Closed 1h 45m
Smokefall
West Village
72

Smokefall NYC Reviews and Tickets

72%
(69 Reviews)
Positive
70%
Mixed
17%
Negative
13%
Members say
Great acting, Confusing, Clever, Quirky, Absorbing

About the Show

MCC Theater presents a tale of magical realism colliding with manic vaudeville in a family drama that looks closely at the fragility of life and the power of love.

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Member Reviews (69)

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65
Ambitious, Derivative, Uneven, Great acting, Quirky

See it if you love Thorton Wilder and are willing to see Our Town-lite.

Don't see it if you are bumped by fantasy mixed with realism.

75
Clever, Surprising, Thought-provoking, Great acting, Underated

See it if A different and refreshing new style of storytelling with a slight dash of magical realism. Well acted and paced. Moving. Sad/hopeful.

Don't see it if You want linearity/realism and don't care about claustrophobic perspectives, though you know people who think like that in real life.

Critic Reviews (46)

February 22nd, 2016

"Mr. Haidle’s flights of imagination mostly left me less than enraptured...The director, Anne Kauffman, has made a specialty of adventurous new writing...and the cast is first-rate...But the play’s characters are defined exclusively by their eccentricities and flights of odd lyricism; they have no believable emotional pulse...When you have a fetus quoting Michel Foucault, you are moving beyond absurdity and treading dangerously close to plain old pretentiousness."
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February 23rd, 2016

"Welcome back to Haidle’s brand of whimsical literalism, where commonplace ideas and character types are tricked out in self-conscious structural gimmicks that serve mainly to gild the obvious... its evocation of Thornton Wilder’s 'Our Town' only points up, by contrast, the sententious cutesiness of a play that treats, for example, 'the world is round' as an insight."
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February 22nd, 2016

"It’s as dark as you please, but so cute in its approach and so heavy-handed in its symbolism that it ends up belittling the very ideas it wants to advance...Anne Kauffman has directed without her customary verve...the theatrical energy almost never rises to the level necessary to support such a complicated agenda. Even when it starts to, it is usually shut down by another bit of annoying whimsy, or the realization that the philosophy underlying it is often no more profound than Dr. Phil."
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February 22nd, 2016

"The strained interactions among these barely defined characters seem to go on forever...Telling instead of showing, the playwright spoon-feeds his themes as if he's afraid the audience will be too obtuse to catch on....For all their considerable efforts, the performers are hobbled by characters who feel less like flesh-and-blood figures than creative conceits. There's tragedy aplenty in 'Smokefall,' but it's doubtful you'll find your eyes tearing."
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February 22nd, 2016

"It turns out the show is yet another domestic drama about the all-American nuclear family, this one trying hard to distinguish itself from other domestic dramas about the all-American nuclear family by stylistically swerving from realism to surrealism...No one says anything the least bit interesting, and whatever we know about these people we learn from Quinto, who is called Footnote and plays the narrator."
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February 22nd, 2016

"Anne Kauffman, a solid pro, repeats directing chores and guides this capable enough new cast, but even so the play delivers a few flashes of whimsy and not much else...The show’s takeaways are pretty obvious. We lose people. Life comes full circle. To love is 'the greatest act of courage.' That may well be. But it’s hard to love this 'Smokefall.'"
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February 22nd, 2016

"It often feels more like a college seminar on magical realism than a rigorous example of the genre...The actors are miraculously able to deliver this dense text in a way that doesn't sound like they're reciting from an essay on world literature...Unfortunately, director Anne Kauffman's production is equally lifeless...Likely to appeal only to undergraduate philosophy students (and those who wish they could be in college forever)."
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February 23rd, 2016

"Haidle has given himself quite a tightrope to walk, blending domestic drama with wild flights of fancy and vaudeville-like routines, the farcical often occupying the same space as a pervasive melancholy. But darn it if he doesn't pull it off, shifting dramatic and emotional gears with the skill of a top race car driver, even as he conducts a conversation about the forces that shape our lives: chance, choice, genes, and destiny."
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February 22nd, 2016

"Haidle refuses to be bound by traditional concepts of realism. And his surreal, imaginary bent is a critical component of his storytelling here, as it lets him dive into complicated realms of thought, feeling, and perception...For all the benefits of this originality, however, at times it's counterproductive...Haidle often seems to suffer from having too many ideas. Even so, his concerns are genuine and the emotions they generate real."
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March 2nd, 2016

"Haidle’s previous New York plays flirted with non-realistic situations, but 'Smokefall' is the most precious and facetious of the bunch...The talented cast is surprisingly bland...A fantasy on the familiar theme of the dysfunctional family. Whimsical most of the time, clever at others, it will please some, and put off others. In this reviewer’s opinion, its offbeat and idiosyncratic format does not reveal anything new about families or how we should live our lives."
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February 22nd, 2016

"Haidle's careful deployment of humor is present and vital throughout 'Smokefall'...The comic and the tragic are kept in a fine balance, but emotional extremes on either side are tempered by the intellectual heft of the show: when confronted with a choice whether to elicit thoughts or feelings, Haidle seems to lean towards the thinking route... Suffice to say that the playwright has at least offered us a take on the existential family drama that's fresh, dreamy, and gripping."
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T
February 29th, 2016

"Haidle has written a splendid play in which magical realism counterpoints a family drama with considerable success...The first act is the stronger of the two. It is in the second act when the playwright tells and retells the same stories over and over again that the power of the first act diminishes...The cast portrays the host of characters with honesty and believability and leads the audience into the womb of wonder that is the autumnal smokefall of life."
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February 22nd, 2016

"'Smokefall,' feels influenced by the work of Thornton Wilder, with its mix of the homespun and the metaphysical...If 'Smokefall' is a self-consciously poetic effort that winds up less engaging emotionally or dramatically than the modern classic it evokes, the play along the way has offered a number of funny, strange or strangely alluring moments; an effective metaphor or two; and some fine acting."
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March 2nd, 2016

"‘Smokefall,’ while stuffed with playful conceits and clever dialogue, remains too self-involved and cerebral to reach across the footlights and draw us into its emotional web. Haidle loves piling on the symbols and philosophical mind play, usually at the expense of the play itself.‘Smokefall’ is efficiently directed, acceptably acted, and nicely designed. But the play remains too preoccupied with thoughts about higher meanings and not enough with the human conflicts that make drama dramatic."
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B
February 20th, 2016

"When presented in Chicago, the play was such a success that the Goodman Theater moved it from its small stage to its mainstage to ecstatic reviews. Although the current production has the same director, Anne Kauffman, something seems to have been lost on the trip east. The New York cast, entirely new, seems competent so I am not sure they are to blame. I wish the play had been able to maintain the promise of its first act."
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February 22nd, 2016

"Seeing 'Smokefall' again, I realized that Haidle hasn’t written characters and perhaps never intended to...'Smokefall' is filled with talk about DNA, destiny, free will, and original sin...I enjoyed 'Smokefall' much more the second time around...The play is as audacious as it is full of itself."
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March 16th, 2016

"Zachary Quinto nimbly takes on several characters, including one named Footnote, who narrates the action; and another named Fetus Two, whom we meet in the show's best scene, dressed as a vaudevillian and trading one-liners with his twin about whether it's worth it for them to leave the womb...The grim daily lives and poor choices that playwright Noah Haidle has given four generations of this family strains for the profundity of 'Our Town' but ends up in the shallow end of the pool."
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February 22nd, 2016

"Every performance in 'Smokefall' is as rich and nuanced as Haidle’s writing, Anne Kauffman’s direction, and Mimi Lien’s inventive scenic design...Haidle implies in 'Smokefall' that whatever individual family members do, and however our loved ones err, fail, and injure those closest to them, the notion of family, and a family’s history and love, will persist."
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February 23rd, 2016

"The sometimes heady, rarely affecting 'Smokefall,' explores Big Ideas, without quite assembling them into engaging theatre...The players in director Anne Kauffman’s production all bring feeling to their roles, though whether the play itself elicits any from audiences seems like another matter. While its dialogue may give you pause to ponder Life’s Big Questions, the characters are rendered sufficiently remote and indistinct that their interpersonal drama is less than emotionally engaging."
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February 22nd, 2016

"A haunting drama that combines magical realism with vaudevillian hucksterism...MCC has pulled off a visually interesting feat, under the direction of Anne Kauffman...It’s quite obvious that Haidle believes some things can keep growing, maturing, evolving and improving, even if they’re diseased."
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February 22nd, 2016

"Notes of magical realism keep the plot revolving through time, in MCC Theater's intelligent, slightly uneven production...Anne Kauffman has staged the production with fluidity and grace...Thanks to the witty, mostly credible plotting and excellent acting...The biggest question Haidle works to illuminate, though, is whether life is worth living despite inevitable tragedies and setbacks."
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April 9th, 2013
For a previous production

"'Smokefall' is about a very deep subject — time — but someone forgot to tell Haidle that he’s writing for South Coast Rep, not Simon & Schuster."
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September 29th, 2014
For a previous production

"This encore engagement is better than the original staging...Director Anne Kauffman's production has only deepened as it has grown, although I think the trajectory of the last 10 minutes still needs work...Haidle has made a few judicious nips and tucks in his script. More notably, Kauffman clearly has reworked scenes that danced too much on the surface...The acting remains first-rate, both witty and unstintingly honest."
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April 9th, 2013
For a previous production

"An attentive production...Those with a penchant for homespun elegy playfully whipped up may enjoy 'Smokefall,' but the work is really a collection of derivative themes in search of a fleshed-out drama...The despair running under the surface of Haidle's play doesn't quite justify the sickly sweet way the characters interact...This isn't an actual family — it's a playwriting conceit."
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October 21st, 2013
For a previous production

"It's a powerful original work with sustained humor, high intelligence, showmanship, and unexpected flashes of warmth. Haidle and Wilder may parse the same metaphysics, but Haidle goes beyond Wilder's examination in considerably darker ways...'Smokefall' is a play of significant weight and size, shaped to a fare-thee-well by director Anne Kauffman and an expressive cast with both comedy chops and the ability to project dramatic subtext."
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September 30th, 2015
For a previous production

"'Smokefall' is absolutely stunning. It's a near-perfect show (I wish Act 2 featured the interactions found in Act 1) performed with nuance, honesty, and underlying compassion...Haidle's characters speak of love, life, & family, and each simple observation rings of genuine truth. Kevin Depinet's set is a wonder and Lindsay Jones' sound design is thrilling. Director Anne Kauffman has daftly staged one of the best new plays in years. I cannot italicize or bold the words 'best' and 'years' enough."
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September 29th, 2014
For a previous production

"'Smokefall' is a glorious play with a unique blend of sophistication and open-heartedness. It is a work that leaves you thinking about every human connection you have, whether on an intimate scale or the cosmic one. And Haidle’s genius is that along with the pain and wistfulness come great bursts of true comic brilliance, so you leave the theater in a strange state of tearful exuberance."
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September 29th, 2014
For a previous production

"On second viewing, 'Smokefall' is even more beguiling than before...Pay attention to the way Haidle repeats phrases and traits that resonate across generations, mirroring the way family stories become family lore; knowing what was to come, I heard new hints of the future early on while also finding new details to appreciate among the radiant performances and exquisite design."
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October 16th, 2013
For a previous production

"The potential for over-preciousness is there...But I'd contend that this new work, with its deliberate evocations of Thornton Wilder, earns its emotion in ways Haidle's more academic earlier works may not have. With its lyrical, nonlinear structure, 'Smokefall' feels rather like a cycle of connected short stories, brought to rich life by canny director Anne Kauffman and a cast that strikes a remarkable balance between absurd and affecting."
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October 3rd, 2014
For a previous production

"The moral can be anything you like—much ado or what you will. Whatever the random harvest, no doubt Kauffman and her cast serve a supple, slick script very well. They manage to find the charm in contradictions, the rewards in arbitrary plot twist, and the toughness in love. For many theatergoers and the majority of critics, that’s payoff enough. Others are finicky and ornery enough to want originality."
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October 9th, 2014
For a previous production

"Sometimes a play speaks to an audience in a special, almost personal way. It can transcend time and space seeking out those universal truths that touch each playgoer’s heart. Such is Noah Haidle’s heartfelt, intergenerational story about how love grows and flourishes...Anne Kauffman’s superb, thoughtful direction of Noah Haidle’s captivating and heartbreaking examination of love and family should not be missed."
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October 17th, 2014
For a previous production

"The play wryly makes us experience love and loss and appreciate them both...'Smokefall' is a beautifully written and masterfully directed play. Under Kaufmann's direction, every performance is sharp and meaningful."
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October 18th, 2013
For a previous production

"Haidle's humor is gentle and his dialogue is lovely. For the most part he keeps sentiment in check, although he does tiptoe up to the line separating sentimental from soppy...Unfortunately, the play's self-conscious theatricality gets in the way of us connecting with the characters, despite the best efforts of Kauffman's fine ensemble."
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October 13th, 2014
For a previous production

"Anne Kauffman’s cast and direction are pitch perfect. Though it’s performed rather presentationally, the script and performances capture the language and routines of daily life recognizably, even if oddly in places...Though none of this is realism, it amazingly feels very true....'Smokefall' is a haunting play that’s remained with me in the days since seeing it."
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T
September 30th, 2014
For a previous production

"'Smokefall' is a unique theatrical experience. Haidle’s story is a total original. It’s part sitcom, part drama, part fable and all memorable. The sublime cast become Haidle’s cast of characters. And Kauffman navigates their inventive lives in dark comedy perfection."
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October 14th, 2014
For a previous production

"Much of the story centers around Violet, a beautiful performance by Katherine Keberlein, as she prepares to bring twin boys in to the world. Beauty, played by Catherine Combs, with her eyes and head nods providing riveting punctuation to her every scene...There is the stage legend Mike Nussbaum playing The Colonel. Nussbaum is magic to watch on stage. He is able to hold an audience in his hand with his fantastic performance."
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October 30th, 2013
For a previous production

"Is life worth living and what makes it so? Those are the metaphysical questions at the core of Noah Haidle’s imaginative, engaging and often very funny 'Smokefall...' What I enjoyed most was its quirkiness — and that it made me care about these impossible people. Haidle may tackle the big issues, but his strength is in the details."
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October 22nd, 2014
For a previous production

"Ironically, for a play that teaches that love is the answer to life’s meaninglessness, the audience leaves feeling strangely disconnected. None of Sondheim’s bittersweet existential angst here. We don’t connect to the characters because we don’t experience their existential pain."
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C
October 11th, 2014
For a previous production

"It’s a dazzling episode, smart, funny and poignant, the defining flourish of director Anne Kauffman’s closely considered work."
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October 6th, 2014
For a previous production

"On a technical level the play echoes the writing, and is largely successful. The superb costumes tend towards the dreamlike and surreal, but do so nearly unnoticeably in that they never look out of place. A large and impressive set is abstract and postmodern, but still convincing as a domestic space. Likewise, Director Anne Kauffman has skillfully blocked this play so that the actors’ movements teeter between gracefulness and verisimilitude. Overall, the acting was extremely strong."
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October 2nd, 2014
For a previous production

"This play actually has a lot of humor, though it was clearly more to the taste of other people in the audience than mine...I also wished Act I had more going on than a narrator telling us about the characters we spend forty minutes watching...But this build-up does pay off in Act II, when Haidle finally gets to his point about love being a labor with subtle rewards, and director Anne Kauffman found the right level of introspection and compassion to sell it."
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September 30th, 2014
For a previous production

"Haidle has a grasp on simply put dialogue that holds heavier significance than surface-level observation would reveal. And 'Smokefall' is the kind of show that continues to reveal deeper meanings and relationships the more you reflect on it and discuss it..If you missed it the first time around, don’t make the same mistake twice."
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April 10th, 2013
For a previous production

"This three-act production wisely continues without an intermission due to Haidle’s intelligently imaginative dialogue and Anne Kauffman’s tight direction...It is the poignant acting that provides the necessary links for this theatrical 'chain...' By the end of the play, all elements - the writing, direction, and acting - are mixed together, slowly baked, and patiently served like one of the pies that feature in the show, continuing to tantalize its audience."
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October 5th, 2014
For a previous production

"It’s observational dark humor and extraordinary vision brought to life by director Anne Kauffman leaves you wanting more. Performances are dynamic and engaging, with impeccable timing that is apparent most during the apposite moments of comic relief. Everything from the sound design to the set design is gorgeous. I felt like an all too nosy neighbor eavesdropping on generations of heartfelt fun and horrific tragedy. And I adored every minute of it."
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October 6th, 2014
For a previous production

"I was mesmerized by every moment of 'Smokefall' at the Goodman. Noah Haidle’s script is one of the best I have seen in years. The ensemble is terrific and the designs perfection. Don’t miss it...Director Anne Kaufman’s perfect touch never makes a false move."
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E
October 1st, 2014
For a previous production

"It is difficult to describe the unusualness of 'Smokefall,' as play structure, character development and design choices are so original in concept and execution...'Smokefall' speaks volumes on the precarious hold human beings have on happiness, and does so with creativity, humor, and endless heart."
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