New York | 1h 30m | Already closed

Small World (59E59 Theaters)

From 18 critic and 101 member reviews
Members say: Great acting, Entertaining, Intelligent, Clever, Absorbing

About the show

Penguin Rep Theatre brings its 2015 comedy about the creation of Disney's classic movie 'Fantasia' to 59E59. More…

When Walt Disney hears "The Rite of Spring," he envisions the creation of the earth, volcanoes, and, of course, dinosaurs. But composer Igor Stravinsky has another vision altogether. In this provocative comedy, we go behind the scenes of Disney’s classic 'Fantasia,' where the dinosaurs aren’t the only ones doing battle.


"'Small World' is an insightful and appealing play, one that will challenge your ideas about art in its different forms...This two-hander is an absorbing, entertaining, and informative show...This behind-the-scenes look at the work and attitudes of two renowned geniuses will captivate you from the first moment to the last. The two characters in 'Small World' are so genuine, you will think that you are in the room with Walt Disney and Igor Stravinsky." Full Review

Theater Life

“Much of the conversation centers on the major issues all artists face…A lot of this may seem old-hat. But in Stroppel’s hands, all these topics glisten like the morning dew…Best of all, the show is also funny. And it’s funny in a very smart way…Shanahan is excellent as the sometimes clueless animator…But D’Ambrose steals the show because he accomplishes something much more difficult. He makes Stravinsky’s grandiosity, self-love and scorn for the common man equally amiable.” Full Review

Theatre's Leiter Side

“It takes considerable liberty with the facts but still manages to create a viable image of the personalities involved…What makes the play and its performances absorbing is the clash of these titanic temperaments…Stroppel manages to keep the dialogue hopping as Disney and Stravinsky go through the throes of their artistic rites…Whether you're a Disney or Stravinsky fan…you should find 'Small World'…a fascinating backstage confrontation between two of the greatest artists of the last century.” Full Review

Gotham Playgoer

"The dialogue is witty and does not condescend to the audience. The views of both men get their due. D’Ambrose is marvelous as Stravinsky and Shanahan makes a fine Disney...Joe Brancato’s direction is fluid. My only quibble is about the length. At 75 minutes without intermission, it seems either too short or too long...I think it would be even better as a one-hour play on a double bill." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"In the excellent 'Small World' written by Frederick Stroppel, superbly directed by Joe Brancato, we are given a delicious view of how such a marriage of ideas and personalities between two innovators of the twentieth century might have evolved...An enjoyable evening of fun...Actors Shanahan and D’Ambrose are fine accomplices who adroitly manifest Stoppel’s conflicts...Kudos goes to the creative and production teams who made this production a memorable entertainment." Full Review


"Stroppel’s fantasia, 'Small World,' in which towering composer Stravinsky butts heads and egos with unbeatable Disney, is simply a delight...Director Brancato handles his star-quality cast with kid gloves in this uncanny environment...seamlessly making them real for us...But, of course, it’s playwright Stroppel’s words and thoughts, wit and sensibilities that matter most. I wish there were more, more. I could have danced all night." Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"Brief, barbed, often very funny...A premise this slender could easily wear out its welcome, even with a running time of only 75 minutes, but Stroppel makes sure that both characters are never at a loss for a clever, pertinent comeback...Brancato's direction maintains the rat-a-tat pace and vigor of a film by Billy Wilder or Howard Hawks, with fine work from the two-man cast...Even if his characters are eternally locked in the same argument, they never wear out their welcome." Full Review

Wolf Entertainment Guide

"There is much humor in the dialogue between the two men...The dialogue between Disney and Stravinsky is cleverly written, and director Joe Brancato keeps the confrontations between the men lively...'Small World' makes a misstep by tacking on a superfluous coda...It would have been better to have figured out an ending without the clumsy ploy. But even so, the play is filled with enough wit to make seeing it a very enjoyable experience, with special appreciation for the fine acting." Full Review

Woman Around Town

"The play is smart, amusing, and illuminating; both characters are well drawn...A somewhat thin ending might be rewritten for more significant revelations...To watch Shanahan describe an animated sequence is to see it come to life before you. The actor appears boyish but never insubstantial...Stephen D’Ambrose is suave, dignified, dark, and extremely sure of his own genius...Director Joe Brancato uses minimal set to excellent, low-key effect." Full Review


"Under Joe Brancato's direction, 'Small World' has been staged with an unobtrusive directness and simplicity. Though they seem, at times, to be giving lectures, both D'Ambrose, with his thick Russian accent, and Shanahan, with the tougher role of going from arrogant to vulnerable, shine." Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

"A lightweight yet often surprisingly perceptive comedy...It does remind us that both men had a dark side, something that deepens things beyond the earlier bantering tone...Even with its short running time, 'Small World' would benefit from some editing by dropping the after life section and a few of the too-easy jokes referencing other Disney films. Nevertheless, it generally makes for an entertaining evening, with excellent contrasting performances by its co-stars." Full Review

Epoch Times

"One of the highlights of the play shows the creative process of each man...Brancato’s direction works well, keeping the story tightly focused on the issues raised, with numerous bits of trivia tossed in. But the final scene feels rather contrived as though the playwright tries to end on a forced high note. While interest in 'Small World' will largely depend on how one feels about the two depicted, the play has a lot to say about the lengths one will go to realize their particular artistic vi... Full Review


"For most of the 90-minute play, especially the first of its three scenes, Stroppel's concept works pretty well....Under Brancato's fluid direction that opening makes for a nice move into the men's interaction...Both actors bring their characters to vivid and watchable life...Unfortunately, the promising start and mostly entertaining middle end with a too-easy otherworldly finale." Full Review


"Whatever drama there may have been between these men in real life, none of it carries over in this Penguin Rep production...At times, 'Small World' has a certain amount of potential...But overall, the piece lacks the deep psychological underpinnings and tension to communicate both men's individual struggles. The discussions of art and commerce are unoriginal, and the humor stays at this easy, low-ball level throughout. Still, the performances are charming." Full Review

Theater Life

"A shallow sketch attempting to address big themes but producing only occasional chuckles and mild nods of recognition...D’Ambrose and Shannan give competent impersonations of the great figures and Joe Brancato delivers a neat staging, but there’s nothing new here. Deep art doesn’t sell as well as pleasant cartoons. Geniuses can be temperamental bastards. Quel surprise!" Full Review

Theatre Reviews Limited

"Despite the commendable efforts of Stephen D’Ambrose as Igor Stravinsky and Mark Shanahan Walt Disney, Mr. Stroppel’s play lacks the necessary character development and focus to convince the audience of any consistent thematic strand...The conversation in the second act about the retelling of 'Faust' is perhaps the highlight of the play...One wishes for more of this level of discourse...Mr. Brancato’s direction is serviceable but lacks subtlety." Full Review


for a previous production “An immensely entertaining new work…The spirited banter between the great men is chock-full of clever witticisms...Initially, their argument feels obvious and predictable...However, in the second act, the play begins to add more layers, as the world outside, the war, and the financial pressures weighing both men down add much more reality to the fantasy…Director Joe Brancato has wisely allowed the text to do the talking, providing a clean and uncluttered production.” Full Review

The New York Times

for a previous production “A friendly and sometimes provocative comedy…'Small World’ has an interesting premise, and the first act of this eager-to-please material establishes their personalities well…But as Stravinsky becomes openly angry, the volume rises on debates with unsurprising refrains, circular and tiresome. Act II digs deeper…The actors pitch their performances to match the exaggerated, conjectured duel of ideas. D’Ambrose is a particularly convincing pleasure as Stravinsky.” Full Review

Clever, Entertaining, Great acting

See it if You love Disney films and want to learn more about how music masterpieces were used in Walt's films...specifically Fantasia.

Don't see it if Walt Disney holds no interest for you or if you prefer action more than a staid, two-person dialogue.

Absorbing, Great acting, Great writing, Intelligent, Enchanting

See it if You enjoy great acting and writing, or if you are interested in Walt Disney or Stravinsky.

Don't see it if ... Not sure. Just go see it, it's wonderful!

Absorbing, Clever, Intelligent, Resonant, Great writing

See it if No ifs, see it!

Don't see it if You're looking for a musical

Absorbing, Clever, Delightful, Great acting, Great writing

See it if You like to know how Fantasia came about. You're curious about Disney and Stravinsky and music and dinosaurs! You love animation and fantasy

Don't see it if You don't care about Disney or Fantasia

Absorbing, Great acting, Great staging, Great writing, Profound

See it if This is a play of opposite artistic values of two geniuses who have something in common “The Rite of Spring.” and apparently nothing else.

Don't see it if If you think that this play is about a children’ movie and it does not have any substance

Also Stravinsky disliked Disney's use of “The Rite of Spring” in “Fantasia”... Read more Read less

Great acting, Delightful, Entertaining

See it if An accessible and good use of 75 minutes -- absorbing dialogue on defining art and success in the context of Disney animation.

Don't see it if you're not looking for a short, fun excurson and want a more serious evening of theater.

Great acting, Great writing, Delightful, Intelligent, Must see

See it if You're familiar w/Disney, Stravinsky & Fantasia. You want a play about the function of art presented in an accessible & entertaining manner.

Don't see it if You have no idea or don't care about the figures above. You don't want a play about art. You don't like intimate theatre spaces.

Enchanting, Entertaining, Great acting

See it if You want to see an adorable little play that is well paced and beautifully acted.

Don't see it if You're looking for something a little more powerful for emotional. But it's a really fun night at the theater!!

Ambitious, Great acting, Entertaining

See it if you like intimate plays with two excellent actors

Don't see it if you are not interested in artistic process

Absorbing, Clever, Ambitious, Intelligent, Refreshing

See it if you like 2 character plays with the subject matter based on reality; you remember Fantasia and want to know what Stravinsky thought about it

Don't see it if you don't enjoy wordy plays; you need action when you see a play

Clever, Delightful, Great acting, Intelligent, Entertaining

See it if You like a thoughtful conversation, a little bit of absurdity, classical music, to think about the nature of art and commerce

Don't see it if The idea of simply listening to a conversation between just two characters for the entire play seems boring

Also In this play, Igor Stravinsky says, "That's what art is; to cut your t... Read more Read less

Clever, Entertaining, Great acting, Intelligent, Thought-provoking

See it if You enjoy small productions, drama based upon history and great acting.

Don't see it if You prefer large productions, musicals.

Clever, Funny, Entertaining, Intelligent, Great acting

See it if you have interest in either Disney and/or Stravinsky. This smart two person play provides insight and humor into their imagined interaction

Don't see it if you don't have any clue what Fantasia is and you don't care.

Absorbing, Clever, Intelligent, Great acting, Witty banter

See it if You want to learn more about Walt Disney and Igor Stravinsky. First scene takes place is 1939. Very interesting and informative.

Don't see it if If you have no interest in Disney and Stravinsky. If you don't like smaller theaters with minimal set design.

Intelligent, Masterful, Delightful, Informative, Great script/acting

See it if you want to hear more about two famous men, Disney and Stravinsky, and listen to different perspectives about art, music, meaning of life...

Don't see it if you don't like small theater spaces, prefer musicals or more action.

Also I found this show to be delightful, informative, and totally engaging.... Read more Read less

Funny, Great acting, Intelligent, Great writing, Clever

See it if you enjoy two unlikely characters, Stravinsky and Disney thrown together to "collaborate" on Disney's "Fantasia" with hilarious results.

Don't see it if You dislike Stravinsky and/or Disney, aren't interested in the perennial art/commerce dialectic, don't appreciate witty writing and acting.

Also From what I understand, this piece originally done upstate as a two ac... Read more Read less

Entertaining, Intelligent, Shallow

See it if You are interested in a discussion about art vs. commerce. You are curious about the personalities of Stravinsky and Disney.

Don't see it if You need more than a two-person talkfest when you see a show.

Also While the play stayed with rather obvious matters and didn't dig very ... Read more Read less

Great acting, Clever, Must see, Intelligent, Great writing

See it if You would like to experience the contrast of American optimism with old world intellectual fervor. Fast paced, witty and well acted.

Don't see it if May not be for all audiences, if you are not familiar with Stravinsky and 20th century classical music.

Great writing, Clever, Thought-provoking, Resonant, Ambitious

See it if you like simply staged, two-actor plays; you wonder what it might have been like for two artists with competing visions to work together.

Don't see it if you don't like plays; you need singing and dancing or comedy; you don't care for Disney or art.

Also A well-conceived production by the creative team complemented by the g... Read more Read less

Clever, Ambitious, Exquisite, Great writing, Thought-provoking

See it if Disney fan, then you must enjoy fantasy and should love to be immersed in these imaginary conversations. Not sure I would call it a comedy.

Don't see it if If you want music, drama, strong conflict or emotional tugging this is probably not your cup of tea.

Thought-provoking, Profound, Relevant, Great writing, Great acting

See it if Anyone who appreciates the constant tension between entertainment and art or high concept. Beautifully written and clearly expressed.

Don't see it if You prefer musicals, comedies (altho this does have some laughs), romances, or larger casts than two. But this is so clever!

Absorbing, Great acting, Clever, Great writing, Intelligent

See it if you love discussions of art and creativity. The meetings of the minds between Stravinsky and Disney were masterful. I loved this show.

Don't see it if you don't like discussions about the meaning of art. If you know something about Stravinsky and Disney you will appreciate their dialogue.

Also The dialogue was very pertinent to how the two men viewed their art. Y... Read more Read less

Entertaining, Great acting, Delightful

See it if have interest in disney and the creation of film. Very interesting to learn relationship and respects and disagreements between 2 characters

Don't see it if you require a lot of staging or active. Simple but very interesting

Delightful, Enchanting, Exquisite, Great acting, Great staging

See it if You love Disney

Don't see it if You are looking for a big producirá n

Clever, Entertaining, Funny

See it if You want background on walt disney and igor sravinsky

Don't see it if You do not have an interest in how a movie between these two begins

Cast & Creatives (10)