challenging new voice in theater.”
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January 9th, 2019

"Monstrously smart, fabulously acted, stunningly designed and completely provocative. I laughed and I was stunned. I'm not sure that I found it to be completely successful, though, as a piece of theater. It was clever, topical, fascinating, and intellectually engaging...but I couldn't latch onto any emotional connection. This may be the playwright's intent..But I wanted to feel more than I did...I did enjoy how the play always kept me on my toes."
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December 19th, 2018

"Harris’ incredibly thought-provoking 'Slave Play' brings racism, sex, and power to the forefront of conversation...The shock and surprises that arise in this New York Theatre Workshop production are staggering...Under Robert O’Hara’s direction, the tight and nimble small ensemble play off of each other seamlessly and amplify the unapologetic, forward nature of the play...You’ll be thinking (and talking about) 'Slave Play' long after it’s (somewhat uncomfortable) conclusion."
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December 17th, 2018

"At a certain point, it all starts to feel like what an academic would call an erotics of power, a twisty, kinky investigation of how race and desire intertwine in the deepest and darkest parts of our minds...The uniformly strong cast is astonishingly vulnerable as their characters break each other down, slipping in and out of fantasies and brutally intimate arguments...This is a demanding play, and one of the things that it demands is the audience’s discomfort. But that discomfort is productive."
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December 19th, 2018

"There’s excellent acting across the board...'Slave Play' seems like an attempt to put white fantasies under the spotlight. One can appreciate this attempt and question its value. If the fantasies of white people are transmitted to us through film and weaponized as policy, do they need to be repeated in the theater – perhaps the whitest of white spaces?...The onstage mirrors are the perfect metaphor for the play itself: it gives a mostly white audience another chance to see themselves."
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