Fuzzy amatuers show score 800x1200
New York | 1h 30m | Already closed

The Amateurs

From 28 critic and 104 member reviews
Members say: Ambitious, Clever, Quirky, Disappointing, Thought-provoking

About the show

The Vineyard Theatre presents this epic new work from Pulitzer Prize-finalist Jordan Harrison, where an intrepid troupe of pageant players races across medieval Europe, struggling to outrun the Black Death. More…

The arrival of a mysterious new actor sends Hollis, the leading lady, in search of answers that can only be found off-script...and soon one century’s plague begins to look a lot like another, more recent, one. Equal parts comic and heartfelt, 'The Amateurs' examines the evolution of human creativity in a dark age: when does a crisis destroy us, and when does it open new frontiers? Directed by Obie Award-winning director Oliver Butler.

1h 30m | Already closed | Vineyard Theatre (Gramercy)

DC Metro Theater Arts

"A profound and witty meta-theatrical meditation on the purpose of art and the role of the artist...Directed with keen humor and intellectual acuity by Oliver Butler, a stellar ensemble of six fluidly shifts back and forth from one character to another...Razor-sharp writing and imaginative staging...'The Amateurs' does it all; it observes, contemplates, and comments; escapes and addresses; entertains and enlightens...Extremely intelligent, funny, and relevant work." Full Review

Stage Left

"A fourth-wall-breaking switch half-way through the show brings its themes into higher relief, contextualizing playwright Jordan Harrison’s interesting, insightful, and relevant ideas about life, death, and drama, and lending a richer resonance to the balance of the play...Refreshing in its structure and narrative creativity, and brought to life by an outstanding ensemble cast, ‘The Amateurs’ is the smartest socially conscious play I’ve seen yet in the Trump era." Full Review

Broadway Blog

"Extraordinary...Visually stunning...The cast is a tight ensemble of skillful actors that expertly vacillate between player to 'real' character in flawless transition, and the weaving of the two worlds is delightfully satisfying to watch...This unconventional style is brilliantly nuanced and works well in the hands of this very capable playwright...There are many profound moments during the play that land deeply, yet never feel contrived or indulgent." Full Review

The New York Times

"A hilarious, slightly eggheaded, and strangely moving medieval backstager...A bit heady for a rollicking tragicomedy in which pratfalls and death throes are tumbled together, that is part of the play's unusual scheme...'The Amateurs' works by a kind of indirection. The magic happens, by design, wherever the playwright isn't pointing...The postmodern gewgaws are a bit of a decoy. They might work even better if there were fewer of them...The cast is a collection of Off-Bway treasures." Full Review


"A frequently funny play about amateur actors struggling to put on a biblical epic...This in-and-out style of storytelling requires a lot of skill to pull off. Under the stewardship of director Butler, the cast and crew manage it...Harrison has captured amateurishness expertly. He has also dared to go deeper, digging into the cultural emergence of individuality. Some might fault him for taking on so much, but that's just what he should be applauded for." Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

"Directed with brazen audacity by Oliver Butler, 'The Amateurs' boasts a top-notch design team...The players, all of whom are superb...We're entranced by Creighton's magical power to entertain us with stories of Harrison's youth...a metaphor for the AIDS epidemic in our lifetime...I ended up leaving 'The Amateurs ' loving my life and loving the theatre so I guess Harrison is on the right track. We should all have such self-awareness of who we are and our place in the world." Full Review

The Wrap

"Audacious new comedy...For a good 30 minutes it's difficult to figure out exactly where the hell 'The Amateurs' is headed...Butler's direction makes the most of Creighton and Bernstine's big moments. It's downright exhilarating to watch them set aside the play they've been performing. Perhaps Butler could have made the opening scenes of 'The Amateurs' a little less obscure, but the payoff is enormous." Full Review

New York Magazine / Vulture

"I found myself won over...The stories are vulnerable, raw, funny, sad, and they allow us intimate access to the patchwork of experiences that shaped both playwright and play...Harrison’s heartfelt meta-monologue is the most affecting part of 'The Amateurs.' The play on either side of it is charming enough but less anchored in terms of its tone...Harrison is juggling several ideas here, but what keeps it all together is his heartfelt questioning of his own art form." Full Review

This Week in New York Blog

"During the first half of Harrison's new play, I found myself wondering just what it was I was watching...The narrative comes to a halt and Creighton...identifies himself as the playwright...Then the magic of theater took complete hold of me...Now every action, every piece of dialogue makes sense...We appreciate Butler's tongue-in-cheek direction...And we owe it all to Creighton/Harrison, for reminding us of the power of theater, where it comes from, and what it can do for us." Full Review

Front Mezz Junkies

"He layers many different questions and concepts within its fascinating structure, but the ride is a worthy one, even when the bumps are confusing, and the overall reasoning not so clear. Directed with an appealing sense of adventure...The writing is sharp, modern, and witty, and the cast is so engaging that the simplistic metaphor is fully and happily embraced. And then something miraculous, wild, and pretty confusing happens, all within a quick flash and a costume change." Full Review

Woman Around Town

"Harrison manages not only to give us a classic backstage scenario but to address morality, mortality, freedom of thought, God, and women’s issues...Except for a contemporary parenthesis which bifurcates the tale, the script is wry, entertaining, and smarter than it looks at first glance...The real time company delivers humor without marking jokes, which is to say admirably as if characters are unaware...Butler keeps tone just right whether in 2018 or the 14th Century." Full Review


"Jordan Harrison's 'The Amateurs' is certainly an ambitious new play acted to the hilt by its cast of six. However, at times it bites off more than it can handle, at other times its anachronisms tear at the fabric of its story, and finally it goes out of its way to draw connections that the audience has already made. The play may need a stronger director than Oliver Butler has proved to be to pull this unwieldy drama into more satisfactory shape." Full Review


"Harrison's triple-decker, meta-theatrical attempt to link that long ago crisis to the AIDS epidemic and more current catastrophies can't be faulted for lack of ambition. To help him realize that ambition, the playwright is supported by truly inventive stagecraft and a top notch cast that's sturdily directed...A bit too ambitious for its own good for the two distinct theatrical styles coalesce and mash its intermissionless parts into a completely satisfying 3-act play." Full Review

Theatre Reviews Limited

"The first part of 'The Amateurs' is uncomfortable in a different way...As it turns out, the iconic Off-Broadway theatre is thinking outside-the-box and out with the fourth wall, inviting the audience into a rigorous session of metacognition...Under Butler's direction, the actors wrestle with the plays disparate themes with honesty. Happy endings, guilt, fear, catharsis - all get bandied about at the play's end with more questions raised than answers given." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"Playwright Jordan Harrison has quite an imagination in this quirky, humorous play with music...And we begin to wonder...so where is this all going?...Another commentary in creative guise. Can have you squirming in your seat but take it or leave it, you have to admire the delivery." Full Review

Diandra Reviews it All

"Quincy Tyler Bernstine steals the show...Jordan Harrison has written an incredibly different play that has, what I now call the 'Annihilation Effect'; where you are left not hating or loving the work before you as much as plucking it apart to witness its experience...For 'The Amateurs,' if you strip away the fear and flashiness of religion, you might find a holier spirit." Full Review

Theater Reviews from my Seat

"The play is a mashup of situation comedy, history lesson, a challenge to authority, and 'let’s put on a show' juxtaposed with a very good, but very long, meta section. The playwright has a lot to say and is not afraid to take risks...I cannot put my finger on what exactly was missing for me in 'The Amateurs.' I left the theater more conceptually impressed than intellectually and theatrically satisfied. A fine production with a strong cast. A unique play but slightly boring too." Full Review

Time Out New York

"Ambitious but inchoate new play...At the halfway mark, Harrison turns the action inside out with a meta theatrical flourish involving two of the actors...To some extent, this section of dramatis interruptus is effective. It has a texture of real life that the medieval sections do not, and it mirrors, in that way, the emergence of personhood that the rest of the show is meant to depict...For all its skill, the play rarely seems either more or less than self-conscious." Full Review

Gotham Playgoer

"Maybe I am old-fashioned, but I feel the playwright should show us in the play what his intent is...The uniformly fine cast deserves better than this. David Zinn's scenic design with its theater on wheels is a delight. Jessica Pabst's period costumes are excellent. Oliver Butler's direction is unfussy. Even though the playwright's attempt to do something different misfires, it fails interestingly. I look forward to seeing what he will try next." Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"This business of playwrights kibitzing on their own work is becoming worrisome...Butler's direction can't really find any urgency or drama in these proceedings, but at least he has assembled an exceptionally appealing cast...The authorial intrusion seems almost an admission that 'The Amateurs' is a play in search of a reason to be. The story it tells should be steeped in horror, suffering, and the struggle for survival. Instead, what it offers is a postmodern shrug." Full Review

New York Theater

"The set-up is clever and accomplished; grim, sure, but also funny, well-designed, thought-provoking...yet, truth be told, maybe getting a little…tedious...A complicated show that might indeed have provoked some walk-outs, if there had been an intermission...The overall tone of 'The Amateurs', for better or for worse, is intellectual, grappling with a myriad of stimulating questions...'The Amateurs' is like a good course. I wish I were a better student." Full Review

Front Row Center

"A well meant play that, with the exception of a mildly interesting mid-section monologue, remains no more than well-meant. The actors are unable to transform this loose knit tale into anything resembling whole cloth. And it is not for lack of trying...While there is nothing of substance in the text of the play, the odd part is I was never lost or bored. These performers do make magic out of flotsam. They weave it in front of our eyes, and they deserved a standing ovation." Full Review

Exeunt Magazine

"It’s a just-fine freeway of a play, one that you feel okay about driving down, but also one that doesn’t inspire too much of anything on an emotional, dramatic, or intellectual level. It’s sometimes funny, and maybe that’s enough?...What 'The Amateurs' is after is admirable and actually rather rigorous, and it’s difficult to argue against any of the choices the play makes individually. But when viewed as a whole, it’s hard to decide whether this particular trip needed to be taken." Full Review

Times Square Chronicles

"Starts off well...Then the show goes off track...Just when the play gets interesting...The cast just doesn't seem as funny as it should and director Butler, does not help. Seems to miss the style....Where Harrison succeeds is he does have some funny one-liners, they just don't go past that. He's also is trying to say a lot, but seems to have gotten stuck mid-through and then could never pick up the momentum. This 90 minute piece of theatre, just seemed so much longer." Full Review

Theatre's Leiter Side

"The play...implodes by becoming a metatheatrical TED talk…So many anachronisms (like 17th-century sliding wings) that theatre historians will need CPR…A cast of well-respected New York actors, under Oliver Butler's nothing-special direction, is unable to make 'The Amateurs,'…running a lugubrious 90 minutes, either funny enough to spark more than a few polite laughs or touching enough to draw tears. Unlike Harrison's last play, 'The Amateurs' isn't ready for prime time." Full Review

Funny, Delightful, Edgy, Great writing, Fun

See it if You enjoy a campy troupe of actors parodying a campy troupe of actors , traveling cart et al. Silly commedia.

Don't see it if You want a Serious play

Absorbing, Ambitious

See it if You like theater at all. It was amazing.

Don't see it if No reason not to see it.

Absorbing, Ambitious, Enchanting, Intelligent, Great staging

See it if Sorry this has closed - it was most engaging and subject matter was meaningful. Wonderful to look at too technically.

Don't see it if You are not willing to go into a different century and then move into our current times and back again.

Ambitious, Dizzying, Resonant, Great writing, Heartfelt

See it if you're interested in the how & why of theater, or what the evocation of a medieval plague might say to us about another, more recent plague.

Don't see it if quick tonal shifts in the theater give you whiplash.

Also A 66-year old gay male New Yorker, I lived through the plague years of... Read more Read less

Great acting, Entertaining, Multi-layered. original., Gorgeous design.

See it if You like to contemplate the nature of theatre, character development, and where writers "get their ideas." You want to laugh and be moved.

Don't see it if You prefer linear plays and dislike anyone breaking the fourth wall or giving a long monologue.

Also I thoroughly enjoyed this play. I'm a writer, and folks always ask whe... Read more Read less

Funny, Clever, Great acting, Entertaining, Great staging

See it if you like very clever writing, terrific acting, great sets. Story is convoluted and fun.I loved the show within the show within the show.

Don't see it if you are looking for a family drama, a glossy musical or a straight up plot.This play has a lot to say about theatre, AIDS, life. Loved it

Funny, Ambitious, Clever, Quirky, Refreshing

See it if you enjoy something different that is funny but philosophical

Don't see it if you want a straightforward piece of theater

Loved it

See it if Terrific acting, great set and costumes funny and smart writing. What more could you want? A conventional structure? Well, get over it.

Don't see it if I loved the whole thing. Sort of like watching a great old movie with Robert Osborne giving some interesting background info w/humor.

Ambitious, Thought-provoking, Entertaining

See it if you like meta-theater, exploring reactions to crisis and emerging individuality.

Don't see it if you don't like anachronism, direct address or want a musical.

Ambitious, Clever, Intelligent, Refreshing, Entertaining

See it if you are a theater lover and a regular theater goer. it has a lot of inside jokes that thespians would appreciate.

Don't see it if you are not interested n history, history of theater, meta-theater, morality plays.

Also the second act is a modern morality play in which the playwright, port... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Clever, Great acting, Masterful, Relevant

See it if you want a play that is different and unexpected

Don't see it if you want the same thing you've seen before

Also I had no idea what to expect but knew that the writer of Marjorie Prim... Read more Read less

Funny, Absorbing, Clever, Relevant, Entertaining

See it if You enjoy new work, funny plays and relevant material. Really wonderful writing and acting. The sets and costumes were great too!

Don't see it if You prefer lighter comedies or plays that you do not have to pay attention to to enjoy.

Ambitious, Clever, Quirky, Relevant

See it if you like Jordan's other work - Marjorie Prime, Maple and Vine - and you're up for a challenge! It's also an amazing ensemble of actors.

Don't see it if you're not willing to pay attention and be forced to think. This is not a light and fluffy piece, despite some great funny moments.

Funny, Clever, Delightful, Intelligent, Refreshing

See it if You like unexpected detours. Love clever and funny plays. Want to explore a topic you might not have thought about

Don't see it if You need a really fancy set to enjoy a play.

Ambitious, Clever, Thought-provoking, Quirky

See it if You enjoy the out of the ordinary and appreciate great ensemble work

Don't see it if You want a straight forward narrative

Also Not sure why this has gotten such scathing reviews. If you are a fan o... Read more Read less

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

See it if Wonder what coins have happed if we changed our actions in historical times

Don't see it if Want to see a musical

Great acting, Intelligent, Relevant, Resonant, Great writing

See it if This is a very thoughtful play. Does art have a purpose? What does it contribute? And, you get a bit of history in the bargain. Loved it!

Don't see it if You don't think about the sonnet Ozymandias every so often.

Great acting, Quirky, Refreshing, Hilarious, Great staging

See it if You like plays within plays in the style of 13th century morality playwrights. Actors fighting to outlive the Black Death. Clever.

Don't see it if You dislike blasphemy, and jokes about the Bible and God. Dislike gallows humor and Monty Python.

Also In the middle of the play, the real... Read more Read less

Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Masterful, Resonant, Great staging

See it if you like your theater with multiple layers of meaning, you enjoy a play that makes you laugh and think at the same time

Don't see it if you're looking for a consistent narrative or a play that makes you think about uncomfortable subjects like the nature of individuality.


See it if Funy musical

Don't see it if You dont want to be entertained

Funny, Ambitious, Clever, Intelligent, Quirky

See it if you’re interested in seeing a meta exploration of character, and what it means to write a fully realized part—mixed in with a lot of quirk.

Don't see it if a traditional narrative is more your speed, or you prefer the fourth wall to stay in tact.

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

See it if you enjoy smart, quirky dark comedies with historical context and modern paralells.

Don't see it if you don't enjoy watching the fourth wall broken.

Clever, Great acting, Intelligent

See it if you are willing to go with the concept of switching time frames and an improbable set-up. Thought-provoking, great acting.

Don't see it if you don't like breaking the fourth wall or suspending disbelief for time switches.

Ambitious, Clever, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Quirky

See it if You don't mind yet another AIDS allegory albeit with a fourth wall break which ultimately breaks your heart.

Don't see it if You want a straightforward narrative, you dont like death presented in a rather desperate comic way.

Funny, Ambitious, Clever, Delightful, Edgy

See it if You want to think - there is a lot going on and there is a lot to think about - both during and after the performance

Don't see it if You want to see a show that has only one objective - to entertain you. You have to put something into this performance to get what is going

Cast & Creatives (13)