Already closed | 1h 40m | West Village

The Body of an American

From 69 member  reviews
Members say: Great acting, Absorbing, Thought-provoking, Intelligent, Relevant

About the show

Primary Stages and Rhoda R. Herrick present the New York premiere of an award-winning play, exploring the ethical and personal consequences of Paul Watson’s famous photograph. More…

Dan O'Brien tells the true story of an extraordinary friendship as two men, a war photojournalist and playwright, journey from some of the most dangerous places on earth to the depths of the human soul. It is an award-winning glimpse at a moment in recent history when a single, stark photograph - of the body of an American dragged from the wreck of a Blackhawk through the streets of Mogadishu - reshaped the course of global events.

Member Reviews (69)


Great acting, Absorbing, Thought-provoking, Intelligent, Relevant
Avg Score

Ambitious, Original, Thought-provoking, Confusing, Relevant

See it if you are fascinated by war correspondents and how they re-assimilate. The content is ambitious, relevant, and powerful.

Don't see it if you want a comprehensible opening; it's purposely confusing. Being self-reflective (I'm Dan writing a play about Dan) is a cheat. Often slow

Absorbing, Indulgent, Thought-provoking, Original, Disturbing

See it if you are a news junkie, curious about the Somalian war, like plays about writers and friendship, like seeing actors play multiple parts

Don't see it if war talk disturbs you, you expect a more action packed play, lack patience with people seeking to discover themselves

Absorbing, Confusing, Great acting, Intelligent, Intense

See it if Good character work by the actors. A fascinating story about a topic I haven't seen covered before.

Don't see it if It's a little confusing at times, as the actors switch roles back and forth. A lot of stream of consciousness. Hard to take at times.

Ambitious, Thought-provoking, Relevant

See it if You like to be challenged and think about relevant issues regarding the press and its impact

Don't see it if You see shows just to be entertained.

Ambitious, Slow, Confusing, Disappointing, Epic

See it if You like to see 2 people shows.

Don't see it if You don't like topic of journalism.

Absorbing, Ambitious, Great acting, Great writing, Riveting

See it if You want to watch two amazing actors in a new and thought provoking story. Kudos to the playwright and the entire production team.

Don't see it if You expect to sit back and watch mindless entertainment.

Absorbing, Entertaining, Great acting, Moving, Compelling

See it if You like drama and current events.

Don't see it if Just see it.

Absorbing, Great writing, Intense, Resonant, Original

See it if a ruminative, clever, theatrical, beautifully-woven story of cruelty and art, with a warm human center and elegant architecture

Don't see it if you're looking for a more conventional drama or something lighter (though it doesn't lack for humor and the occasional breeze)

Clever, Original, Relevant, Thought-provoking, Intensely powerful

See it if you appreciate the plight of war photographers and agony that comes with revealing ugly truths, like smart plays which force you to think.

Don't see it if you want to just be entertained, don't appreciate good acting and powerful theatre; if ethics and consequences are not important to you.

Disappointing, Great acting, Indulgent, Quirky, Overrated

See it if you like to see the playwright insert himself into the subject matter and talk about his process.

Don't see it if you like plays that aren't indulgent. Here we get to follow a fellow talking about writing his play. Really?

Confusing, Insipid, Thought-provoking

See it if You enjoy a play about the importance of the actions we take and the career paths that lead us those actions.

Don't see it if You don't like unconventionally produced theatre with a a sense of detachment of the characters one another and the material almost.

Absorbing, Thought-provoking

See it if politics and policies in the Middle East confound & frighten you, this is why

Don't see it if you cannot stomach violence and don't follow the news from the Middle East

Absorbing, Great acting, Great staging, Intelligent, Original

See it if Strong acting in minimal setting with powerful staging

Don't see it if You don't like minimal setting with expert staging.

Absorbing, Edgy, Great acting, Intelligent, Profound

See it if You care about current events

Don't see it if You don't care for realism

Confusing, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Intelligent, Ambitious

See it if you like to keep thinking what it is all about. i think i got it!

Don't see it if if you just want to be entertained.

Absorbing, Edgy, Clever, Great acting, Must see

See it if Intelligent, heartfelt, intense, well directed and well acted

Don't see it if Only like silly things


See it if you like serious drama

Don't see it if you don't like serious drama

Great acting, Great staging, Great writing, Intelligent, Thought-provoking

See it if You are open to various genres of theatre, you are interested in testimony & trauma, or you like to see real stories honored on stage

Don't see it if You expect traditional theatre, plot is prioritized in the programming you are currently seeking, you are seeking high-energy material

Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Thoughtful, Topical

See it if you like character studies, good writing, wonderful acting and a thought-provoking insights into a photojournalist's life.

Don't see it if you are easily bored, want "splashy" shows and have a short attention span.


See it if Accomplished actors, superior staging, mesmerizing dialogue.

Don't see it if Fluff.

During previews
Confusing, Dated, Documentary, Great staging, No heart

See it if it's a documentary. It reports on the problems and facts with little self-reflection or evolution. You are not lead to care about the people

Don't see it if Good staging & acting but the back & forth writing style is dated and confusing. It's made to look cooler than the material ever is.

During previews
Slow, Informational, Long winded, Boring, Historical

See it if You like watching the discovery/history channels. Very informational. There will be those who really like this, Im just not one of them

Don't see it if Writing style is dated & you never feel connected to characters. Long winded & Hard to stay interested. Would make a better book/documentary

During previews
Compelling portrait of horrors-of-war photographer and playwright with his own demons

See it if you enjoy story that brings to life the confusing horror/rush/guilt of war photographer, fine acting duo and direction/set

Don't see it if you don't appreciate story without narrative drive, and character (playwright) with confusing motivation in pursuing story of photographer

During previews
Breakneck pace, Interesting, Great actors, Narration-heavy, Ambitious

See it if you want to see a play about two fascinating, haunted men told at a pace that dares you to keep up.

Don't see it if you can't stand shows that don't follow the principle "show, don't tell."

During previews
Confusing, Boring, Excruciating, Slow

See it if you need to catch up on your sleep since this play is B*O*R*I*N*G.

Don't see it if you don't like boring, slow-moving, and confusing plays.

February 23rd, 2016
"A lyrical, untidy and ultimately poignant work of theater…At times the play can seem glum, solipsistic and self-serious, but what invigorates it — beyond the energy and precision of the performances — is the sense of both men struggling, and often failing, to understand what draws them to each o...
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February 23rd, 2016
"A curious, not always successful, but consistently intriguing character study...Director Jo Bonney keeps the pace brisk, the trajectory clear...For O’Brien to draw parallels between Watson’s heroics and his own cushy life as an academically connected playwright comes across as not only presumptu...
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February 23rd, 2016
"The play takes on the frustrating undertones of a therapy session. On top of this, O'Brien's text often veers into theatrical cliché…The actors furiously circle, cross, and shift character in Jo Bonney's deceptively lackadaisical staging…A few false epiphanies wrapped in self-pity and uninspired...
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February 23rd, 2016
"The play is anything but a conventional biography; instead, it's an account of O'Brien's ultimately unsuccessful struggle to figure out what makes Watson tick...Despite these gripping revelations, the rest of 'The Body of an American' disappoints...'The Body of an American' is yet another new pl...
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