Manhattan | 1h 40m | Already closed

The Fourth Wall

From 10 critic and 84 member reviews
Members say: Slow, Disappointing, Clever, Dated, Ambitious

About the show

Theater Breaking Through Barriers presents A.R. Gurney's theatrical meta-comedy about the intersection between real life and life on stage. More…

Peggy has redecorated the living room and her husband, Roger, can't stand it. Peggy's usual exquisite taste has been overcome by a mysterious lapse which caused her to redo the room as if it were a stage set. Everything faces one wall, 'The Fourth Wall,' and everyone who enters the room begins to behave as if they were acting in a play. Troubled by this odd behavior, Roger calls in the local theatre professor in the hopes that he can "doctor" Peggy's “play,” break 'The Fourth Wall,' and bring the madness to a close. 


"For the show's first Off-Broadway revival, A.R. Gurney is represented by a talented production team and cast who bring one of his lesser-done shows to celebrated life...The collaborative efforts of a diverse cast are proven successful in this rather momentous production of a show not many people can acknowledge as having seen…As relevant today as it was in the past...Really something quite special, as it keeps the momentum within a show that can easily fall into something of a lecture." Full Review

Theatre is Easy

“A living room drama turned inside out, this meta-theatrical comedy proves to be more relevant than ever…‘The Fourth Wall’ is a little flimsy…The absurdist undertone is very compelling but I wished it were cranked up even more…Despite a few setbacks, 'The Fourth Wall' is a gratifying evening of theatre...Seeing TBTB smashing the perception of disability on stage—by casting actors with disabilities in roles not specifically written as such—is truly inspiring.” Full Review

The Reviews Hub

"Under the guiding hand of director Christopher Burris, the nuances of absurdism and genuine human emotion are well-navigated by a talented cast...Set during George W. Bush’s presidency, many of the themes and issues resonate with today’s audiences, seen in light of the current administration’s 'leadership'...Gurney’s script has a few challenging moments...The satire is at times a lot to take, but the direction, performances, and design use the ridiculousness of the piece as intended." Full Review

Theater That Matters

“Accessible and timely...Though it wavers at times, this is a mostly enjoyable production...The cast does a fine job bringing this meta heavy production to life...Unfortunately, there is some over-acting in this play that bogs it down. This play has music in it by Cole Porter. Vaselli and Drabicki have stellar voices...Yet, the vocal talent of the entire cast is not equally matched...The play within a play conundrum causes some confusion for the audience.” Full Review

Broadway Blog

"Gurney uses the characters and developments to spoof the artistic conventions playwrights and actors have to deal with, and, for a time, the play's stream of satiric tropes and theatrical references get some laughs. Well it often is, the material loses steam…Gurney's critique of the scenic fourth wall…is surely intended for a proscenium arrangement, not Scott's three-quarters round configuration…[This] is a passable light comedy, given particular interest by its unique casting." Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

“Burris and Scott have altered the landscape of Gurney's satire, and in doing so they have nearly done away with it altogether...A cast that demonstrates no affinity for this sort of artifice; instead, they perform in a variety of clashing styles, none of which suit Gurney's comedy...'The Fourth Wall,' even in a really first-class production, offers not champagne, but the ginger ale for which the characters are forced to settle. In this case, the ginger ale is flat.” Full Review

Melinda's Malarky

"Gurney's brilliance evident in sharp dialogues of his earlier works is MIA throughout this mishmash of theatrical structures that degenerates into a cacophonous calamity...'The Fourth Wall' tries too hard to be clever in constructing a new paradigm for playwriting. The incongruent concoction is a discordant drama that fails miserably." Full Review

Off Off Online

“In the right hands, ‘The Fourth Wall’ may muster more trenchant moments than this production; but here Gurney’s experimentation doesn’t pay off. Part of the problem lies with the writer, whose slender conceit is only mildly amusing and hasn’t been fully integrated with his political message...The well-meaning actors lack the light touch called for by the arch dialogue. Instead of bubbling like Prosecco, the production is sodden as milk toast.” Full Review


"TBTB admirably gives opportunities for disabled actors to perform in professional productions, so it is baffling that they would waste resources on such a rusty clunker...The play has aged terribly in the last 16 years, as the novelty of 'Urinetown'-style metatheatrical humor has increasingly taken on the stale aroma of said town...'The Fourth Wall' is essentially a New Yorker cartoon stretched to 90 minutes...Unfortunately, the cast doesn't elevate the mediocre material." Full Review


"Though A.R. Gurney chose a familiar definition of the theater as the title for his 1992 play, 'The Fourth Wall' ultimately proves to be less about the theater than about its four characters. And although these four characters are straightforward enough as written by Gurney, director Christopher Burris does not help his cast to locate them in any way, shape or form, in the current, Theater Breaking Through Barriers production." Full Review

Must see, Profound, Enchanting

See it if Acted in the round by handicapped people is brilliant. Blind, wheel chair bound etc fade into the background with riveting acting of Classic

Don't see it if You are put off by AR Gurney classic style, don’t care for drama, don’t like sitting in the middle of the action, all within 3 rows of stage

Edgy, Relevant, Funny, Entertaining, Indulgent

See it if you love A.R. Gurney, intelligent albeit somewhat self-indulgent writing, and period pieces that are relevant now, you get TBTB productions

Don't see it if you don't like a combination of expressionistic and realistic theatre which doesn't always mesh the two adeptly

Also TBTB beautifully integrates and features actors with disabilities into... Read more Read less

Clever, Resonant, Quirky, Political

See it if you are a A.R. Gurney fan who enjoys both the experimental and didactic aspects of his writing. Yes, the world is indeed a stage.

Don't see it if you are put off by the "message play" that sometimes tries too hard to make a point at the expense of just drama on the stage or this room.

Entertaining, Funny, Indulgent, Great staging, Confusing

See it if you are a fan of A.R. Gurney and enjoy the chance to see one of his less known plays.

Don't see it if You prefer very straightforward plays that don't mix genres. Only expect perfection.

Also The production also demonstrates how differently-enabled performers ca... Read more Read less

Ambitious, Dated, Funny, Intelligent

See it if It is a different Gurney type play, very funny at times with good acting and directing.

Don't see it if This show needed an intermission. If you don't like Gurney.

Intelligent, Sub par acting, Thought-provoking

See it if You want to see something which tries to deal with larger ideas and philosophies. Some good jokes.

Don't see it if You are easily annoyed by some actors. Get bored with repetitive humor. Don't like being pandered to.

Quirky, Slow, Amusing

See it if If you love Cole Porter and enjoy a simple plot line that makes fun of the obvious. Solid acting.

Don't see it if You don’t love Cole Porter. This show is Lso not for you if you would find a play that wants to be a musical annoying.

Great staging, Ambitious, Slow, Disappointing

See it if If you enjoy good writing.

Don't see it if if you enjoy fast moving action and expect excellent acting.

Disappointing, Dated, Excruciating, Indulgent, Insipid

See it if You like out of the box shows with quirky characters.

Don't see it if You want to laugh. You want a complex plot.

Thought-provoking, Confusing, Quirky, Cliched, Dated

See it if You like AR Gurney’s writing and if you enjoy theatre in the round.

Don't see it if You only like musicals.

Dated, Slow, Confusing, Singing, Psychological

See it if you like to have something to discuss for the rest of the night. Also, if you like open (no-borders) casting.

Don't see it if you like a play that is easily categorized and easy to follow.

Dated, Slow, Ambitious, Quirky, Indulgent

See it if you like a time-capsule of late Bush administration sentiment. The set was beautiful.

Don't see it if you're a fan of good acting.

Ambitious, Quirky, Funny, Intelligent

See it if You like thought-provoking, socially conscious theater.

Don't see it if You need a well made play.

During previews
Absorbing, Great acting, Great staging, Great writing, Intelligent

See it if You appreciate AR Gurney. This is a good production of a fun play

Don't see it if You aren’t a fan of Gurney and you need a tradional plotline.

During previews
Dated, Charming, Almost british in its cleverness, Fluffy, Cole porter music!

See it if You aren't looking for a brain breaker like Travesties, but simply want a sweet show that will engage and entertain.

Don't see it if If plays within a play are bothersome, or if you really need a meaty plot to sink your teeth into.

Also This clever piece pays subtle homage to other plays, so the more you k... Read more Read less

During previews
Clever, Entertaining, Edgy, Thought-provoking, Funny

See it if the theater as a subject attracts you. The play is an extended metaphor with excellent performances.

Don't see it if you prefer action to clever dialogue. Also the 3/4 round seating does not serve the performance, try to sit in the center section of seats.

During previews
Absorbing, Relevant, Hilarious, Great singing

See it if “The Fourth Wall” was written during the Clinton-Bush election year 1992, but substantially revised by the author to take into account

Don't see it if Do not go if you do not like A.G. Gurney, or political theatre, or the liberal point of view with regard to activism and unity among people

Also the Bush presidency and the 9/11 attacks. ... Read more Read less

During previews
Ambitious, Cliched, Great acting, Relevant, Thought-provoking

See it if light parody of upper mid class life & worries. Nice singing &piano. Ponder if one can break through, be heard, make a difference politicall

Don't see it if don't like play making fun of & giving comic critiques of itself. Elegant sharp set. Intimate theater space. Great acting. Social political

During previews
Clever, Intelligent, Quirky

See it if you like absurdist theater and enjoy the "theater basics" references (stage props, fourth wall, etc.) Solid acting overall.

Don't see it if you can't suspend disbelief. It's the core requirement for absurdist theater. Along for the ride! The show can get a little 'lecture-y".

During previews
Clever, Funny, Entertaining, Intelligent

See it if You enjoy plays that talk about and reflect on the nature of theater. You like intimate venues where you're up close to the action.

Don't see it if You don't like Cole Porter. You prefer proscenium stages. You dislike theater in the round.

During previews
Clever, Entertaining, Great writing

See it if Great to see a solid production of this 1992 Gurney meta play about decor in a NYC apartment and occupants who suspect they're in a play.

Don't see it if ... you don't want to hear Gurney's meditation about theater vs reality

During previews
Clever, Relevant, Uneven, Good acting, Funny

See it if You're interested in a well-written show that still resonates after 26 yrs, or support the talented Theatre Breaking Through Barriers group.

Don't see it if You don't like political comedies or pointed commentary that relates directly to the current administration.

During previews
Clever, Funny, Great staging, Thought-provoking

See it if Ave. of an 80% and a 75%. Some great lines esp. for theater people. Great set. An "early" Gurney needed a production. Staff so nice at ART.

Don't see it if Repetitious at times. Location of the site still a problem to be solved.

During previews
Ambitious, Clever, Relevant, Heady

See it if Metatheater is your bag. You are entertained by wordplay or borderline absurdist situations.

Don't see it if You want more action and less talk. You are easily distracted by differently-abled actors in roles not specifically designed for them.

Also I'd never seen an A.R. Gurney show before, so I wasn't sure what to ex... Read more Read less

During previews
Ambitious, Clever, Intelligent, Relevant, Funny

See it if You are a fan of A.R. Gurney, like shows staged for 3 sides, enjoy Cole Porter songs mixed into a play, want to see innovative casting.

Don't see it if You don't care for casting that's thinking out of the box, aren't interested in repeated George Bush references.

Cast & Creatives (10)