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Slave Play

From 32 critic and 120 member reviews
Members say: Great acting, Ambitious, 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.  More…

The old South lives on at the MacGregor Plantation—in the breeze, in the cotton fields...and in the crack of the whip. It’s an antebellum fever-dream, where fear and desire entwine in the looming shadow of the Master’s House. Jim trembles as Kaneisha handles melons in the cottage, Alana perspires in time with the plucking of Phillip’s fiddle in the boudoir, while Dustin cowers at the heel of Gary’s big, black boot in the barn. Nothing is as it seems, and yet everything is as it seems.

This play contains nudity, sexual content, simulated sexual violence, and racially violent language. Recommended for ages 17+.

Front Row Center

“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.” Full Review

Gotham Playgoer

"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." Full Review

Stage Left

“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.” Full Review


"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." Full Review

Broadway Blog

“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.” Full Review


"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." Full Review

The New York Times

"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." Full Review

Time Out New York

"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.” Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"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." Full Review

Theater Life

“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.” Full Review


"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'." Full Review

New York Magazine / Vulture

"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." Full Review


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


"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." Full Review

Exeunt Magazine

"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." Full Review

Pop Culturalist

"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." Full Review

New Yorker

“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." Full Review

Front Mezz Junkies

"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." Full Review


“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.” Full Review

This Week in New York Blog

"'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." Full Review

Off Off Online

"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." Full Review


"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 product... Full Review

Magical MissTari Tour

"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." Full Review

Theatre's Leiter Side

"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." Full Review

The Hollywood Reporter

"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 overexte... Full Review

Absorbing, Ambitious, Great acting, Must see, Great writing

See it if you want to see something that really gets its hands dirty in exploring the lingering, tangled, and inescapable effects of trauma

Don't see it if you're trying to find something to take your parents to

Funny, Absorbing, Dizzying, Profound

See it if You want to be challenged with a series of hard questions on desire, history, trauma and healing.

Don't see it if You're afraid of mirrors.

Intelligent, Intense, Relevant, Riveting, Great writing

See it if I have not experienced the range of emotions that this show evoked in me in any other production I have seen. It made me cringe, laugh, cry.

Don't see it if You are prudish or unable to handle the content about race and sexuality presented by the play, which includes explicit sex scenes.

Ambitious, Clever, Edgy, Great writing, Unusual

See it if you enjoy a good story with some surprises; you like great writing with a cast to match;

Don't see it if you are offended by portrayals of explicit sex; you prefer musicals; you have no interest in plays involving interactions of blacks & whites

Absorbing, Ambitious, Thought-provoking, Profound, Great writing

See it if You enjoy challenging, complicated, and complex plays about sex, gender, race, history, and how all of those things can intersect.

Don't see it if You prefer light and fluffy theater with less meaning or challenging material. You prefer escapist entertainment.

Absorbing, Ambitious, Edgy, Great acting, Thought-provoking

See it if you like exploring uncomfortable subject matter told brilliantly by an excellent cast. I thought about this play for days after seeing it.

Don't see it if sexually explicit scenes make you uncomfortable or trigger painful memories. Racism and sexual violence warning.

Intense, Thought-provoking, Resonant

See it if you want to be part of contemporary dialogue of art, theater, race, gender, culture. Trust the play- it will keep you thinking for days.

Don't see it if you are easily offended or can't handle discomfort. This play goes to the brink but explores rarely charted territory of human experiences.

Ambitious, Edgy, Exquisite, Thought-provoking, Refreshing

See it if you want to be challenged, moved, and provoked by a great, young writer who wants to ask the biggest questions about race and sex in the US.

Don't see it if you are a theatrical traditionalist. You are uncomfortable with dissecting the intersection of race and sexuality in a risky, edgy way.

Absorbing, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Masterful, Raunchy

See it if you're ok with serious topics like racism; you're ok with nudity

Don't see it if you want a classic or a standard type of play

Absorbing, Clever, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Great writing

See it if A very interesting play that surprises you in many ways. It is a clever concept very well done. The performances are excellent.

Don't see it if You are close minded or offended by issues pertaining to sexuality and race.

Absorbing, Edgy, Great acting, Raunchy, Relevant

See it if you're looking for risk-taking theater and like edgy shows about race and sex. Some interesting twists and great acting performances.

Don't see it if you don't want to see sexually explicit material. There is a lot of simulated sex and some nudity. Some will hate it, some will love it.

Edgy, Great acting, Thought-provoking

See it if You want to contemplate history's long reach and how it can affect generations later. Also really interesting structure and great acting.

Don't see it if you have problems with nudity, some confusing story lines, overreaching and not as deeply thought out ideas as I would have liked...

Interesting and relevant

See it if you are open to being shocked and, at times, uncomfortable. There is also one hour, which is very funny. This playwright has a lot to say.

Don't see it if you are uncomfortable with racial or sexual issues. Or if you're expecting a traditional plot format.

Ambitious, Clever, Dizzying, Great acting, Intense

See it if you like avant garde style, you are interested in the topic of interracial relationships as it relates to black people

Don't see it if you are sensitive to racial discussions esp in a romantic lens, you don’t like things being done for shock value,

Absorbing, Ambitious, Edgy, Intense, Great writing

See it if You're ready to be entertainingly challenged by questions about race, sexuality, psychology, academia and how we internalize all the above

Don't see it if on stage simulation of kinky sexual play disturbs you or if you are easily offended by stories that challenge your thinking about race/sex.

Edgy, Intelligent, Intense, Thought-provoking, Great writing

See it if You like thought-proving, intelligent drama and are okay with uncomfortable situations. This is a very well-written edgy show.

Don't see it if You won’t be okay with a thought-prolong discussion of racial issues or you are not okay with sexual situations and power dynamics.

Absorbing, Ambitious, Edgy, Intense

See it if you are wiling to be challenged

Don't see it if you are offended by pretty explicit sexuality

Ambitious, Great acting, Quirky, Great staging

See it if like a quirky play with a very modern take - very breaking the fourth-wall kind of show

Don't see it if topic and staging can be uncomfortable to some - and play can be edited down somewhat

Ambitious, Intense, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Resonant

See it if You like provocative drama and enjoy being surprised.

Don't see it if You are uncomfortable seeing rather explicit sex on stage. You are not interested the topic of racial prejudice.

Clever, Great acting, Quirky, Relevant

See it if you enjoy supporting talented young playwrights. And if you like being challenged while you're being entertained

Don't see it if you're uncomfortable with nudity or you're uncomfortable with sex depicted on stage.

Edgy, Provocative, Imaginative

See it if You want to see a play that deals with complicated issues of slavery, desire/sexuality, and interracial relationships in a fresh take.

Don't see it if You are deeply troubled by seeing slavery, nudity, and sexual situations depicted onstage in any form. You want a clear cut narrative.

Also As to be expected with a show titled "Slave Play," this isn't for the ... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Intelligent, Profound, Relevant, Resonant

See it if You like to leave the theater in deep thought.

Don't see it if Explicit sex scenes make you uncomfortable.

Great acting, Intense, Thought-provoking, 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.

Also The play is two hours and 10 minutes with no intermission. I was not b... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Ambitious, Edgy, Great acting, Confusing

See it if Great acting, interesting topic and premise. Fast moving.

Don't see it if Don't see if violent sex and/or racial conflict will offend you. Point seems confused.

Absorbing, Edgy, Great acting, Thought-provoking

See it if you are up for a show that can shock, provoke and make you laugh. Deals with the heritage of slavery in an unusual way.

Don't see it if Happy go-lucky musicals are your favorites.

Cast & Creatives (15)