New York | 1h 45m | Already closed

The Niceties

From 8 critic and 51 member reviews
Members say: Relevant, Thought-provoking, Great acting, Intelligent, Absorbing

About the show

In Manhattan Theatre Club's new drama, at an elite East Coast university, a polite conversation between a professor and a student becomes a powder keg of race, history, and power. More…

An ambitious young black student and her esteemed white professor meet to discuss a paper the college junior is writing about the American Revolution. They’re both liberal. They’re both women. They’re both brilliant. But very quickly, discussions of grammar and Google turn to race and reputation, and before they know it, they’re in dangerous territory neither of them had foreseen – and facing stunning implications that can’t be undone.

Front Row Center

"Nothing is resolved. I loved it. The other thing that I really liked about Burgess’ approach to her two-character, conflict-filled play is that there is no clear villain...'The Niceties' crackles and sparks with friction. Burgess’ characters are drawn with precision and her dialogue is expertly crafted to keep the both the tension and attention high...What it does do for the audience, is allow us to listen to both sides without an emotional stake in the outcome." Full Review

Gotham Playgoer

“It would be hard to find a timelier, more relevant play...The play is all the more poignant in that it is set in pre-election 2016...The play is not without its flaws: at first the author comes dangerously close to making Janine a caricature, but she partially redeems this with some humanizing information later on...The arguments occasionally become repetitious, but the topics are so timely and important that I didn’t mind...Senior’s direction keeps things moving forward briskly.” Full Review


"In Burgess' thought-provoking 'The Niceties'...while one side appears to emerge victorious in the court of public opinion, neither is unscathed...Both actors give persuasive performances, with Boatman's Zoe seeming intimidated at first, but switching firmly into activist leadership mode...Though Janine is sometimes scripted as being too condescending...Banes does a fine job of showing the character's struggle to retain her composure when her belief in racial equality is challenged." Full Review

The New York Times

“A bristling, provocative debate play about race and privilege in the US, and it begs to be argued with — partly because Burgess has manipulated the contest in ways that feel unnecessary. But it is also a drama about the destructiveness of internecine fighting...It’s odd that Janine, with all of her experience, doesn’t immediately suggest places Zoe might look to bolster her thesis. And while Janine is not a cardboard villain, Ms. Burgess gives her some clunky lines that make her sound like o... Full Review


"Despite Kimberly Senor's subtle direction and, impassioned as Barnes and Boatman are, they somehow come across as manufactured mouthpieces for the arguments Ms. Burgess wants to bring to our attention. Ultimately I found myself wishing I could like both these women better and that I wasn't turned off by some of the extreme rhetoric." Full Review

Time Out New York

"The arguments Burgess presents—about free speech versus cultural sensitivity, and the difference between endorsing and enacting progressive ideals—are nuanced and timely...Despite the performers' excellent efforts, however, the combatants seem more like political positions than people; the plot that has been grafted onto their righteous pontifications rings hollow, and the sparring becomes repetitious, especially since neither woman seems capable of change. Perhaps that’s the point." Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

"The play of ideas starts careening out of control. The discussion turns into shouting, and Boatman talks faster and faster, divulging well-worded opinions she can't possibly have come up with on the spur of the moment...Janine, meanwhile, in Banes's calm, well-calibrated performance, is a voice of relative reason, to these ears at least...Senior might have toned down Boatman's volume and hysteria to bring a more equal weight to both arguments." Full Review

New York Stage Review

"I cannot remember the last time I left a theater feeling more frustrated or irritated...Both characters are clearly intended to be sympathetic...Sadly, few of these qualities, save for punishment, figure in any meaningful way in 'Niceties'...As an appeal to our better, saner angels, 'Niceties' doesn’t just fall flat; it actually contests the potential for smart, well-meaning people to cut through the polarization and rancor." Full Review

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

See it if For those who don't like easy answers to racial and gender issues and are ready to question themselves, no matter how liberal they are.

Don't see it if If you are not ready to question yourself and accept that, even with the best intentions, sometimes you get it wrong. Though provoking

Absorbing, Cliched, Intense, Profound, Must see

See it if If you want to see an intelligent impassioned debate between current points of view, represented masterfully.

Don't see it if If you want lighthearted entertainment, or an action show.

Also This is an important play for current academic environments especially

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

See it if An under-represented black activist demands her gay uni. prof. change the curriculum. The volleys are smart & balanced. Reliable Lisa Banes!

Don't see it if Smart play about smart women with a dumb ending.

Also Sample dialogue: "I want the white boy treatment."

Intelligent, Great writing, Great acting, Relevant, Riveting

See it if You want to FEEL your theatre. Two great actors sparring with an incredibly timely and relevant script that makes you root for both/neither!

Don't see it if You don’t like theatre that puts your stomach in a knot and makes you rethink some of your core beliefs.

Also I loved this show!!! It wasn’t easy to watch. It made me squirm and ma... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Intelligent, Great acting, Great staging, Relevant

See it if you enjoy 2-character plays in which neither character is the villain. If you like plays that are timely and thought-provoking.

Don't see it if you do not like plays in which everything is not tied up neatly the end. There is plenty to discuss after viewing this play.

Sublime, Profound, Thought-provoking, Masterful, Riveting

See it if The acting and writing in this play are top notch- the dynamic between actors is sensational-it's a chess match on a roller coaster.

Don't see it if You don't want think about race and social class and education and all that is relevant about this in our culture.

Ambitious, Intelligent, Intense, Refreshing, Thought-provoking

See it if you will enjoy a 2 character play involving alleged racism pitting a black student against a white professor; you enjoy very good acting

Don't see it if you might find the first act a bit long; you don't like 2 character plays; you prefer musicals

Clever, Great writing, Thought-provoking

See it if You want a thought provoking realistic struggle of race relations. You want a night of emotionally charged material that will get you angry

Don't see it if You are sensitive and liberal. You can’t be critical about your own race and other races. I really liked this show. Made me really think!!!

Absorbing, Clever, Great acting, Great writing, Intelligent

See it if You want to be riveted by the problems we face with our divisive community.

Don't see it if You can't take debate, hard issues and conflict generally.

Also Unfortunately, I came out of the show thinking were doomed, we can't r... Read more Read less

Ambitious, Great acting, Great writing, Thought-provoking

See it if You like shows that reveal the racial tensions in the academic community. Very intimate production.

Don't see it if You don’t like contemporary plays

Powerful presentation of radically different views on slavery & covert racism thru no holds barred debate between liberal ivy league professor and radicalized black student

See it if brutal heavyweight fight where power shifts back & forth btwn rivals; reveals liberal academic blindness, strident student position

Don't see it if at times degenerates into alternating speeches where parties talk past each other; action flags at begin of 2nd Act

Also The play features a real ongoing debate in academia about slavery & th... Read more Read less

Ambitious, Absorbing, Great writing, Great acting, Dizzying

See it if up for a deep, fraught, overwhelming dive into racial injustices delineated with verve but also—at times, unnervingly—with anger & defiance.

Don't see it if prefer narrower scope or resolution; averse to bracing confrontations. Joins American Son & Travisville as vital, vibrant discourse on race.

Relevant generational dispute, Thought-provoking intense debate, Great acting and writing

See it if Black millennial student airs grievances with white history professor. They discuss evolutionary vs revolutionary change. Unexpected ending.

Don't see it if You don’t mind a play that is driven mostly by a disagreement and discussion of ideas with an Improbable turn of events.

Also Millennial dream: Dramatic change accomplished easily by organizing ra... Read more Read less

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

See it if you're looking for an intelligent, well-acted play that tackles race relations and privilege in a thought-provoking way.

Don't see it if you want to see something more fluffy or trivial. This isn't serious in a tedious way, but it gives you a lot to think about.

Great acting, Thought-provoking, Edgy

See it if you like confrontational theater

Don't see it if you are not open to differentideas about racism

Well written dialogue, Well acted, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Intelligent

See it if you like debate: evaluating different sides of a question and issues that arise in academia.

Don't see it if you are not willing to consider alternative ways of presenting U.S. history.

Great acting, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Ambitious

See it if You enjoy two-hander dramas that discuss intense historical and political themes and plays that make you think.

Don't see it if You briefer lighter, more active fare. This play is all two people talking about controversial subjects.

Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Profound, Relevant

See it if A bravura performance. Based on a true story, addresses the ways people with different views just yell at each other instead of listening.

Don't see it if The character of the student was so entitled that I wanted to slap her. So did many in the audience.

Ambitious, Entertaining, Edgy, Great writing, Intelligent

See it if a stirring modern day drama is something that interest you.

Don't see it if a college campus based race drama is uninteresting to you.

Also OMG! This was one of the best dramas I have seen on stage in a long ti... Read more Read less

Thought-provoking, Relevant, Slow

See it if you want a story of the history of race in America and neither side is really all right or all wrong.

Don't see it if you you are looking for something upbeat and don't want think about our culture, race or classes in society.

Edgy, Intense, Intelligent

See it if you were a member of the debate team OR enjoy lively banter.

Don't see it if you're expecting a traditional play with plot, story and vividly drawn characters.

Also I enjoyed this on the level that it was a lively debate, but the plot ... Read more Read less

Thought-provoking, Relevant, Argumentative, Angry, Indulgent

See it if Old white history professor locks horns with revolutionary black student. Angry debate and power struggle ensues. Smart & engaging.

Don't see it if You are not interested in a lengthy intellectual impassioned debate. Reminded me of the arguments I have had with my 20-year old daughter.

Great acting, Great writing, Refreshing, Funny, Thought-provoking

See it if You want to see a play that looks at both sides of the racial debate. Allows the audience to make its own conclusions on "right" and "wrong"

Don't see it if You feel like a play such as this needs to take a firm moral stance because there can't be shades of grey.

Ambitious, Great acting, Intelligent, Intense, Relevant

See it if You want a thought-provoking play about race, privilege and college campuses.

Don't see it if You want characters who are nuanced and open to evolving.

Absorbing, Thought-provoking, Slow, Relevant

See it if You want to think through how even some variation in beliefs can pull us apart if we're not careful. You like intense dialogue between 2 ppl

Don't see it if You want something light and just for easy entertainment. You prefer tidy endings.

Cast & Creatives (9)