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The Low Road

From 29 critic and 146 member reviews
Members say: Clever, Great acting, Ambitious, Intelligent, Relevant

About the show

From Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Bruce Norris ('Clybourne Park') and the Public Theater comes this epic play examining the basic beliefs upon which we’ve built our economy and our country. More…

Set in the 18th century, this wild new work imagines America’s first laissez-faire capitalist, a young man inspired by a chance encounter with Adam Smith to put his faith in the free market. But his path to riches becomes inextricably entangled with that of an educated slave, a man who knows from experience that one person's profit is another’s loss, in this parable about the true cost of inequality. Four-time Tony nominee and three-time Obie winner Michael Greif directs.

Time Out New York

"Sensationally prickly and entertaining new play...In the course of this wide-paneled epic—marvelously assembled by director Michael Greif—Norris aims liberating arrows of skepticism at a diverse range of targets...'The Low Road' enjoys being a play, and its dramatic weaponry is wielded with skill by a first-rate cast of 18...Norris has a heart that doubts whatever it looks on, and its looks go everywhere, even to the audience. In every sense, his play is an embarrassment of riches." Full Review


"Totally engaging with a timely critique of our economic and social values...Director Michael Greif has staged the complex action of the play with style and lucidity. We are swept into this 18th century world while still grounded in our 21st century morass. The cast of 18, with many actors playing two or three roles, is uniformly flawless...An ambitious piece of theater that actually fulfills its ambitions. If only our nation could see its historical heritage as a lesson for our future." Full Review


“Bruce Norris' ‘The Low Road’ may be a bit untidy in the way of all picaresque stories with their ups and downs, and may have taken on a few too many targets. However, not only is it delightfully entertaining with its continual surprises, it may be more pertinent now than when it was written during the Obama Administration with the current policy of de-regulating laws that police the stock market. ‘The Low Road’ is both a cautionary tale and a provocative survey of economic practices.” Full Review


"All-around excellence. The most theatrically stunning and thematically potent new play currently on any NY stage...Newly relevant, thanks to our current leaders' depressing embrace of self-interest...Most members of this big cast zestfully inhabit several major roles...all admirably individualize each part assigned to them...The three actors whose characters dominate the picaresque adventures and who don't play multiple roles are all terrific...Greif's production more than satisfies." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"Brilliant and hilarious screed about greed, racism, hypocrisy and a few other non-deadly sins...If the smart and savvy text isn't enough cause for wonder, there's the brilliantly fluid direction of Michael Grief, the spectacularly clever set by designer David Korins, and the stunning versatility of the cast in which 15 actors, including such theatrical stalwarts as Max Baker and Richard Poe, play numerous roles with ease." Full Review

The New York Times

"Norris and Greif pull off the not inconsiderable feat of keeping us fully, even breathlessly engaged, without presenting a single character who entirely captures our sympathies...Yet after a cliff-hanging first-act finale, the play seems to lose faith in its audience's capacity for inference...What keeps us from tuning out is the infectious energy of an ensemble that delights in its characters' displays of cupidity and stupidity, and the storybook ingenuity of the production." Full Review

Theatre's Leiter Side

"Uniquely engaging, satirically didactic…played with supreme confidence and panache by a versatile, well-drilled company...under Michael Greif's outstanding direction… The kind of story theatre presentation one sometimes sees in adaptations of famous novels...Perfetti is perfectly cast as the comically ambitious,…ruthlessly acquisitive Jim. Chukwudi Iwuji brings passion and elocutionary distinction to John, while the supporting company demonstrates memorable versatility in multiple roles." Full Review


"Wildly ambitious and endlessly entertaining...Greif and Norris present the first act with Brechtian flair, employing...broad stroke performances, and the kind of narration that rudely interrupts the action to teach us something. Yet just when we think we've figured this shtick out, Norris changes the game, especially during a jaw-dropping entr'acte that is the kind of inventive social critique that isn't so easy to dismiss...None of it would be possible without an immensely talented ensemble." Full Review


"Cleverly devised and wonderfully played...A terrific ensemble of players guided by the talented hand of director Michael Grief...A tale of a young abandoned lad who uses his brains and white male privilege to advance in the emerging nation...'The Low Road' is a sharp enough commentary on the long-lived American dream, without necessitating reminders of any newly-developed nightmares." Full Review

Theatre Reviews Limited

"Engaging and entertaining play...Under Greif's exacting and precise direction, the action moves forward smoothly with clarity and determination. The cast of eighteen, many of whom play multiple roles, are uniformly remarkable in their delivery of authentic and believable performances...'The Low Road' is often unsettling; however, its importance to current discussions on greed and corruption is undebatable." Full Review

The Wrap

"One of the many remarkable things about Norris' picaresque tale is that this playwright is able to make the unbridled accumulation of wealth as luridly engrossing as lots of sex...Norris's narrative drive in the first act of 'The Low Road' is relentless...Norris and Greif only give us a breath when they completely shift gears at the beginning and the end of Act 2. It's then that Norris surprises us. In addition to being a great storyteller, Norris is a master of surprise on stage." Full Review

New York Magazine / Vulture

"Norris's rancid, rollicking picaresque...under the sharp-as-a-hatpin direction of Greif...Its parody of the classic young-man-sets-out-to-make-his-fortune story is smart, well-crafted, very well-acted, darkly funny, and beautifully designed...Also so filled with bitterness and loathing...Leaves you cold when the laughter dies down...An ensemble piece, with all 18 cast members doing fine, focused, often funny work...Both entertaining and disturbingly numbing in its hopelessness." Full Review

This Week in New York Blog

"Norris fills 'The Low Road' with economic language and potent platitudes that never get tedious or pedantic — and much of which is as true today as it was in Smith’s time...The second act begins with a brilliantly conceived scene that establishes Jim as the founding father of corporate greed. Greif superbly directs a cast of eighteen...Perfetti brings an engaging quirkiness to the role of Jim; you can’t help but root for him even though he does terrible things." Full Review


"A romping riot for the senses as well as your brain...Greif's smashing production of deeply angry playwright Norris's swashbuckling assault on everything is well and truly underway...Rich torrent of eighteen actors playing forty-nine roles, crackling Norris's laughing diatribe runs its picaresque course...Norris vents scalding scorn on us, on his characters, on himself, on the theater as weak, ineffectual slaves to the injustice and inequality running our lives." Full Review

Gotham Playgoer

"While the play has lots of amusing moments, the targets of satire sometimes seem too easy to hit. The picaresque tale and the cautionary economics lesson do not cohere smoothly. Nevertheless, it is quite entertaining and I will never complain when a production offers the opportunity to see such stalwart actors as Harris, Chamberlain, and Davis...Perfetti is fine...While it's not up there with Norris's finest work, it offers enough to enjoy to make the experience worthwhile." Full Review

Financial Times (UK)

"Story unfolds in picaresque style reminiscent of Thackeray and Voltaire...A dexterous multitasking ensemble of 15 plus a musician, whom director Michael Greif marshals with a sure comic touch...Bawdy escapades are underlain with clear satirical intent...After the interval, the action abruptly shifts to a present-day panel discussion...The play's final third then loses a bit of focus. But its apocalyptic-yet-cheerful conclusion strikes a delightfully bizarre note." Full Review


"Norris's satire of human frailty...It's raucous, raunchy, inventive and constantly surprising...'The Low Road' sees generosity as naive and selfishness as humanity's natural condition. Its biggest flaw is that it occasionally lapses into unnecessary pedantry about how the American financial system enslaves and abuses the underclasses. For the most part, however, this is audacious storytelling, remarkable both for its freshness and the brisk way it takes all of us to task." Full Review

The Playfixer

"Terrific...'The Low Road' is an epic drama about American capitalism, set in the mid-18th Century, narrated by the Scottish economist Adam Smith, whose 'The Wealth of Nations' is capitalism's foundational text. Norris explores the many contradictions of unrestrained capitalism by focusing on the career of a poor foundling determined to succeed, willing to stop at nothing, including murder. Rarely do we get to see a play with such a large cast." Full Review

Front Mezz Junkies

"Norris has found a way to set a story in the mid to late 1700s and smack our modern political nightmare with a powerful punch...With pointed arguments and astute observances...A huge and talented cast...Fully entertaining and a joy to behold...Stunningly simple but expertly designed...Highly energetic storytelling...Second half is not as solidly structured or as tight as the first. Norris becomes a little less focused in his closing argument but manages to hold fairly true to his overall the... Full Review

AM New York

"Unwieldy and upbeat satire/historical drama/lecture...Michael Greif’s two-and-a-half hour production is a boisterous affair with a large ensemble cast, including lively comedic turns from Harriet Harris and Kevin Chamberlin...One can’t help but compare 'The Low Road' with the Broadway musical 'Candide,' in which Voltaire (also an 18th-century philosopher) narrates the picaresque adventures of a far more likable young man who also clings to a single simple philosophy." Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

"A fast-paced and often wildly entertaining pageant...A razor-edged spoof of the economic divide...A social satire about the basic selfishness and foolishness of all humans...This is audience-pleasing stuff, but Norris seems to have lost his way here while trying to cover too much territory...Greif keeps everything rolling along at a fast clip, only occasionally getting mired down in a surfeit of expository narration. The cast splendidly manages a multitude of roles." Full Review

Front Row Center

"'The Low Road,' now at The Public Theater, has one of the best first acts I have ever seen. It is filled with twists, turns, sleight of hand, surprises and deceptions...The first act, however, is followed by the second act...The characters are engaging and every actor in this well-oiled ensemble is terrific...Technically, everything is in the right place at the right time. Everything except that pesky storyline that refuses to stay the course. As a result, the second act drags on too long." Full Review

New York Theater

"There is no way to escape the playwright's built-in commentary, but under Greif's direction, 'The Low Road' is the very definition of rollicking. The long running time can be taxing, since some scenes don't work well, and some are too way out there even to assimilate. Still, there is enough comedy and high jinks along the way to make 'The Low Road' worth traveling." Full Review

Village Voice

"Though 'The Low Road' sprawls in every direction, as picaresque narratives will, and raises far more questions than its two and a half hours can conveniently clarify, its snarky, cynical attitude offers both good entertainment value and great usefulness as a thought-provoker...Not everything in Greif’s production has the tonal assurance of its two mainstays, but the sprawling script poses extreme challenges for a large ensemble in which nearly everyone juggles multiple roles." Full Review

New York Daily News

"It's ambitious, smart, impolite, funny, and unwilling to stay in one era when two will do better. On the downside, the 2 1/2-hour work can be overly blunt and unwieldy. A cast's worth of good performances plus atmospheric design work offer compensation for weak spots...Greif excels at guiding complex stories and large casts. Even with his fine work, the story eventually sags. One wishes something would move it along - an invisible hand or judicious pruning, perhaps." Full Review

Absorbing, Clever, Great acting, Great writing, Entertaining

See it if This is one brilliantly conceived production. As hilarious as it is intelligent. An intelligent weaving of economics and great fun!

Don't see it if You hated Tom Jones.

Funny, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Great concept

See it if You enjoy fun, parable-eqsue stories about economic theories

Don't see it if You love capitalism or Ayn Rand.

Ambitious, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Masterful, Relevant

See it if a terrific night in the theatre, an intelligent, brilliantly performed and directed, satisfying play. Highly recommended!! Great night out!

Don't see it if you don't like history, economics, a Candide-like plot, or a satirical look at America when it was founded and America today.

Funny, Absorbing, Clever, Delightful, Entertaining

See it if you have a vibrant interest in history, politics, economics and what is the make up of our moral fiber. Also if you like vibrant acting.

Don't see it if you are not willing to commit the time and engagement that is required to really enjoy this show, nor have much interest in social satire.

Absorbing, Ambitious, Great acting, Riveting, Great writing

See it if A compelling dramatization of the dangers of capital. There is something Twain-esque about it all. The Public’s mission at its best,

Don't see it if You believe in Ayn Rand.

Ambitious, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Entertaining

See it if This is the play I think everybody should see. It is fascinating, intelligent, and extremely relevant.

Don't see it if No reason not to see it.

Absorbing, Clever, Delightful, Great acting, Great staging

See it if you like inventive & absorbing theatre. This is The Public at its best.Script is clever, fast paced, fun, relevant, and delightful.

Don't see it if you want a realistic, straightforward play.This takes you on a ride, teaches you a lot without ever preaching. It's a gem.

Clever, Exquisite, Entertaining

See it if really good twist

Don't see it if you don't like period pieces with a twist

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

See it if You enjoy wit - this is a very well written critique of capitalism - done with a unique combo of farce & modern dry / dark humor

Don't see it if You really believe in deregulation, privatization or that capitalism is a great economic system then this is not the play for you

Ambitious, Clever, Delightful, Great acting, Intelligent

See it if you political, historical, yet highly entertaining theater

Don't see it if only the very narrow-minded would not like this

Absorbing, Clever, Thought-provoking, Quirky, Relevant

See it if You don’t need a linear plot line and you at open to creative retelling of a history with a talented ensemble.

Don't see it if You have trouble understanding accents, cannot suspend disbelief, are sensitive to profanity and brief nudity.

Also This was a last-minute choice to buy a ticket. The only night I was fr... Read more Read less

Delightful, Great acting, Great writing, Entertaining, Great staging

See it if you are game for some funny misadventures that follow the money and its many twists and turns through the ages. So much fun and lessons too.

Don't see it if you are uncomfortable around slavery, piety, greed, hypocrisy, robbery, and income inequality, since all of this is right there on stage!

Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Relevant, Resonant

See it if You want a palatable primer on economics and social history revealed brilliantly and incrementally. THIS IS FUNNY.

Don't see it if You aren't up to the 2:40 running time. You have no interest in 2008 melt down vis a vis Trump and 2018 in 1700's clothing.

Clever, Great acting, Resonant, Great writing, Entertaining

See it if Terrific ensemble skewering laissezfaire economics with a Tom Jonesish romp through the 18th century and self interested foundling

Don't see it if Your hate satire and love the invisible hand

Clever, Great acting, Resonant, Entertaining, Great staging

See it if You enjoy clever staging and great acting. Economic theory and Capitalusn were brought down to practical and essential elements.

Don't see it if You don’t like time shifting plays.

Funny, Clever, Great acting, Masterful, Great writing

See it if Great take on the origins of capitalism, consistently funny with terrific acting by all. Opening scene of Act 2 not to be missed.

Don't see it if You don’t like wordy plays.

Funny, Ambitious, Quirky, Resonant, Great staging

See it if this is a terrific, strange historical tragi-comedy, a very creative vehicle for incisive political commentary. Norris is a great writer.

Don't see it if it's a bit overlong. In spite of abundant humor, it is not light, and has dark and cynical moments. Skip if you dont like political theater.

Ambitious, Great acting, Intense, Relevant, Entertaining

See it if you like a long-ish play that tackles economic and world events in a cheeky manner.

Don't see it if male nudity, crude language or economic talk are not for you.

Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Indulgent, Unexpectedly funny

See it if you're willing to invest the time and go along for the ride. It's not short (2 1/2+ hours), but engrossing. The narrator is exceptional.

Don't see it if you have to like the protagonist. He is deliberately unlikeable. In the end, it works for the piece but you have to stick it out to see how.

Ambitious, Clever, Intelligent, Intense

See it if You want to see a good well written play with strong perfomances.

Don't see it if You don’t like good theater

Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Resonant

See it if question economic systems like never have before.

Don't see it if you are offended by nudity

Absorbing, Edgy, Intelligent, Relevant, Resonant

See it if You want a play that will really make you think. It is complex and very fast moving. Fact filled, but not preachy. Script is incredible.

Don't see it if You want simple entertainment. This is a very intelligent play that includes many facts and complexities.

Also Chukwudi Iwuji stole the show completely. His acting alone made our ti... Read more Read less

Ambitious, Clever, Intelligent, Hilarious, Entertaining

See it if You appreciate great satire, are a little bored with typical American "family plays," are interested in discussing capitalism and economics

Don't see it if You don't like long plays, you want something simple or straightforward, have trouble with fast, dense dialogue

Absorbing, Clever, Great acting, Intelligent, Great writing

See it if Wonderful ensemble cast in a play about the roots of American capitalism and it’s inevitable outcome of greed. Very well written .

Don't see it if If you are not interested in historical plays about American economy and finances.

Ambitious, Dizzying, Intelligent, Relevant, Hilarious

See it if You need someone to help illustrate capitalism - and all the other phrases below thrown in.

Don't see it if You're tired of #metoo, #timesup, #blacklivesmatter, etc.