The Emperor
Closed 1h 15m
The Emperor
77

The Emperor NYC Reviews and Tickets

77%
(26 Reviews)
Positive
77%
Mixed
19%
Negative
4%
Members say
Great acting, Absorbing, Masterful, Thought-provoking, Intelligent

About the Show

This adaptation of Ryszard Kapuściński‘s celebrated and controversial 1978 book of the same title is a parable about power set at the downfall of Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie.

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Member Reviews (26)

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54
Banal, Fluffy, Overrated, Slow

See it if If you want to see Kathryn Hunter in many roles.

Don't see it if Not really good, slow. If you want a show of imitation.

80
Relevant, Masterful, Funny, Moving, Tragic

See it if Faults of monarchical power, but also the love of a bygone way of life. Virtuosic solo performance with wonderful musical accompaniment.

Don't see it if You don’t enjoy non-fiction solo shows. You don’t like ethnic music.

Critic Reviews (22)

The New York Times
September 16th, 2018

"Journalistic virtues are not necessarily theatrical ones. What’s compelling in newsprint, or for that matter in life, does not always scintillate when turned into a play. That is but one of the problems...It is informative and clever, and features a notable performance by that shape-shifter Kathryn Hunter. But as drama, it’s dead...There is little dramatic shape to ‘The Emperor.’ Stating and restating the same proposition for 70 minutes...it comes off as a well-meaning stunt."
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Time Out New York
September 21st, 2018

"In Colin Teevan’s 75-minute stage adaptation, Hunter plays a double-handful of characters from 'The Emperor,' whizzing through gorgeous comic sketches...turning each episode into something funny and poignant and sweet...This is a Hunter showcase through and through...The play does not tell us much about Ethiopia's actual past, nor does it speak to the present moment...Despite Hunter's dazzling performance, 'the Emperor' leaves little impression."
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New York Magazine / Vulture
September 16th, 2018

"Part Brechtian commentary and part clown show, part investigation of the last days of a real regime and part playful, piercing allegory. It’s a concentrated, compelling piece of theater with a light touch...Hunter sketches each player in Selassie’s political theater with sly wit and technical finesse...Selassie is no more than a whispered name...but everyone is complicit in the narrative of his omnipotence...Hunter, Zeleke, Meierjohann, and Teevan reveal all this with agility, wisdom, and humor."
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New York Stage Review
September 16th, 2018

"It has become a cliché to describe Hunter’s basic acting attribute as shape-shifting, but since clichés can usually be traced to inconvertible truths, shape-shifting is a description that gets to the core of any number of her mesmerizing performances...In little more than an hour Hunter, Zeleke, Meierjohann, and cohorts succinctly prove his contention about the multi-faceted good and bad nature of the globally powerful."
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New York Stage Review
September 18th, 2018

“Although Hunter is a vital force, she is no Deavere Smith when it comes to creating an effective range of colorful voices and physical attitudes to project these different people. The text is not greatly varied...so there tends to be a sameness to the performance...Thanks to its fascinating history and Hunter’s forceful presence, ‘The Emperor’ never ceases to maintain interest, but when all is said and done, this mosaic of viewpoints silhouettes the figure of Selassie rather than fleshes him out.”
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CurtainUp
September 18th, 2018

“An athletically staged two-hander...Hunter is a compelling, yet almost Lilliputian, presence. Shifting from one role to another...relying primarily on alterations in posture, inflection, and affect. Some of her characterizations are more distinctive than others; yet she manages to maneuver her lithe frame and manipulate her gravelly voice in strikingly different ways...Teevan's adaptation is a theatrical reflection on present day dictatorial regimes."
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Front Mezz Junkies
September 17th, 2018

"Theatre for a New Audience, much to my pleasure, dives into their new season with a fascinating, although slightly distancing investigation on what it means to be Emperor of a small African nation in the early 1900’s...Deliciously portraying each and every one of those sublime characters is the shape-shifting virtuoso, Kathryn Hunter...This co-production seldom rises too far into the land of greatness and superiority, but the overall effect is worthy of our attention."
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Theatre's Leiter Side
September 16th, 2018

"'The Emperor''s continuing value is as a coolly satirical, universal reflection on the excesses and abominations of autocracies everywhere, not least the one that's growing in our midst. But the chief reason to see 'The Emperor' is the platform it provides for the diminutive British actress Kathryn Hunter, known for her idiosyncratic characterizations of both male, female, and even nonhuman characters…'The Emperor' is brief, thematically pointed, and perfectly executed."
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Off Off Online
September 17th, 2018

"Every bit as intellectual a docudrama as it sounds, mostly lacking emotional engagement. It’s more like history presented with interspersed activity as window dressing...Director Walter Meierjohann paces the show well and uses Hunter’s gift of movement to enliven the talky play...Ultimately, 'The Emperor' is a persuasive portrait of the various ways human beings may succumb to tyranny."
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scribicide
September 16th, 2018

"Kathryn Hunter is one of my favorite living actors, but she is white and British and spends the entirety of 'The Emperor' playing eleven different Ethiopians. This happens without any apparent self-reflection and is profoundly disheartening...Shame on everyone involved who watched and said nothing."
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Show Showdown
September 24th, 2018

“More like a magazine story brought to life than an actual play, ‘The Emperor’ still has much going for it, the main things being the performances of the protean and ever-fascinating Hunter and the music...‘The Emperor’ weaves a vivid tapestry around a Selassie-shaped void. While he is not in the show per se, Selassie's effect, affect, and whims are everywhere...Has a limited point of view...No plot, story line, or arc...Has no conflict itself...But it did motivate me to learn more.”
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Exeunt Magazine
September 12th, 2016
For a previous production

“Hunter performs a complex, sensuous look at Ethiopia’s last emperor, Haile Selassie...Each character is completely distinct...Hunter embraces the tools her physicality gives her...Kapuscinski’s book has been criticised for the way it caricatures the Ethiopians...In anyone else’s hands, the politics of a white woman playing these black people could be deeply uncomfortable. But Hunter’s sensitive performance carefully negotiates its territory.”
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The Guardian (UK)
September 9th, 2016
For a previous production

“Hunter is a strutting minister one minute and the emperor’s pillow-bearer the next in this shrewd and resonant account of Haile Selassie’s fall from grace...A showcase for the actor’s undoubted virtuosity...The problem is that we focus more on the actor’s skill than on the madness of power...Even if this version starts as something of a variety turn by the astonishing shapeshifting Hunter, it gradually expands into a resonant and troubling metaphor for the great melancholy of power."
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The Telegraph (UK)
September 9th, 2016
For a previous production

"Even if you didn’t know and adore her from her remarkable body of work, often gender-swapping, often shape-shifting, you’d be by turns captivated, amused and impressed by what she does here...The neat trick of the piece, directed by Walter Meierjohann, is to create a constant sense of the mercurial and the magical...You can’t keep your eyes off her...What’s needed is a fully rounded theatrical portrait of the man and the myth."
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Time Out London
September 9th, 2016
For a previous production

“The tone is tenderly comic but always earnest: most of the subjects are old eccentrics with extraneous jobs...With the humour coming more from the absurdity of their jobs...Enhanced by the intimacy of Meierjohann’s production, which comes from both the fact it’s mostly just one woman...but also because...she breaks off to involve Zeleke...His inclusion feels generous and his music haunting...‘The Emperor’ is a study in love; a strange, perhaps misplaced love, but love all the same.”
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What's On Stage (UK)
September 9th, 2016
For a previous production

“Hunter is one of the best. In ‘The Emperor’ she stands on a virtually bare stage and in swift, almost seamless motion, brings a whole world to life...This is a tour de force of theatrical story-telling. With the simplest of props...It is Hunter we rely on, alone save for the musician Zeleke, providing music, a sung commentary and – briefly – incarnating the lost, rebellious son...It is a richly absorbing hour.”
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The London Evening Standard
September 12th, 2016
For a previous production

"At first this looks set to be an amusing, detailed parade of oddballs and an exhibition of Hunter’s talents...Meierjohann’s intimate production accentuates Hunter’s mesmeric presence...It is at its best when it also involves Zeleke...The result is an intriguing vision of Selassie’s complexities — not a definitive account, but a suggestive take on his shortcomings and the devotion that he inspired.”
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The Times (UK)
September 12th, 2016
For a previous production

“It’s a fantastic story...I can see why Hunter was chosen. She is a shape-shifter...It’s just Hunter on stage, accompanied by Ethiopian melodies...I think it was too much even for her...It’s a great story but this is a flawed re-telling. The director Meierjohann needed to control the pace more and the set design by Green is too sparse. In the end all the heavy lifting has been left to Hunter and, though she has moments of brilliance, it’s not enough.”
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H
September 20th, 2016
For a previous production

“Teevan has created an extraordinary showcase for the chameleon like Kathryn Hunter...Hunter embodies a dozen of Selassie’s loyal flunkeys, magically switching between them...Her consummate skill is matched by that of krar-strumming musician Zeleke...Meierjohann wisely keeps the staging relatively stark and simple, drawing us into the spellbinding storytelling. A fascinating behind-the-scenes glimpse of absolute power, and a human take on a resonant history lesson.”
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The Guardian (UK)
September 18th, 2016
For a previous production

“Teevan has written a version in which an entire country is conjured up by only two performers...This could easily have become a tedious tour de force. Hunter helps to prevent that with her particular mixture of gravity and irony...The tremendous musician Zeleke is on stage throughout, sometimes singing, sometimes sending out ripples of notes like a wind...It looks levelly at the allure of a man who introduced electricity to Ethiopia.”
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The Arts Desk
September 9th, 2016
For a previous production

“Hunter spellbinds in a very Shakespearean downfall drama...The triumph is shared by everybody involved, lighting and soundscape designers included...Zeleke features as four representatives of the younger generation, but his equally important role is as a musical Greek chorus...He’s as much a true artist as Hunter...Teevan’s perfect adaptation mirrors the three parts of Kapuściński’s study, and this production has all the musical ebb and flow of a great one-hour symphony.”
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A Younger Theatre
September 10th, 2016
For a previous production

"That Hunter provides a masterwork of physical performance will come as no surprise to anyone who has seen her in 'Kafka’s Monkey' or her other semi-legendary achievements. She is made of pure protean stage material, seemingly dissolving and reforming into the different characters...The text itself is wonderfully sparse and direct...The direction of the piece does wonders with the incredibly spare material on which to build."
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