Closed 1h 30m
The Qualms
Midtown W
79

The Qualms NYC Reviews and Tickets

79%
(9 Reviews)
Positive
89%
Mixed
11%
Negative
0%
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.

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Member Reviews (9)

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65
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. Read more

75
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.

Critic Reviews (47)

June 14th, 2015

"'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."
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June 14th, 2015

"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."
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June 14th, 2015

"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."
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June 14th, 2015

"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."
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June 14th, 2015

"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."
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June 14th, 2015

"'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."
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June 14th, 2015

"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."
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June 15th, 2015

"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."
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June 14th, 2015

"'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."
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June 14th, 2015

"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."
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June 15th, 2015

"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."
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June 16th, 2015

"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."
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June 18th, 2015

"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."
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June 15th, 2015

"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 interesting new directions."
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June 14th, 2015

"'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."
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June 29th, 2015

"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."
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June 15th, 2015

"It's like being trapped at a party where everyone is the world's most tedious person. Even on its own terms, 'The Qualms' makes little sense...Awkwardly directed, the comedy, perversely, seems not to want to end...Seldom has a 90-minute work lasted so long. At the end, Norris tries to rustle up some sympathy for everyone, but the gesture is as strained and unpersuasive as the rest of his play."
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June 17th, 2015

"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."
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June 15th, 2015

"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."
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June 14th, 2015

"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."
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W
June 14th, 2015

"'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."
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June 16th, 2015

"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."
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June 14th, 2015

"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."
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June 14th, 2015

"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."
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June 18th, 2015

"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 and all you need is a spoon and banana pudding."
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June 15th, 2015

"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 play that leaves me something to chew on after the actors have bowed and the curtain has gone down."
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July 13th, 2014
For a previous production

"Wait, is this a sex party or a debating society?...Mr. Norris’s knack for writing smart, crisply funny dialogue has been well established, and his entertainingly assorted characters seem primed to enact a 21st-century variation on a sex farce. But in the end, “The Qualms” lives rather deflatingly up to its title, turning into a rather talky (and balky) series of arguments about any number of matters pertaining to sex, love and marriage."
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July 14th, 2014
For a previous production

"The play never brings to dramatic life the thematic conflicts at play: What is human sexual nature, if there is such a thing? For all of Norris’s talk, he just isn’t quite willing to take the audience into dangerous territory — there are no sex scenes, not even a touch of nudity."
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July 13th, 2014
For a previous production

"There are many amusing provocations in 'The Qualms,' which is often funny and never dull, even if you could not care two figs for any of these characters, which I think is a significant problem.'The Qualms' does not yet feel finished. Both the play and the production need to at least establish the possibility of sexual desire before they can set about its wholesale deconstruction."
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July 23rd, 2014
For a previous production

"Norris' dialogue is smart, howlingly funny, and provocative...These people might spend more time pontificating than fornicating, but those pontifications are as fascinating as they are acidly hilarious. 'The Qualms' needs less heated discussion and more heated action to reach the dizzying levels of Norris' best work. But it's a wildly entertaining and stimulating foray into a world in which most of us are not terribly familiar. If the piece makes you squirm, you're not alone."
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July 13th, 2014
For a previous production

"The playwright’s mocking of certain status-obsessed tropes are beginning to feel like tropes themselves, and Norris isn’t immune to certain playwriting clichés—if I never see another character deliver an unprompted but clearly pertinent story from her past, followed by 'I don’t know why I just said that,' I’ll be okay."
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July 18th, 2014
For a previous production

"Bruce Norris is an amazing playwright, that audiences either love or hate. His newest play, directed with a special touch by Pam Mackinnon, is 90 minutes of pure comedy, but it is not for everybody...While the topic is one that may offend some theater audience members, it is handled with great skill and even the complex use of the “F” bomb doesn’t hinder the smoothness in which they skillfully bring to light the eternal struggle for power, status , and having sex!"
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July 16th, 2014
For a previous production

"It's pretty delicious—and not in Norris's typically cruel way. With 'The Qualms' he begins to look like the most Wildean satirist maybe since Wilde, taking obvious pleasure not just in skewering social types and ideas but in treating them almost—almost—sympathetically, as manifestations of a flawed and very amusing humanity."
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July 16th, 2014
For a previous production

"'The Qualms' is basically an Internet forum made flesh, a “truth or dare” confessional in one act...this new 90-minute offering from Pulitzer/Tony-winning playwright Bruce Norris is one loud argument divided into eight characters. Four couples in what used to be called a “wife-swapping” club gather in a spiffy condo in a beachside apartment complex. What results is a train wreck in slow motion."
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July 23rd, 2014
For a previous production

"The result of this artificial symposium is relentless R-rated repartee serving no lasting purpose beyond providing infantile playgoers a giggle when somebody says "vagina." This doesn't mean there aren't some intriguing backstories hidden beneath the potty-mouth veneer."
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July 17th, 2014
For a previous production

"Naughty fun and thoughtfully entertaining...Even though there's no nudity and any sexual situations are only mildly hinted at (with hints of drug use), there are still plenty of instances of graphic language, so sensitive audience members are warned."
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July 17th, 2014
For a previous production

"Norris’ dialogue and emotional beats are so searing, yet relatable: they cut right to the core of humanity. Uncomfortable humor has been in fashion for a good decade or so, yet Norris never makes audience members squirm just for the heck of it. His words are uncomfortable because they are true. With fantastic writing, robust direction and brilliant acting, 'The Qualms' is an intense 90-minute journey that’s personal, hilarious and ultimately rewarding."
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S
July 6th, 2014
For a previous production

"Norris daringly utilizes a risqué scenario to garner ribald laughs while stimulating deeper consideration of myriad mentally-titillating topics...There is a fair amount of frank conversation about sex itself, as an emotional act or simply a physical one, and about monogamy, as a choice, an obligation, an implausibility and even an anachronism. 'The Qualms' is rather engaging throughout its 90 minutes, with any requisite audience discomfiture or even disdain being part of the point."
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July 12th, 2014
For a previous production

"I think it’s about time a playwright had the chutzpah to mount a worthy debate about topics like sexual mores in such a funny and razor-sharp manner that is sure to spark discomfort. Topical plays short on story but long on relevant themes have their place in theatre. "
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L
July 16th, 2014
For a previous production

"It’s all about sex, but it’s not sexy. Actually, The Qualms is plodding and dull...Watching The Qualms, I felt embarrassed for the fine actors who are wasted in this production. Many in the audience also looked to be wasted—out of time and money—by this yawner of a show."
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C
July 16th, 2014
For a previous production

"While 'The Qualms' structure does feel a little forced at times, the debates that occur between the bullet points are really quite intriguing. More importantly, the acting is razor sharp, and the entire ensemble is immensely entertaining...The result is a piece that is both challenging and fun, and the performance is punctuated with equal amounts of horrified gasps and delighted laughter from the audience."
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C
July 18th, 2014
For a previous production

"A provocative pleasure...There are certainly false steps – like dialogue that can occasionally feel out of character – but I truly cared for most of these people...If you’re not offended by frank and filthy talk, I’d even argue “The Qualms” is a good date show. If this play doesn’t break the ice with you and your partner, maybe you should start seeing other people."
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S
August 2nd, 2014
For a previous production

"Impeccably written, well paced, and impressively acted, The Qualms kept us laughing even when the tension hits a little close to home...The Qualms is as equally hilarious as it is thought-provoking and prompted some entertaining post-show conversations. I was also not shocked to learn that the playwright is a Pulitzer winner because the dialogue was effortless."
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P
July 12th, 2014
For a previous production

"A vast number of questions and issues are opened up, but very few are resolved. As you leave the theatre, the scope of the play keeps expanding."
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July 14th, 2014
For a previous production

"By the time the play concludes, any sense of climax (no pun intended) has been thoroughly crushed. Still, the show as a whole is enjoyable and fun; if this glaring issue can be addressed with a few precise edits, 'The Qualms' could have an important place in the lexicon of human sexuality on stage. As it stands it’s still trying to find its footing in the complicated and often confusing world of sexual politics."
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T
July 13th, 2014
For a previous production

"The show is dynamic for its originality and thought-provoking content. On the surface, consensual adults are ready for their semi-regular orgy...a cerebral debate within their flesh-on-flesh hedonism. Sex and politics and sexual politics turn titillating intercourse into rousing discourse. The audience is easily seduced by this salacious ensemble...'The Qualms' is debauchery at its finest."
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K
July 6th, 2014
For a previous production

"Personally I cannot see how it answers the rightfully famous question: 'Why This Play Now?' When I conjure the moral picture of the play, I just see a bunch of abstract ideas about possession and status and freedom loosely tethered to and bobbing around above a roiling vat of animal desire and basic unpleasantness."
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