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.

... Read 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.

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See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews

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

The Hollywood Reporter

"While this breaking of the fourth wall ultimately proves more gimmicky than enlightening, it does at least provide a respite from the tedious goings-on in the main story...While the play features some clever mostly feels lifeless and heavy-handed...Unfortunately, despite the fine performances by the ensemble, the effective staging by Oliver Butler and the striking scenic and costume designs...this thematically ambitious effort feels a complete misfire." 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

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

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

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

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


"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


"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

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

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

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


"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

Theatre is Easy

"We're tossed back and forth between Harrison's intimate storytelling and the players acting out the scenarios in the same presentational manner...The stark style difference is nice...but I struggled to understand how these two worlds related. As events unfold quickly with not much reflection, often playing out as an ancient melodrama, I struggled to care about Harrison's characters. 'The Amateurs' feels like a draft of a play that just made it a little too far." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"Playwright Jordan Harrison has quite an imagination in this quirky, humorous play with music...And we begin to 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

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

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

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


"His ideas are not original enough to warrant the excessive monologuing, not properly shaped by and with the story he claims he is trying to tell...He is simply taking a shortcut, offering us the Spark Notes for his own text." 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

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

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

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews

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, Clever, Intelligent, Intense, Indulgent

See it if you're up for an unusual, funny/serious play about actors in the time of the black plague...and a comparison to the plague of AIDS.

Don't see it if you're looking for something happy and light.

Ambitious, Confusing, Disappointing, Cliched, Great staging

See it if You love theatre of ideas and don't mind a non-perfect structure

Don't see it if You need theatre that delivers on all it promises.

Ambitious, Clever, Quirky, Entertaining

See it if 14th cent. theater troupe performing plays based on the Bible during the years of the Black Plague. Funny & touching moments.

Don't see it if Play is interrupted midway by 2 actors breaking the 4th wall to tell us the play's messages & modern connections - Aids, art, individualism

Also Although the middle speech was humorous & intelligent, I thought it wa... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Clever, Entertaining

See it if see more

Don't see it if see more

Also caught the closing night . can easily see various viewpoints depending... Read more Read less

Banal, Disappointing, Excruciating

See it if you want to see something new. The play started out nicely very lost along the way.

Don't see it if you don't enjoy theater.

Ambitious, Clever, Great acting, Overrated

See it if This show is too clever for its own good. The talented and rather engaging cast plays along while the play's author gets to act superior.

Don't see it if While people die & life goes on, the play's theme seems to bounce around like an aimless pinball while making fun of actors played by actors

Funny, Ambitious, Clever, Thought-provoking, Quirky

See it if you're interested in a play about the agency of character and the motivation behind storytelling. The meta monologues are best parts.

Don't see it if you don't like direct address to the audience and breaking of fourth wall, you prefer the narrative of a play to flow and build tension.

Thought-provoking, Interesting, Not for everyone, Many tonal shifts

See it if You are an adventurous theatergoer and are willing to keep an open mind.

Don't see it if You don't like it when actors break the fourth wall.

Funny, Absorbing, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Great staging

See it if You're into a non-traditionally structured play that takes issues of today and relates them to the past.

Don't see it if You're looking for a standard play in terms of plotting. Or you're turned off by plays about the plague.

Also I very much appreciate Jordan Harrison for not writing the same play o... Read more Read less

Ambitious, Clever, Quirky, Indulgent, Disappointing

See it if an interesting premise

Don't see it if was not for me

Ambitious, Clever, Quirky, Slow, Entertaining

See it if Very slow start which jump starts in a clever middle section. Lead actress is strong but shows is still a struggle. Very meta.

Don't see it if You need a clear linear plot. Not interested in slightly avant-garde shows.

Ambitious, Slow

See it if You'd like a pseudo-medieval play plus the actors' lives then a too-long monologue by the writer with a commentary on a modern plague -- HIV

Don't see it if You don't have tolerance for mixtures -- a comic play and tragic actors plus an indulgent monologue on a not very original comparison w. HIV

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, Indulgent, Disappointing, "playwright" tells you what play is about, Bad playwriting

See it if You like plays in which the playwright is a character,breaks the 4th floor & tells you what his play is about.You like to be told,not shown

Don't see it if You enjoy the meaning of a play to reveal itself through dramatization and dialogue between characters & not by a lecture from playwright.

Ambitious, Great acting, Quirky, Indulgent, Confusing

See it if Want to see an allegory comparing plague/Noah to AIDS. Gifted cast with thought provoking explanation connecting plague to AIDS

Don't see it if Don’t like having show being interrupted by “playwright” spelling out show is connecting plague to AIDS in weird unnecessary tangent.

Excruciating, Insipid

See it if You will see any avant-garde performance available.

Don't see it if Cheap set, terrible acting, boring incomprehensible plot, actor comes on stage halfway thru to try to explain what this nonsense is about.

Great acting, Banal, Excruciating, Insipid, Slow

See it if If you like good acting and 13th century type plays.

Don't see it if The show gets boring, confusing and slow. This piece should not have been brought to stage yet, needs a lot of reworking.

Banal, Confusing, Disappointing, Excruciating, Too long at 90 minutes

See it if you enjoy seeing plays that seem to be like a first draft. It is hard to imagine what Douglas Aibel and Sarah Stern saw in this play.

Don't see it if you do not enjoy a long, ponderous evening at the theatre.

Also The cast—most are NYC theatre treasures—deserve so much better than th... Read more Read less

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, Great acting, Quirky

See it if you're open to thinking about what life is really all about

Don't see it if you need a neatly tied up story, hate medieval acting troupes, and need an elaborate set.

Clever, Great acting, Intelligent, Relevant, Great writing

See it if You like meta-theatrical performances, enjoy theatre history, are fascinated by the creative process, and prefer dark comedy.

Don't see it if To be fair, I’m weird and this appealed to my weird sensibility. So it might not be everyone’s cup of tea.

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.

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.

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

See it if you're a fellow fan of Vineyard championing the offbeat. Difficult to recap w/o reveal. Come away humbled: theatre's a window like no other.

Don't see it if you hate the quirky, tongue-in-cheek, over-the-top, which is on full display here; you need linear, unambiguous plot, resolution, or meaning

Also Post-performance discussion was so helpful in processing this sweetly ... Read more Read less

Cast & Creatives (13)