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The Qualms

From 47 critic and 9 member reviews
Members say: Great acting, Entertaining, Clever, Great writing, Funny

About the show

Playwright's Horizons presents Bruce Norris' newest play about a group of couples, all without children, who REALLY enjoy each other's company. More…

Thou shalt covet thy neighbor's wife. And thy neighbor, too, at this suburban get-together for partner-swapping couples. Drawn in by The Lifestyle's promise of freedom and titillation, newly married Chris and Kristy attend an alcohol-fueled party for swingers, only to find themselves at odds with the idea of free love and, suddenly, each other.

Stage Buddy

"An uproarious one-act comedy. 'The Qualms' is a compelling, thought-provoking, and hilarious peek into the titillating world of swinging...'The Qualms' may not make you question your own views on monogamy, but it certainly makes a compelling case either way." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"Pam MacKinnon’s direction is virtually unnoticeable, her touch is so light. She lets Norris’s well-constructed work unfold on its own, or at least that’s how it seems. Her casting is impeccable...'The Qualms' has a lot going for it, but its greatest asset is Norris’s keen powers of observation. He doesn’t judge; he simply shares what he sees. He doesn’t pretend to know the answers, but he sure knows how to pose the questions." Full Review

Reviewing The Drama

"In a Brechtian break of the fourth wall, the cast looks directly out into the audience; it might make some squirm, but hopefully is also makes everyone think about where they fall on the sexual spectrum...I'm glad Norris wrote this play. It's important that we keep having these conversations." Full Review

New York Theater

"'Death and money and violence,' Ken concludes. This is not an original observation, granted, but Norris seems to be applying this theme to his essentially decent characters, each subtly damaged in typically American ways. He also milks it for humor. I suspect he is playing on the audience’s internal contradictions as well– our qualms about sex (including seeing sex on stage) versus our yearning for a little titillation." Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

"'The Qualms' remains winning, compelling, and necessary, even though it ultimately fails to thoroughly convince. Even so, it furthers a worthwhile message...There are no perfect plays, just as there are no perfect people, and being the wrong kind of judgmental toward anyone or anything is likely to cause more problems than it solves. Instead, just let yourself go. The rewards here are great, even if Norris's own overeagerness means you won't be able to give yourself over completely." Full Review


"The characters may not be having the fun they so desire, but we on the other side of the invisible fourth wall are having a ribald one. 'The Qualms' has a lot going for it, namely Norris' razor-sharp dialogue, laden with lines that explode into laughter, and a real doozy of a production." Full Review

Front Row Center

"The performances are each exquisite. The ensemble work and the direction are smooth as a baby’s bottom...The absence of sex makes this party more or less the equivalent of a heated bridge tournament, but hey – in the end who cares? Like the saying goes – it ain’t the meat, it’s the motion that makes your mama want to rock. This production rocks." Full Review

What's On Off Broadway

"'The Qualms' doesn’t offer a simple take away. The dynamics of male power struggles are explored. The differences in male versus female emotional responses are explored. The problem of human communication in uncomfortable situations is explored. These questions, and more, are taken on seriously and with humor, but leave the audience with no easy answers. Ultimately, director Pam MacKinnon shows that silence can be more accepting, and gentler, than words." Full Review


"Norris' dialogue is amusing and entertaining and MacKinnon's tight ensemble keeps the ninety-minute piece slickly paced but 'The Qualms', though touching at times, lacks the electric crackle of his past work." Full Review


"A new and—am I blushing?—discomforting play...Norris respectfully illustrates many points along a complicated spectrum, ultimately forcing hard questions. Norris is a clear-eyed guide through tough material. The performances are interesting...If you go see 'The Qualms,' see it with someone you love—or someone you want to." Full Review

Financial Times (UK)

"Rollicking new play...In the very amusing 'The Qualms,' sexual categories are among the targets...Wisely, the sex here is mostly talked about rather than enacted — that keeps the story moving. Less praiseworthy are the play’s final five minutes. As soon as argumentative chaos is transmuted into silent, anthropologically evocative order, nothing more is needed except a couple of sharp exit lines. Instead we get the pabulum of resolution." Full Review

Theatre's Leiter Side

"While its foreplay is strictly verbal, and the only climax comes when Chris blows his top, there’s still enough amusing titillation to make a visit to 'The Qualms' a suitable way to get your theatergoing rocks off." Full Review

New York Post

"From a dramatic point of view, this escalation is limiting since the play can only go in one direction. The arguments aren’t new, either. Still, Pam MacKinnon’s sleek production is very entertaining because Norris writes fantastic jerks and pits them against defensive, ultra-PC types. And the cast is excellent." Full Review

The Hollywood Reporter

"The play well displays Norris' gifts for acerbic comic dialogue and pungent social satire. The characters are amusingly drawn, their heated interactions eliciting laughs and gasps. But the evening eventually winds up spinning its wheels, becoming repetitive in its themes and feeling contrived. By the time it's over, the characters wind up dejected and exhausted, feelings that may well be shared by the audience." Full Review

Show Showdown

"Norris' latest has a lot going for it. For my money, it boasts the tightest acting ensemble currently treading boards in New York...'The Qualms' works really well in the room. However, the more I think about it, the less I respond to it. Judge for yourself, and enjoy the great acting while you're there." Full Review

New York Magazine / Vulture

"The discussion is amusing, certainly, spiced up by occasional smuttiness, and very well acted all around. But Norris is not really trying to do Shaw on Shagging: He doesn’t have enough love for his characters to make any of them very plausible in their positions. Rather, he’s an underminer...Of course, Norris is too smart to let you take refuge with any side of any argument; he’s an equal-opportunity belittler. That makes for a thrilling if not always edifying ride." Full Review

The New York Times

"'The Qualms' offers engaging performances and rawly funny exchanges, but instead of meaty drama or even sex farce we are given a series of contentious conversations about fidelity, the meaning of marriage and other magazine-article topics." Full Review


"The committed performances notwithstanding, the actors can do just so much with mostly rather sketchy characters...With its top drawer assemblage on stage and back stage creative talent, 'The Qualms' is never boring. Sure, we all have our own qualms about sex and marital issues, but these stereotypical characters do little to make us able to laugh at or better understand our own conflicting feeling and opinions." Full Review

NY Theatre Guide

"There’s plenty of laughter in 'The Qualms'. But meaning? That I’m less sure of...Excellently directed by Pam McKinnon, who wrings laughs out of dialogue that might not be nearly as funny on paper...And laugh-out-loud funny as a lot of it is, 'The Qualms'—what does that title mean?—doesn’t seem to be about much." Full Review

NY Theater Now

"This type of fourth wall naturalistic play automatically sets the audience as voyeurs, an act that author Bruce Norris does not explore, instead presenting the conversational equivalent of bad sex...This is not a play filled with rich characters. They are well observed and feel true enough that they do not ring false but ultimately I did not find myself being gripped by their plights. This is a play about the ideas being discussed and in that sense it is very successful...I’m a fan of any pl... Full Review

New York Daily News

"In the end, the evening turns into a talkfest about monogamy, pornography, power, freedom, Deb’s late husband Janosz’s too-big-to-fail manhood, and banana pudding, which is one thing everyone can agree on. Unlike Janosz’s endowment, the play leaves you wanting." Full Review

Exeunt Magazine

"While there is humor to be found in this portrait of a buttoned-up, conservative white male becoming deeply uncomfortable and defensive when in foreign sexual territory, it does seem like low-hanging fruit, dramatically speaking...This is undoubtedly a funny play. There are many laughs to be had in 'The Qualms' – sex and its peculiar effect on our social selves has the power to amuse – but Norris’s writing does not push itself and does not do much to take its subject matter in any interestin... Full Review


"We, the watchers, want something more. We have connected. At which point, with an arbitrary smartass, juvenile fillip, Norris breaches the fourth wall and everything goes splat as director and company do his bidding, for a laugh. Not new insight, not new exploration, not even sex, the root of all. They all, every one of them up there know better, especially Norris. Without that crass maneuver, the play has made its point, true, in vaguely blurry fashion as if it had been through a blender an... Full Review

Philadelphia Inquirer

"Bruce Norris: Master of Bickering. Like his earlier, Pulitzer-winning, Tony-winning play, Clybourne Park, his new but not-so-funny comedy, 'The Qualms,' is about a small group of people, gathered together, whose conversation deteriorates into sneering, and whose claims to honesty disintegrate into judgmental sniping. This time, it's not a real estate they're bickering about, but sex....'The Qualms' is a lightweight play, a watchable but forgettable ninety-five minutes." Full Review

AM New York

"'The Qualms' is essentially a static scenario about group sex with little plot or character development. It leads to nothing but an extended discussion on human nature and American culture. The subject is more hackneyed than shocking, and Norris does not provide any original or interesting insight into it despite all the argumentation." Full Review

Great acting, Great writing, Resonant, Funny, Clever

See it if you want to see a play by an author that asks the hard questions in shockingly funny and brutal ways. You can't look away.

Don't see it if you get uncomfortable easily. Sex, politics, friendships and a bunch of other things are thrown right in your face in this new piece.

Clever, Entertaining, Great writing, Edgy, Relevant

See it if You are a Bruce Norris fan, or enjoy new, darkly comic plays.

Don't see it if You can't stand the discussion of sex or other topical issues.

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

See it if you like funny, provocative shows that ask big questions in entertaining (sometimes squirm-inducing) ways.

Don't see it if you are squeamish about frank sex talk onstage.

Clever, Entertaining, Funny, Original, Slow

See it if you want an engaging story and decent actors

Don't see it if you don't like run of the mill off broadway

Hilarious, Great acting, Great writing, Entertaining

See it if You enjoy laugh out loud sit-com like comedy.

Don't see it if You don't like shows about adult themes or comedy that revolves around sexual situations.

Great acting, Surprising, Entertaining, Fun

See it if great story, fun, funny and intense. Great acting. Absorbing.

Don't see it if you don't like sexual issues being discussed on stage.

Raunchy, Quirky, Intense, Great acting

See it if You are curious to see a play about this risqué topic. Not one usually explored. The acting is excellent.

Don't see it if With family members or friends with whom the sexual topic might be awkward.

Clever, Entertaining, Ambitious, Great acting, Quirky

See it if Noah Emmerich was riveting. He's a very charismatic performer. The topic was original, and the story kept me interested.

Don't see it if It was very sexually oriented. Not for the faint of heart or conservative. Definitely not for kids.

Disappointing, Static, Unenlightening, Overrated, Strong acting

See it if you're fascinated by the swinging lifestyle. The argument for monogamy was made by the least likable character. No discernible plot.

Don't see it if you want to be engaged. Some interesting characters, but talky. During the endless clean-up scene, I wanted to help to make it go faster.

Also I'm catching up on past reviews. This show was fun to watch for the pe... Read more Read less

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