Members say: Great acting, Entertaining, Funny, Slow, Disappointing

About the show

Lincoln Center Theatre presents Richard Greenberg's new drama about a writer and the special student who reawakens his artistic impulses. Starring Josh Radnor ('How I Met Your Mother') and Elizabeth Reaser ('Twilight').

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Levittown, 1967. It’s the first night of an adult-ed Creative Writing course in a classroom at the local high school. The teacher, Aaron Port (Radnor), lives in Greenwich Village and reverse commutes once a week on the Long Island Rail Road’s Babylon line to Wantagh. His students are a mixed bag: Frieda Cohen, Anna Cantor, and Midge Braverman, housewives all, embrace each other on arrival. The two men in the class, Jack Hassenpflug and Marc Adams, keep mostly to themselves. One final student, Joan Dellamond, rushes in late. She is a housewife, but not like the others. Maybe this class will bring her, and Aaron, something that neither quite expects. Playwright Richard Greenberg is the author of numerous Broadway plays including 'Eastern Standard' and the Tony-winning 'Take Me Out.'

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See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews

The New York Times

"Though it offers choice examples of the off-kilter lyricism that is Mr. Greenberg’s signature, 'The Babylon Line' feels like a gifted writer’s notebook, stuffed with beguiling phrases and ideas still waiting to cohere into a compelling shape...The students are embodied by a mouthwatering cast, directed a bit fuzzily by Terry Kinney...Meta meanderings are typical of 'The Babylon Line'...While the most far-fetched of these are entertaining, they never take on much urgency." Full Review


"Greenberg is clearly interested in endings, and he gives us a grand one in this thoughtful and sympathetic drama...Director Terry Kinney crafts potentially explosive moments with care and restraint, allowing the tension in the room to build slowly and surely until we are fully invested...Greenberg sacrifices the tragedy of the moment for the comedy of the long perspective — and we are grateful to him for it." Full Review


"One of those modest little gems that contains sparks of white light if you look hard enough…This is the kind of unpretentious but thought-provoking play that Lincoln Center always does to perfection…Kinney, who has done terrific work on this show, takes care to keep the chemistry between Aaron and Joan on the boil. But for sheer eccentricity and bittersweet feeling, what really resonates are the lives of all of these characters—especially the secret lives that emerge in their writing." Full Review


"Richard Greenberg's clever, sentimental and occasionally steamy drama...Played with the right touch of aching restraint in director Terry Kinney's faded memory of a production. Greenberg's choice to include a lengthy 'what happened to then next' epilogue is the only misguided move, especially when points concerning Aaron and Joan get rushed into an ending, but 'The Babylon Line' is still a pleasing excursion with good humor and warm pathos." Full Review

New York Magazine / Vulture

"A fatally mild production…Some of Greenberg's best plays mix disparate modes expertly, whether alternating narration and action or contrasting different versions of history. Both tactics are attempted here, but fall flat because the thing remembered is so banal…What is supposed to be the main story is a nonstarter, in part because we know that Aaron will never respond to Joan’s outrageous propositioning and in part because Radnor and Reaser cannot find anything convincing to play." Full Review

Time Out New York

"'The Babylon Line' is by Richard Greenberg; barbed repartee, shiny epigrams, and baroque arias of loss and longing all come with the territory...Director Terry Kinney steers a fine cast to a nice balance of whimsy and wistfulness...It’s the plotting and momentum of the second act in which things grow fuzzy and attenuated...The digressive wrapping up of narrative threads in the last 20 minutes unfolds less like compelling drama and more like dutiful housekeeping." Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"Greenberg has a knack for creating characters who consistently surprise us without contradicting what we already know about them, and he can spin a narrative that has the richness of a novel...Under Terry Kinney's direction, a fine cast brings this eccentric menagerie to life...Greenberg builds a marvelously complete universe with his characters...For all his irony and wit, Greenberg captures it in its twilight glory." Full Review

Broadway Blog

“'The Babylon Line,' while highly listenable, never finds the right balance between its contrived storyline, self-conscious dialogue, and colorful but artificial characters. In other words, while superficially charming it lacks sustained credibility and structural stability….Director Terry Kinney hypes up the energy, creating a mostly comedic atmosphere, but the humor is spotty, and the darker scenes are hard to reconcile with some of the broad accents and eccentric behavior.” Full Review

The Hollywood Reporter

"What a beguiling and unpredictable play...While Greenberg could be criticized for being too discursive, that ends up being part of the play's charm, as stories and revelations about each character shed a different light on them...Kinney and his superb cast are attuned to the silent undercurrents of Greenberg's writing as much as the sly flourishes of wit and cruelty and the elegant streams of prose-like dialogue, making 'The Babylon Line' an idiosyncratic pleasure." Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

"The more the pieces fall into place in Act II...the more entertaining and rewarding 'The Babylon Line' is. It's in the more intimate scenes that Greenberg stumbles and stands in the way of the play's greatness...Ignoring someone for two hours and then showing us in the last 10 minutes how vital they always were is a tricky prospect, and one that Greenberg has not nimbly navigated...The outcome may be worthwhile, but...sticking with these people until you reach it is not easy." Full Review

Times Square Chronicles

"Richard Greenberg’s 'The Babylon Line,' is already at the end of the play before it even starts...Kinney uses previous characters and inside jokes, but seriously who else but a critic is going to get the humor? These women are politically offensive and instead of making a comment, we are supposed to get that footnote...By the end of the play it felt like we had just sat for over two hours in Mr. Greenberg’s therapy session where even he couldn’t figure it out." Full Review


"Fine as Josh Radnor and Elizabeth Reaser are, my focus was pulled elsewhere in this provocative but maddening play...Were I more generous of spirit, I would speculate that this is the playwright’s intention, to bury Aaron in his failure. Instead, it’s where I lost interest in 'The Babylon Line,' and I felt that Greenberg did as well, since the ending — the several endings — are a muddle of inconclusiveness." Full Review

Front Mezz Junkies

"When he just lets the story unfold, there is something beautiful being played out between the teacher and his writing class students, most excellently played by a cast of pros…Each and every time Greenberg veers out of the classroom and propels Radnor to break the fourth wall, the play loses all sense of authenticity and importance...It’s almost comically insane that a story about an adult education creative writing class taught by a writer gets thrown off track by the writer of the play." Full Review


"It's all overambitious and too diffuse. Yet, Greenberg is still very much at the top of his game as a gifted wordsmith, which means bursts of lyricism as well as characterizing conversations filled with hilarious and stinging comments...The concluding update of how everyone fared over the years feels tacked on...But with Greenberg doing the neatening up, you can't help being glad that you took that train ride to suburbia with him." Full Review

Front Row Center

"Richard Greenberg is a master of word wars. Intelligent, clever word wars!...His arguments are Shakespearean in their verbiage, a heightened emotional state...At the end of the play there were polite applause but we want emotional connections–especially when there is so much promise. Emotionally we were left stranded on the boarding platform, hoping for another train to come our way." Full Review

Bob's Theater Blog

"Greenberg’s look at a creative writing class in the local adult education program initially shows promise…The first act proceeds smoothly, but after intermission things go seriously off the rails. The second act is overlong and overwrought, burdened with lame gimmicks and false endings…Director Terry Kinney gets tripped up in the second act problems." Full Review

The Wrap

"Greenberg can’t seem to make up his mind what characters, plot line, or ideas he wants us to follow...Fortunately, his many detours and transgressions work only to keep us riveted...Greenberg and director Terry Kinney know precisely how to deliver and play, respectively, this material...One of the true theatrical pleasures of “The Babylon Line” is its dark playfulness...’The Babylon Line’ has much to say about the nature of creativity and how imagination shapes reality, and vice versa." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"A master wordsmith with a gift for poetic language and a sharp eye for characterization, Greenberg keeps us engrossed during this meandering journey, even if we’re still a bit flummoxed when the proverbial train finally pulls into the station...Greenberg knows the rules so well he feels free to break them, here, eschewing a simple linear plot...It’s amazing the play doesn’t collapse under its own weighty ambitions...Those seeking an easy ride might be better off staying home." Full Review


"If you love the way Greenberg writes about the extraordinary twists in ordinary lives — which I obviously do — you will be patient with the leisurely setup...Trust that with this prolific Tony-winning playwright, payoffs are eventually coming, lots of them, and they are worth the wait...Director Terry Kinney treats them at first like gossipy, close-minded cliches. We are meant to underestimate them, but Greenberg and Kinney have more in mind for this first-rate cast." Full Review

Woman Around Town

"The mostly entertaining show, which features a number of well-drawn, idiosyncratic characters as well as playwright Greenberg’s signature wit, sympathy, and splendid use of language, is riddled with incongruities...Additionally, the piece seems to end two or three times, making the experience bottom heavy and overlong...Director Terry Kinney keeps the piece moving, creating attractive onstage pictures. There is, however, a missed opportunity for small idiosyncrasies." Full Review


"Unfortunately, those characters seldom achieve fully human dimensions in the play...What emerges is a muddle of ideas and styles...With 'The Babylon Line,' Greenberg's characteristic wit and intelligence are present, but so is a commitment to language that often overrides attention to plot and character. Scenes and speeches can seem forced into the whole." Full Review

Financial Times (UK)

"How then does a playwright turn such creative torpor into a decent yarn? Greenberg’s answer is to add increasingly large doses of eccentricity as the student authors supposedly lay bare their darkest fantasies...Under Kinney’s brisk direction, these anecdotes become plays that the ensemble perform with impressive dexterity...But, for all its cleverness, 'The Babylon Line' suffers from a basic dramatic flaw: both Aaron and Joan’s characters remain frustratingly static throughout its two hours." Full Review


"Although 'The Babylon Line' is as funny and literate as his previous works, Greenberg seems to be struggling to unite all the separate threads into a smooth whole, awkwardly depending on the central character's breaking the fourth wall. Certainly, the play is populated by well-drawn personalities, but that isn't enough to make it work." Full Review

Off Off Online

"'The Babylon Line' has abundant wit; but it’s a melancholy wit that is this playwright’s mid-career trademark…Greenberg has a gift for creating clear, distinct characters with elliptical dialogue...In the current production, expertly directed by Steppenwolf veteran Terry Kinney, the playwright’s efforts are enhanced by balanced, insightful performances from the seven cast members and the evocative scenic design and costumes." Full Review

Act Three - The Reviews

"Richard Greenberg has penned yet another fascinating character study...Mr. Greenberg certainly knows how to tell a story - and what a tangled web he does weave way out on the Babylon Line once a week in Levittown!...Tough, tender, interesting, a bit of Long Island history, and a generally magical evening in the theatre. Could Mr. Greenberg nip and tuck in a few scenes, sure. Did it matter? Not very much." Full Review

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews

Absorbing, Intelligent, Quirky, Cliched, Slow

See it if You like ensemble character-driven plays.

Don't see it if You like more quick action in your plays.

Indulgent, Cliched, Overrated, Slow, Dated

See it if you enjoy story-telling theater, and like the process of telling stories more than necessarily being surprised or riveted by the content

Don't see it if you want edgy stories with a profound or lasting impact

Relevant, Indulgent, Cliched

See it if you're interested in the ideas of stories and how they're told, and/or if you're from Long Island (there are lots of fun references).

Don't see it if you prefer musicals, or are looking for a more innovative/fringe play.

Funny, Clever, Great acting, Quirky, Entertaining

See it if you: like comedies that poke fun at pretentious academics & suburbanites; like Josh Radnor, enjoy Jewish-themed jokes, like light comedy.

Don't see it if you are offended by caricatures of Jewish Long Island matrons & academics, don't like comedies with a narrator, don't like Josh Radnor.

Great acting, Disappointing, Entertaining, Surprisingly enjoyable

See it if You don't mind being able to figure the plot points early, want some decent acting, and to laugh- I was pleasantly surprised to laugh often

Don't see it if You want depth, for a story to slowly reveal, or a profound experience

Funny, Indulgent, Entertaining

See it if you enjoy thoughtful and amusing discussions of writing, and catty jokes from old ladies.

Don't see it if you'll be bored by extended prose monologues, or if you like things to happen in your plays.

Great acting, Disappointing, Needs a good dramaturg

See it if You like Greenberg's work and have the patience for his less than excellent writing. Interesting character development and wonderful cast.

Don't see it if Jewish stereotypes offend you. Poorly resolved story lines frustrate you.

Absorbing, Ambitious, Clever, Great acting, Great staging

See it if The suburban middle class gathering setup belies the rich character studies created by Greenberg and imaginative staging by Kinney

Don't see it if <spoiler> there is a line that suggests a link to another Greenberg play - the thought of a trilogy took me out for 1 minute

Great acting

See it if You want to see some great acting.

Don't see it if The play is weak .

Disappointing, Overrated, Slow, Dated

See it if you are looking to get exposure to different playwrights.

Don't see it if you are looking for something engaging.

Also This show is slow moving and leaves the audience unfulfilled.

Banal, Disappointing, Cliched

See it if there's a place in your heart for 1960's Long Island. Some fun familiarity (remember Jan's). Graff/Holston and Wood doing good work..

Don't see it if You're easily bored by banal story telling. Not close to Greenberg's better work, Take Me Out or Assembled Parties. But better than his last

Funny, Clever, Great acting, Disappointing, Overwrought

See it if You want to se some wonderful theater veterans give spot-on performances. And if you've ever lived in a suburb you'll relate.

Don't see it if You want something short and sweet.

Funny, Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Great writing

See it if A nostalgic look back at a certain place in time from Long Island. Randy Graffand Frank Wood steal the show. Funny.

Don't see it if If you're not familiar with LI in the '60s, you might not get the references. I found Elizabeth Reaser annoying.

Banal, Disappointing, Overrated, Slow

See it if I thought the performances were pretty good but the play seemed a bit lazy. I'm a fan of the author but this is not his best work.

Don't see it if It's a rather boring plot. People taking a creative writing class. Some laughs but not enough to carry you through 2 and a half hours.

Funny, Absorbing, Intelligent, Quirky, Entertaining

See it if You can relate to people who use creative writing as a mirror to their souls, in a well done show about their interactions with each other.

Don't see it if You are looking for a musical and the premise doesn't spark an interest.

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

See it if You like Richard Greenberg plays and are from Long island

Don't see it if you like things tied up in a bow. It feels like a novel.

Intense, Banal, Cliched, Insipid

See it if A poor play with uninteresting characters not well performed. Goes nowhere!

Don't see it if If you want to be engaged by an interesting problem well done!

Funny, Clever, Disappointing

See it if A pretty good play from Richard Greenberg being given a good production by LCT & Terry Kinney, but we've been here many times before.

Don't see it if Many of the actors come out of character to play in short scenes as other characters which plays with your idea of their main roles.

Funny, Intelligent, Quirky, Too long, Uneven

See it if you enjoy good writing, interesting situations and characters, and an unpredictable plot line, even if the play is too long.

Don't see it if you are allergic to actresses who substitute mannerisms for truthful human behavior. Just one can undermine everyone else's work!

Funny, Edgy, Great acting, Intelligent, Thought-provoking

See it if you want to be entranced by a smart, small little show. You love HIMYM and want to see Ted Mosby onstage.

Don't see it if You crave spectacle or you're one of those types averse to stories about writers.

Ambitious, Great acting, Indulgent, Disappointing, Cliched

See it if you are patient and happy to see snippets of something good. the core story is compelling, but the rest is lazy story telling

Don't see it if you can't stand plays that meander off their topic. lots could be cut from this, especially when the lead talks to his audience directly

Great acting, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Cliched, Slow

See it if you are willing to wait and see how things develop and how characters interrelate. Not much action but interesting dynamics

Don't see it if you need intense entertainment and are put off but characters rather cliched but still interesting on a deeper level

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

See it if You want to experience a very original and creative play by the talented Richard Greenberg. Excellent cast and performances,esp.Reaser&Graff

Don't see it if You prefer straight forward,step by step plots.It is a quirky and unusual play and may not be for everyone's tastes

Banal, Slow, Entertaining, Very uneven acting...

See it if you are a fan of Graff's. There is some mystery and it has some funny vignettes. It's cute.

Don't see it if writing meanders aimlessly in the first act to have some cute ex-machina sense made out of it at the very end. Acting is severely uneven.

Also The chemistry between the main characters is virtually non-existent. T... Read more Read less

Ambitious, Edgy, Great acting, Indulgent, Great writing

See it if enjoy funny repartee from a seasoned playwright delivered by a well directed cast

Don't see it if you don't care for trite references to literature delivered by a cast telling a fable

Cast & Creatives (16)