The Body of an American
Closed 1h 40m
The Body of an American

The Body of an American NYC Reviews and Tickets

(69 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.

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Member Reviews (69)

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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)

Critic Reviews (16)

The New York Times
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 other or why they continue their conversation…This ambiguity can be frustrating, but it also feels truthful."
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Time Out New York
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 presumptuous but parasitical...And yet there’s a decided payoff when O’Brien finally works his way toward a personal epiphany which mirrors in some small measure Watson’s own painful, expiatory journey."
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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 stagecraft, 'The Body of an American' looks and feels a lot like a one-man show in a fringe festival (but with two men)…It's hard to walk away not wishing for our 90 minutes back."
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Lighting & Sound America
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 play that might arguably work better in prose form, which would allow for a fuller exploration of both men without trying to force some kind of dramatic confrontation between them."
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Talkin' Broadway
February 23rd, 2016

"The biggest issue is that Paul and his story are undersized…Paul's recollections, tinted and tainted by distance and his own mental state, appear faint and distant, not immediate; you don't experience his heartbreak the way he did, and O'Brien does not otherwise draw it out of him. As a result, an inception point that's supposed to be titanic is microscopic, leaving the rest of the play to feel like a severe case of much ado about nothing."
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March 14th, 2016

"The production is curiously remote and uninvolving...Their meeting provides little catharsis for either man–or the audience...Although Crane looks remarkably like the author, his character remains curiously flat...Cumpsty’s Paul is a more fully developed and as a result he gives the better performance...There is definitely a fascinating story in the friendship between Dan O’Brien and Paul Watson but 'The Body of an American' in this production does not seem to have located it yet."
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Theater Pizzazz
February 23rd, 2016

"Michael Cumpsty as Paul and Michael Crane as Dan are both impressive—and versatile, moving easily into the ancillary characters they are portraying while completely in tune with each other. They have created Paul and Dan with great heart and honesty, and both bring rich life and humor to an incredibly dense play. It was a joy to be there with them."
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February 23rd, 2016

"I found the structure more intriguing than off-putting, though along about the mid-point the interchanges and monologue-like dialogue felt drawn out and excessively wordy…Though some of this does tend to feel like a travelogue and the trajectory of the relationship like a wannabe buddy story, it is offset by the vibrancy of the vignettes…Seeing these two actors on stage throughout the pacey 90-minutes is worth a trip to the West Village for anyone who values good acting."
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February 23rd, 2016

"Under Bonney’s careful direction, the actors deliver authentic and honest performances that engage the audience and connect with the audience on deep levels raising rich questions about 'where war lives.'... 'The Body of an American' asks that profound question of each and every audience member...The set design, lighting design, and projection design all draw the viewer into the matrix of cerebral and psychological constructs that make 'The Body of an American' a play worth seeing. "
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Broadway Blog
February 23rd, 2016

"This is a two-man, with the ambience of a docudrama, although what’s documented is not so much Watson’s the relationship between the two men and the sharing of their respective psychological anxieties...‘The Body of an American’ is as much a triumph of theatrical skill as it is of fine acting and creative dramaturgy. That it also questions the instincts that lead to war makes it even more important that the play be seen."
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New York Theatre Guide
February 24th, 2016

"Watching two excellent actors take on the rolls of several people in a story AND switch playing the two main characters can take it out of a gal. Which is not to say 'The Body of an American' is not worth the trip. It most certainly is...Michael Crane and Michael Cumpsty are in excellent form...This sharing of the two main roles is a contrivance that took a long time getting used to, time I would rather have spent in the story than on the logistics of the staging."
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Broadway & Me
March 16th, 2016

"The 90-minute two-hander devotes so much of its energy to showy techniques like jumping back and forth in time and having both actors play other characters and sometimes exchange their main roles as well, that, despite director Jo Bonney's best efforts, the show ultimately failed to make me care about the connection between the men."
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As Her World Turns
April 12th, 2016

"An interesting two-hander that explores the relationship between playwright/poet Dan O’Brien and war photographer Paul Watson…As someone who takes photos abroad, I found it fascinating to hear about what Paul Watson has witnessed first-hand. His real-life photos are projected onto the set at various points, illustrating his accounts perfectly. Glad to have caught this one."
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January 25th, 2016
For a previous production

"The performances are virtuosic...The actors seem driven by unflinching commitment to telling this story with as much clarity and complexity as they can. Jo Bonney seems just the right person to establish a brisk pace and style that keeps this brainy, text-heavy script urgent and alive...Achingly current, this piece works best for an audience that is hooked on news and world affairs."
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January 15th, 2016
For a previous production

"O’Brien does possess great instincts as a playwright which assure that the evening never becomes static...The play bounces around in time and location, but is always easy to follow… Director Jo Bonney and her two accomplished actors, Michael Cumpsty as Watson and Michael Crane as O’Brien manage to draw the audience in and sustain our interest…They each handle each impersonations with crafty aplomb."
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The Westfield News
January 14th, 2016
For a previous production

"A powerhouse of a drama…The two actors work and move together as intricately as two dancers in a pas de deux…Individually, they give well-rendered performances; together, they’re a tour-de-force…A bold play by an accomplished playwright, that asks difficult questions about the impacts experienced by serious journalists...'The Body of an American' will challenge audiences, and hopefully, like me, will leave the theatre with some fresh perspectives."
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