Socrates NYC Reviews and Tickets

76%
(90 Reviews)
Positive
79%
Mixed
18%
Negative
3%
Members say
Great acting, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Ambitious, Absorbing

About the Show

The Public offers a new play drama about a complicated man who changed how the world thought. "Socrates" is a tribute to the man who continues to inspire us to question authority and defend freedom of belief.

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Member Reviews (90)

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68
Didactic, Loquacious, Great lead performance, Intelligent, Slow

See it if u want to learn about Socrates via "Masterpiece Theatre lite" where speechifying & instruction take center stage over drama & theatricality.

Don't see it if u value emotion, depth, conflict & theatrics over rhetoric & exposition; u don't want to watch an old man wordlessly bathe for 10 minutes. Read more

79
Confusing, Thought-provoking, Great acting, Overlong, Ambitious

See it if interested in Greek history, Socrates's life, death & methods, the emergence of Plato as philosopher, plays with many characters

Don't see it if don't like nonlinear non-chronological plots or care about Greek history, confused by actors playing multiple parts with unfamiliar names

Critic Reviews (22)

April 16th, 2019

"Argument and inquiry are the engines of 'Socrates,' starring a sublime Michael Stuhlbarg in the title role. In a meticulously handsome production by Doug Hughes, this is a play that hums with intelligence...Reverence is a heavy thing, and it weighs down this nearly three-hour play, whose overlong first act is so devoted to showing its prickly and endearing provocateur in his element — that it succeeds more on academic merits than dramatic ones."
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April 16th, 2019

"'Socrates' is dragged down by loquacious speechifying, excessive double casting and the general stasis of Doug Hughes's plant-your-feet-and-spew staging...Just when you're ready to give up, however, the spotlight shifts in earnest to Stuhlbarg's arresting performance as a fascinating, fallible, sometimes frustratingly inflexible man who believed that no idea was too sacred to be questioned...He manages to animate the play’s didactic discussions of virtue, knowledge and democracy."
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April 16th, 2019

“Overlong, dramatically flat...There are so many actors...But only one of these actors really commands our attention...If you can get through the first couple of scenes, it’s intermittently exciting to watch...The fact that the play does eventually manage to pull up and away from it is a great credit to Stuhlbarg...In its best moments, it lets us think alongside a magnificent, humane thinker, and in a world so hungry for generous, rational thought, that’s something."
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April 16th, 2019

"Nelson attempts to bring this historical figure to theatrical life but mainly succeeds in boring the audience...The play can certainly be commended for its intellectual rigor and astute illustration of the Socratic method...But it ultimately comes across as more rhetoric than drama...That the evening succeeds at all is due to a superb starring turn by the brilliant Stuhlbarg...Nelson’s ambitions here get the best of him.”
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April 16th, 2019

“The experience of watching Nelson's ‘Socrates’ is comparable to the experience of sitting down to read Plato's dialogues: intellectually stimulating but dramatically inert...The Socrates we get onstage is no fuller than the sketchy one we get on the page....Nelson's tedious dialogue and Hughes's stilted direction feel overwhelmingly burdened by their source material."
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April 22nd, 2019

"Despite the occasional contemporary-sounding reference that may jar a bit, Nelson's play, though a bit stretched out, is generally a fine character study of one of recorded history's earliest known great thinkers...Played by with gentle warmth and humor by Michael Stuhlbarg."
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April 18th, 2019

"Alternating slyly constructed arguments with scorching confrontations and climaxing with a harrowing death scene, it is, arguably, one of the most ambitious offerings of the season; it is also, at times, lumbering, drunk with the power of its own words, and willing to follow unprofitable tangents as far as they will lead. Then again, in the title role, Michael Stuhlbarg gives a titanic performance that crowns his career to date. It's a tough piece, one that demands you wrestle with it."
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April 16th, 2019

"Instantly one of the very best in a season unusually blessed with top-drawer entries...Hughes is hotly on his game here...As for Stuhlbarg, his performance of Socrates’s death is one of the most convincingly memorable as any experienced on a stage in some time. Maybe ever...Nelson depicts a democratic state as often contentious, as frequently at risk of foundering, as a political cauldron. In other words, he’s set out to unleash a play for our time—and succeeded.”
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April 16th, 2019

“Nelson has crafted a portrait of one of Western philosophy’s most influential thinkers that’s as bracingly smart and frank as it is richly entertaining and accessible...Watching Stuhlberg, as the philosopher, engage and then interrogate his targets is like observing a master musician at work...Under Hughes’s astute, vigorous direction, the actor offers a devastating portrait of the toll of single-minded righteousness, not only on the protagonist but on his detractors and champions alike.”
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May 3rd, 2019

“For all you philosophy junkies out there - and you know who you are -Tim Blake Nelson's world premiere Socrates at The Public Theater, the shining light of The Public's Onassis Festival, is a treasure trove of ideas bantered, tossed, shredded and otherwise analyzed by a stage-full of ancient Greeks, led by the title character played with dignity and passion by the phenomenal Michael Stuhlbarg (the father in the film ‘Call Me By Your Name’) and a cast of 16 mostly playing multiple roles.”
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April 16th, 2019

“Excellent as the entire ensemble is, keeping up with who plays who and when can be a challenge...Furthermore, provocative and well worth thinking about as all these ideas are, it's a lot to take in...All these philosophical interactions often get too far ahead of the audience, causing attention to stray for a bit...Stuhlbarg's attention-must-be-paid performance and director Hughes' assured, atmospheric staging keeps these brief lapses from full engagement to a minimum."
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April 17th, 2019

“The mixture of the birth of democracy and ethics will leave modern audiences stung by the parallels 2500 years apart...what has come to be known as the 'Socratic method,' is illustrated effectively by playwright Nelson...The trick in dramatizing a philosophical topic, is how to make ideas active and urgent...There needs to be some generous pruning of the script...The trial and his death are dramatic indeed, and riveting. The lead up could be accomplished with more dispatch.”
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May 13th, 2019

“The scenario is rich and dripping in clever twists and turns, exemplifying all that is good and strong in Nelson’s Athens...The production is filled to the brim with a cast of pros...Stuhlbarg’s thoughtful embodiment of the philosopher and the dynamic staging pulls us in, dragging us from passive observer to active participant and member of the democratic jury. It’s a wise shift...that makes this ‘Socrates’ alive and engaging, even when he is maddeningly annoying in his process of questioning.”
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April 17th, 2019

“Stuhlbarg does a magnificent job in his performance as Socrates...The playwright is nothing if not diligent...But Nelson has insisted on peopling his play with a cast of 16, all but four of whom portray at least two characters...I’m not sure what any director could have done to...make them come alive, but...Hughes doesn’t do it. He seems to focus on creating attractive painterly tableaux...Blake’s play: Its value lies in the ideas it contains, rather than in the way they are presented on stage.”
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May 3rd, 2019

"An intelligent, well-acted, sometimes engrossing, sometimes sleep-inducing, three-hour talkathon…A didactic drama, dramatizing situations we once read of in Plato, and reminding us of why Socrates was such an iconic figure. But that doesn't mean it's not also something of a theatrical slog, and that its drama is more in the moment to moment exploration of ideas than in the pursuit of a traditional dramatic arc…One might ask Nelson, does it really have to be so damned long?"
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April 16th, 2019

“The play’s strongest suit is Stuhlbarg...Hughes skillfully manages the large ensemble. While several scenes are quite effective, others are repetitious and run on too long...The second act was tighter. The occasional attempts to show the play’s relevance to our current situation seemed a bit clumsy. I was grateful for the opportunity to see a play with a serious theme starring a marvelous actor, but I thought it offered too much of a good thing."
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April 16th, 2019

“Nelson, Hughes, Pask, Micoleau and even Zuber are all masters of the theater who know how to grab our attention — even for those who never read Plato...’Socrates’ settles into the expected series of debates...Nelson gives us the most famous suicide. It’s an extended moment in the theater, brilliantly acted in a way that places it outside time and yet opens a window to the very distant past. We witness a death that changed everything. You will want to be there.”
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April 17th, 2019

“The conversation is intense but never boring in Nelson’s drama, which is getting a splendid staging under the direction of Hughes...Stuhlbarg’s portrayal of the ancient philosopher is a highlight of the season as he makes the influential figure of ancient Greece come vividly alive...What Nelson achieves in his play is a depiction of both the personality and the wit of Socrates...Powerful theater."
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I
April 20th, 2019

"Running at a solid three hours, 'Socrates' intoxicates with the sheer volume of its intellectual richness and robust debates. I would even argue that Mr. Nelson’s ambitious play, like a decadent steak dinner, is too rich to fully digest and appreciate in one sitting...Hughes' staging is clean and muscular, making for scenes that are beautifully and passionately played...In the title role, Michael Stuhlbarg is titanic...The rest of the cast is never less than solid."
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M
April 16th, 2019

“Nelson's brilliant & provocative play...The intoxicating historic biopic...stars the unconquerable Stuhlbarg...This intense & well acted performance is saturated in sagacious pretext...Nonetheless, Nelson has created a credible and deeply moving portrait of one of the most widely known & enduring figures of western philosophy...This impressive & explosive production is a master class of discerning how to think...A must-see powerhouse production.”
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April 20th, 2019

“Stuhlbarg as ‘Socrates’ is everything you could ever want from a physical manifestation of the legendary philosopher...The play is too long. At times it reads as an overly in depth character study; at others, it will remind you of a Philosophy 101 class...And its largest shortcoming is the absence of women in the play...Nonetheless...Nelson has done justice...lovingly breathing life into the man and his philosophical methods in a story that feels like both a history lesson and a warning.”
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G
April 16th, 2019

“’Socrates’, the show is deep, very deep...Fortunately, the close to three hours goes by quickly with superb acting and excellent directing...While all the cast were great, Stuhlbarg and Bougere were standouts...The two commanded the stage. With both humor and style, they were the central focus...With a multitude of actors and the different roles they played, Hughes gave us clear insight to each and every role. Never once was the audience confused, which is not easy."
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