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The Originalist

From 23 critic and 42 member reviews
Members say: Great acting, Intelligent, Relevant, Absorbing, Thought-provoking

About the show

Four-time Helen Hayes Award winner Edward Gero portrays Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.  More…

When a bright, liberal, Harvard Law School graduate embarks on a nerve-wracking clerkship with the conservative Justice, she discovers him to be both an infuriating sparring partner and an unexpected mentor. How will their relationship affect one of the most incendiary cases ever to reach the nation's highest court? 


"While conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia may have been 'the most polarizing figure in American civic life,' there can be little doubt that actor Edward Gero gives a bravura performance as the jurist in John Strand's 'The Originalist,' now having its New York premiere at 59E59 Theaters. This fictional biography which uses excerpts from Scalia's dissents and opinions is part courtroom drama, part debate and partly a portrait of a man who never compromised on his convictions." Full Review


"This is a vital story for our times. It contrasts political and social perspectives while still proving that people can maintain a sense of civility. This enthralling theatrical piece features the finest staging and stellar acting...Gero as Antonin Scalia masters the demanding role of the controversial judge and Ifeachor as Cat captures the part of his tenacious law clerk...A thought-provoking, insider's view of our American judicial system and makes you realize the importance of respectful ... Full Review

Front Row Center

“One of those plays. You’re either going to love it or hate it. Much like the subject matter itself...What ‘The Originalist’ does brilliantly is to reveal the humanity and integrity behind each character and to therefore declaw them. I doubt it will radically change anyone’s political opinions one way or another. Although it may help to understand the other side...Outstanding performances...A brilliant match of talent.” Full Review

Theater Life

"Who would have thought a play about an ultra-conservative Supreme Court justice…could rivet a New York audience for an intermissionless hour and 50 minutes and even snare the self-righteous Solon some sympathy?…'The Originalist' manages…to dramatize and humanize Scalia via lively, intriguing discussions that press many of the nation's hottest constitutional buttons…Gero's Scalia is about as close to the real thing as you can expect of an actor…Ifeachor's Cat…is lightweight and unconvincing." Full Review


“Strand's sharp dialogue draws a character study of the audacious spirit, feisty charm, and brilliant mind of the late conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia...Gero paints the larger-than-life Scalia with a love-hate spirit, a stout theatrical intellect performing from the bench...Ifeachor gives Cat a robust conviction and inflexibility...Its timeliness now is particularly glaring.” Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"Perhaps more relevant than ever before...Gero’s respect for the Justice is transparent as he moves through a transformative, articulate, and lovable performance. It is a masterful and surprisingly sympathetic portrait...Ifeachor’s acting is like a virtuoso jazz musician. Her instincts command this fiery character...Strand’s play is a brave and talented work...It’s a great performance from two very different actors and it’s their exceptional performances which make the ideas accessible." Full Review

New York Stage Review

“A play that could hardly come along at a more opportune moment...That ‘The Originalist’ is little more than a thinly disguised debate does have its drawbacks as the Scalia-Cat exchanges accumulate and range from bickering to knock-down-drag-out disputes...It’s likely that Manhattan audiences will differ in their inclinations from many other parts of the nation where 'The Originalist' also deserves to play." Full Review

Wolf Entertainment Guide

"Engaging and intellectually stimulating...A lot of the back and forth arguments in chambers between Scalia and his clerk as depicted seem unlikely, but they are nonetheless engrossing, thanks largely to the acting as well as the writing by playwright John Strand...Despite some of the play’s hokum, it has the advantage of laying out issues sharply and a performance by Gero that makes Scalia come dramatically alive." Full Review


“The sturdy, compelling production rivets our attention with ultra-contemporary panache. The play explicates both the character and the philosophy of that most polarizing of jurists...Directed smoothly...Some of the earlier dialogue gets a tiny bit dry, perhaps necessarily so given the matters under discussion, and some of the sequences around the climax are a touch stagey. But the play retains dramatic solidity and remains engaging.” Full Review

Theatre is Easy

“Playwright Strand has crafted his characters well...’The Originalist’ feels authentic and its dialogue rings true. Gero and Ifeachor maximize the tension and humor in their well-staged debate scenes, and Gero is especially charismatic as Scalia, evoking empathy and a sense of humanity despite his hardline conservatism. Under the guidance of director Molly Smith, he maximizes the humor of the character, pushing the laugh potential in each wisecrack.” Full Review


“Thought-provoking (and equally contrived) play...A lot like a Norman Lear sitcom featuring Scalia as Archie Bunker with a Harvard Law degree. This results in a certain amount of sitcom acting from Gero and Ifeachor, who commit to the more ludicrous exchanges in Strand's script with forced gusto...Strand's play is foremost about ideas and national trends, so director Molly Smith wisely spotlights the text with an uncluttered and highly focused staging.” Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"Does anyone think that New York theatre audience wants to see a play in which Scalia rants and raves for over an hour, only to be revealed as a teddy bear under the black robes? The premise of 'The Originalist' is pure sitcom...Trouble is, Strand struggles to make it minimally believable...Strand undermines his plot with tired television-comedy tropes...Too much of the time, however, 'The Originalist' settles for easy, odd-couple comedy at the expense of character and real conflict. " Full Review

Gotham Playgoer

"The key to the play’s warm reception is a remarkable performance by Edward Gero as Scalia. He not only has an uncanny resemblance to the late justice, but builds a rounded believable version of him...The play could hardly be more timely with its mention of Roe v. Wade and growing polarization. While generally well crafted, the play occasionally becomes more didactic than dramatic." Full Review

DC Theatre Scene

for a previous production "Not only a finely tuned and sharpened play performance, but a masterclass in acting...Some of Gero’s best moments come when he underplays a line or using a protracted pause to allow for his facial expressions to say everything. But he doesn’t shortchange Strand’s strong text either...Strand really doesn’t take sides. His play works to show how two humans with more in common than they first realize can find a level playing field, no matter what their political leanings are." Full Review

DC Metro Theater Arts

for a previous production "Gero is giving a superb performance as the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, and the play has great resonance...An artful examination of how and if people can ever get beyond their political differences in order to meet somewhere in the middle. If ever a play hits home more than this one does today, I cannot name it...It’s enlightening and it offers hope to us in a time when hope is needed." Full Review

The Washington Post

for a previous production "The glory of Gero’s performance is how artfully it balances the actual man with the comic demands of John Strand’s crowd-pleasing play...Gero woos the crowd beautifully with a virtuosic blend of bluster, intellect and devastating wit...Rather than being strictly realistic, Cat gives robust, unadulterated voice to Scalia’s critics...It may be that rare play of political ideas that can woo audiences in territory marked blue, red, or purple." Full Review

MD Theatre Guide

for a previous production "Gero is rigid yet gentle and turns Scalia into a real person instead of the heartless man that so many believe him to be.This show is only set a few years ago so it resonates deeply and is a clear commentary on the political climate under President Obama. It is still relevant in the Trump administration...‘The Originalist’ makes the audience ask if they’d be willing to set aside their biases to listen to the other side." Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

for a previous production "I came away with a better understanding of the man's written opinions, mostly descents...Gero bears a striking physical resemblance to Scalia, and plays him much more kindly than his scathing opinions might suggest. This comes mostly from the script, which is quite sympathetic to the man...A play that is largely built on conflicting ideologies needs a sharp director to keep it in focus and interesting, which Smith does very well...It is lively, intellectually stimulating theater." Full Review


for a previous production "After much back and forth...the dialogue, the debate, takes on the subject of the Defense of Marriage Act. And there's no letting it go...The same arguments are made repeatedly...Where 'The Originalist' loses momentum is when Brad starts a food fight with Cat. The scene is totally unnecessary, a director's self-indulgence...Whether audiences in cities other than Washington...will have the sitzfleisch for 105 minutes of dueling ideologies remains to be seen." Full Review

Newcity Stage

for a previous production "There’s little Americans like more than a legal drama...'The Originalist' does not deliver the customary satisfaction through exploration of the case, choosing instead to go the even more hackneyed route of reconciling unequal rivals on emotional stakes that never obtain palpable tension. In other words, 'The Originalist' attempts to vindicate Scalia’s impact on American law by arguing he was a pretty nice guy...Expertly acted and beautifully produced." Full Review

Chicago Tribune

for a previous production "Since Scalia expounding in a lecture — entertaining as that might be — does not a play make, Strand imagines that Scalia has knowingly hired a young, lesbian law clerk, Cat...Even if you are willing to go along with that contrivance, it is still mighty hard to buy the exact nature of their interaction, mostly because it just feels so reductive...You're not getting a profound work of theater. But you are in the presence of a thoroughly enjoyable performance from Gero." Full Review


for a previous production "'The Originalist' gives off its flintiest sparks when justice and clerk are in battle mode...Strand's characterization of Scalia, drawn from his writing, feels largely correct, and Gero's physical resemblance to the late justice is striking...For a play that tries to pivot around the nuance of constitutional interpretation, Smith's production often feels ham-fisted...'The Originalist' heavily underlines its metaphors and contains no surprises." Full Review

Chicago On the Aisle

for a previous production "This contrived and tormented attempt to turn what is essentially fascinating and funny stand-up into high drama...Gero is marvelous...There are two welcome, not to say merciful, timeouts from the debates in chambers...But those moments of legitimate drama are offset by the incursion of Brad...The character Brad is unneeded. He’s little more than a straw man...Gero’s finely crafted Scalia would be better served without any of these trappings." Full Review

Intelligent, Must see, Riveting, Absorbing, Brilliant

See it if you want to see an extraordinary piece of theater with extraordinary writing and acting

Don't see it if you only like musicals or comedies; if you have no interest in a marvelous portrayal of Justice Scalia and his ideas

Great acting, Great writing

See it if You're looking for a smart, beautifully written and exquisitely acted powerhouse.

Don't see it if You don't like long shows without intermission or shows that are primarily dialogue-based.

Delightful, Great acting, Great writing, Relevant, Must see

See it if You are a history buff, Supreme Court fan, like debates. The portrayal of Scalia is masterful. Stay for the talk backs.

Don't see it if You cannot handle conservative viewpoints at all, even when well presented.

Clever, Enchanting, Delightful, Exquisite, Entertaining

See it if AmaIng acting by both actors!! Don’t walk.. run to see this clever play !

Don't see it if If you are looking to see musical, easy play

Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Relevant, Resonant

See it if you enjoy intelligent andprovocatoive theatre. A stunning tour-de-force performance by Edward Gero as Scalia.

Don't see it if you are not interested in political dramas that show the two political sides of our nation.

Absorbing, Great acting, Great writing, Intelligent, Profound

See it if Liked this a lot...great actors. Well done. Relevant for today''s times. Highly recommend.

Don't see it if If you are politcally liberal, may be very disturbing. At least left with better understanding of a very complex man.

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

See it if you enjoy an intelligent drama about the late Judge Scalia. The dialogue is intelligent and intense. This show grips you.

Don't see it if you are an intolerant liberal without an open mind and hate Scalia.

Also This drama portrays many points of views so persons of different polit... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Relevant

See it if You like intelligent, relevant and trenchant exchanges on the left/right divide in the US and want to try to understand the US Constitution.

Don't see it if You do not like 'wordy' plays which require close attention to the dialogue.

Absorbing, Great acting, Great writing, Intelligent, Must see

See it if you are interested in biography and well written theatre. Intellectually stimulating theatre. Provocative theatre.

Don't see it if you don't have interest in the law and politics

Clever, Absorbing, Great acting, Great writing, Intelligent

See it if Excellent writing, beautifully acted, resonating , important theme, well directed and important to see! Excellent portrait of Scalia!.

Don't see it if . you are disinterested in contemporary politics and not open to different points of view

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

See it if you enjoy great acting, clever, witty and relevant dialogue, and a main character with a good heart hidden behind his sarcastic outer shell.

Don't see it if you have no interest in the Supreme Court, plays based on real life personalities, and clever repartee.

Absorbing, Entertaining, Great acting, Must see, Profound

See it if You're interested in politics and are lean either far to the left or right. This play does a great job at bridging the divide. So great

Don't see it if You're looking for something light in content. It's dialogue-heavy, yet so well-written. A beautiful evening at the theatre

Absorbing, Great acting, Entertaining, Original!, Enlightening

See it if you would be interested in the meeting of the minds between two highly intellectual but polemically opposed individuals.

Don't see it if You can't be politically open-minded enough to see both sides well presented and portrayed.

Also Edward Gero is exceptional is this production. I'm so glad we had the ... Read more Read less

Entertaining, Great acting, Intelligent

See it if you enjoy learning and want to see a great performance by the lead actor

Don't see it if if you're uninterested in historic figures

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

See it if You like good acting and hope for civil discourse despite increasingly divided political views. Excellent portrayal of Scalia.

Don't see it if You don't care a whit about the U.S. Constitution or how it should be interpreted by the Supreme Court.

Absorbing, Great acting, Clever

See it if You are interested in a glimpse into the mind and heart of an ultra conservative Supreme Court Justice.

Don't see it if You cannot overcome your hostility to an ultra conservative Supreme Court Justice to enjoy a well written and well acted play

Also I just wonder if the portrayal of Scalia was close to reality.

Edgy, Entertaining, Great acting, Absorbing

See it if You like making the acquaintance of an interesting and colorful character with clever dialogue and great acting.

Don't see it if You don’t care for plays about the law and an ultra right conservative judge.

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

See it if you're interested in Scalia as a multi dimensional person/in the law & our constitution; you're curious to understand why RBG loved him.

Don't see it if you've no interest in the law or sitting through discussions from people with opposing perspectives; cannot keep an open mind about Scalia.

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

See it if An evenhanded political drama that makes Justice Scalia seem thoughtful human being without embracing his philosophy. Scalia seems present

Don't see it if Hard to accept premise that a law clerk could debate a Justice on such equal terms. Arguments sometimes seem forced and simplified.

Thought-provoking, Intelligent, Intense, Riveting

See it if you have feelings one way or the other about Antonin Scalia. Gero portrays him masterfully showing his character and humanity.

Don't see it if serious drama is your preferred theater experience.

Absorbing, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Great writing, Very interesting

See it if I was so so surprised how interesting this play was! Interesting political writing. Justice Scalia.. Very well acted.

Don't see it if If you like fast moving, musicals, big staging & if you don't want back & forth sparring dialogue, politics

Also Sometimes a little slow for some.

Absorbing, Great acting, Relevant

See it if Great acting by Edward Gero, really. If you love all things SCOTUS and constitutional law.

Don't see it if You don't like "wordy" plays, constitutional law/history or politics, or you're expecting either a hagiography or a hatchet job on Scalia.

Also In my opinion it's far too kind to Scalia, but your mileage may vary. ... Read more Read less

Relevant, Thought-provoking, Subtle rulings, unsubtle acting, Intelligent, Very slow

See it if A look into the brilliant mind of Antonin Scalia interests you. He goes up against also brilliant law clerk. No one wins.

Don't see it if Overacted plays upset you. Brilliant (again) subtleties are bandied about loud & hard & contest of opinion is only academic. Lawyers love it

Absorbing, Clever, Entertaining, Intelligent, Great writing

See it if You are interested in American history particularly the Supremacy me Court

Don't see it if You don’t care

Absorbing, Relevant, Entertaining

See it if A fictionalized play about Justice Scalia, which successfully articulates his philosophy and humor. Excellent performances and worth seeing.

Don't see it if Use of an artificial dramatic devise of imagined relationships to delve into political issues of the time.

Cast & Creatives (12)