Closed 2h 15m
The Red Letter Plays: Fucking A
Midtown W
80

The Red Letter Plays: Fucking A NYC Reviews and Tickets

80%
(122 Reviews)
Positive
83%
Mixed
15%
Negative
2%
Members say
Great acting, Absorbing, Intense, Great writing, Ambitious

About the Show

Signature Theatre  presents Pulitzer winner Suzan-Lori Parks' modern-day remix of 'The Scarlet Letter' about an abortionist. Featuring Tony nominees Brandon Victor Dixon and Marc Kudisch, and Emmy winner Christine Lahti.

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Member Reviews (122)

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49
Disappointing, Excruciating, Nonsense, Why?!?!, Wasted talent!

See it if You want to see Hester Prinn in a dystopian future where they speak a language that only women understand so translations are projected over

Don't see it if the stage so you can read them for THREE HOURS...oh and did I mention...it’s a musical...sort of...I’m sorry...ugh! Such fine talent...WHY??

90
Funny, Intense, Masterful, Epic, Quirky

See it if Remarkable blend of serious drama, comic relief, and musicality. As with "In the Blood", the protagonist is an outcast, trampled by class.

Don't see it if You can't shift between the serious, comic and musical elements. It's a brilliant but odd mix. Read more

Critic Reviews (30)

September 11th, 2017

"A dark, didactic entertainment deliberately in the mode of Bertolt Brecht...This latest incarnation is light on its feet–quick, sharp and perfectly paradoxical. Barring a few clunking instances of cartoonish satire, Ms. Bonney’s production is as harrowing as it is witty...The cast brings humanizing shades of pain, greed and longing to symbolic figures, without ever tearing the play’s somber folk-tale fabric. And the songs strike a resonant balance between poetry and proclamation."
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September 11th, 2017

"An expressionistic and politically charged exploration of class, family and violence, studded with jarring bursts of humor and song...Involved are bounty hunters, Hester’s prostitute BFF, a lovestruck butcher, an escaped convict and an invented language...That may sound like a lot—and it is. But although director Bonney struggles to establish a cohesive tone, 'Fucking A’s' alternations between pain and entertainment are never boring...The play leaves an indelible mark."
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September 12th, 2017

"Bonney and her actors handle the blunt, clipped rhythms of the text with confidence...A fiery, raw-throated shout in the face of hypocrisy, privilege, and injustice...It reaches across genres and performance styles—musical, Jacobean revenge play, Brechtian epic theater—drawing on the gifts of a multitalented ensemble to touch something frighteningly prescient about a world twisted by inequity and disenfranchisement."
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September 11th, 2017

"'A' never manages to transcend its derivative, ersatz feel. Instead the work comes across like the thesis playwriting project of a zealous grad student as it dutifully recycles theatrical tropes...While the play traffics in important, urgent themes, its affectations prove its undoing...The scripts’ gimmicks, however, are not an obstacle for the performers, who tear into their schematic roles with energy and conviction...Bonney infuses the proceedings with intense theatricality."
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September 18th, 2017

"More than 150 years after Hawthorne wrote 'The Scarlet Letter: A Romance'—the same words, the same symbols, the same damning letter can still make women weep with shame and rage...Director Jo Bonney runs with the play’s sense of menace...It’s a savage world where only the strong survive. Christine Lahti’s fiercely drawn Hester is a survivor, but so consumed with equally balanced passions of love and hate you can’t tear your eyes away from her."
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September 21st, 2017

"Packed with ominous tones, intense emotions, freewheeling theatricality, social criticism and an inevitable sense of tragedy...Bonney gives the production an electrifying edge, with the broad performances of the supporting players played against the protagonists’ grim circumstances...Each production is an outstanding staging of a bold, difficult and provocative work. When viewed together, 'The Red Letter Plays' proves to be one of the most interesting and rewarding theater events of the fall."
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September 13th, 2017

“In director Jo Bonney's chilling Signature Theatre production, Parks’ sardonically abstract portrait of human cruelty may remind playgoers of another writer, Bertolt Brecht...Parks peppers the play with such quick musical moments. Unlike the melodic and lyrically complex interludes Brecht wrote with Kurt Weill in works such as 'The Threepenny Opera,' Parks' songs are more about being absurdist elevations of reality."
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October 2nd, 2017

"An act of theatrical ventriloquism, an approach that severely undermines its deadly serious subject matter...For some mysterious reason, Parks has allowed herself to be possessed by the spirit of Bertolt Brecht...Jo Bonney's direction has its effective moments...But 'F---ing A' is all over the place, its mordant points too often obscured by the playwright's try-anything approach. It's easy to imagine that this play will ultimately go down as a minor entry in Parks' catalogue of works."
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September 11th, 2017

"The play unfolds with the inevitably of a Greek myth, with a low-key style of performance that would seem to be intentional on the part of director Bonney. It is the kind of distancing effect that Brecht was partial to, forcing us to think about the big issues without allowing us to get pulled into the particulars of character or plot...As a consequence, and after so much setup, the act of revenge is rather anti-climactic. There is no catharsis for Hester or for us."
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September 11th, 2017

“The cast is phenomenal. Lahti is simultaneously stoic and terrifying…It has startlingly funny moments, very charming songs, and well-meaning characters, but at the end of the day ‘Fucking A’ exists in a wasteland…For those who can stomach the brutalities (and I suggest you do), ‘Fucking A’ is a thrill ride that shines a glaring light at our own world’s massive incongruities. Parks is a master storyteller…You can’t go wrong with ‘Fucking A’ if you enjoy hard-hitting, thought-provoking theater.”
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September 11th, 2017

"A production that works well on all levels. It's directed by Bonney with a sense for the rhythm that keeps it flowing. The cast, top to bottom, is up to giving fresh, meaningful life to this saga that's as relentlessly downbeat and bloody as any Greek tragedy...Brief bursts of foreign-sounding gibberish...don't add much to the play...This doesn't detract from the overall excellence of this production...Under Bonney's direction, all the actors are guided to fully inhabit their roles."
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September 12th, 2017

"Despite the use of Brechtian devices, Ms. Parks’ voice is all her own here. And a grim one it is. Although there are some wonderful, much needed comic moments, 'Fucking A' is not for the fainthearted...The cast, led by Christine Lahti as Hester, is exceptional. They work exceedingly well as an ensemble and individually, and most of them also double as musicians."
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September 12th, 2017

“A staggering work of expert storytelling and captivating performances brought to life by Bonney’s direction…Each actor is exemplary. Most of the cast seamlessly plays multiple roles and performs musical accompaniment for Parks’s songs, which are either darkly funny or cathartic but always entertaining. Don’t miss this experience. The journey to knowledge is difficult and ends in a heartbreaking climax, comparable to the most searing of Greek tragedies, but the lessons are necessary.”
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September 22nd, 2017

“The score is as dully ersatz as the writing, and contributes little to the narrative or thematic continuity…I found 'Fucking A's' two hours and fifteen minutes hard to sit through…A feminist subtext is ticking beneath the surface but the play's embellishments prevent it from exploding…Christine Lahti…retains an aura of speech and sophistication that suggests she's playacting rather than fitting seamlessly into Hester's more life-battered skin.”
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C
September 11th, 2017

"Parks manages to create an involving if sometimes horrific story, where the show’s seemingly disparate characters interact in many, sometimes surprising ways. It’s a tall order, but Jo Bonney’s exceedingly well-cast, atmospheric production fulfills many of the work’s demands...The cast’s musicality proves to be an invaluable asset...At times, the work does feel predictable, and a little trimming might be useful. Nonetheless, you will leave the theatre marked by the plight of these characters."
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September 15th, 2017

"A title you can't print and a story line that makes no sense...The cast is extremely talented and bring layers to each character. The direction by Jo Bonney kept the show moving and theatrical, but I left scratching my head. There were some important issues at stake and sadly they were left on the table."
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September 11th, 2017

"The play’s tragic ending approaches the level of Greek tragedy. The play is enhanced by musical interludes...The casting of Lahti as Hester is an interesting case of nontraditional casting in reverse. The role has been traditionally played by a black actor. Casting a white actor shifts the basis for much of the injustice from race to class. Fortunately, the play can support either interpretation...Jo Bonney’s confident direction holds everything together."
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September 21st, 2017

"I have long admired the work of Christine Lahti and here she is at full force as Hester Smith...One element that seems superfluous and pretentious is the foreign language known as Talk...although perhaps that does add somewhat to the eerie overall effect of the production, an ambiance that Bonney maintains...You may at times wince from what you are watching, and yet the acting and the author’s bleak outlook on humanity, entwined with the theatricality, are powerful."
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T
September 24th, 2017

"Both productions sock you in the gut with their visceral and violent imagery...Bonney’s staging emphasizes the allegorical aspects of Parks’ script which takes on a more Brechtian tone....Though we are always aware we are sitting in a theater and never identify with the people onstage as much as we do with those from 'In the Blood,' Parks’ prescient insights are particularly haunting...The cast...provides piercing perspective on damages wrought by misogyny and class oppression."
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September 18th, 2017

"Lahti plays Hester with sour wit and brittle dignity. Here again Parks artfully exposes the hypocrisy of those who denounce Hester...But the second of her 'Red Letter Plays' becomes overstuffed as prostitution, lynching, mass incarceration and Homer’s 'Odyssey' are all thrown into the mix. Moreover...the stylized dialogue, broadly sketched characters, and off-key musical interludes feel like Bertolt Brecht-by-numbers. 'Fucking A' has a lot of points to make, but they’re a little too blunt."
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September 22nd, 2017

"Racing story lines of society, sexuality, violence and revenge click into place with Parks' dramatic writing and the riveting performers...The songs, reminiscent of Brecht and Weill, are biting and personal. While none will linger in the Great American Songbook, they lend power and humor to the show's vengeance and passion...A blood-soaked and grisly production, 'Fucking A' gives vent to a contemporary unease of violence, misogyny, hopelessness and economic malaise that's hard to shake off."
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T
September 12th, 2017

"An ambitious work that turned out to be neither a reimagining of nor a response to the 1850 literary classic...but instead something wholly its own...A fresh, stirring revival...An updated classical tragedy fraught with contemporary societal issues...Lahti is transcendent as Hester, her every gesture signaling the utter desperation she feels...Parks is fierce in her writing, which sparkles with overt and subtle dichotomies that bring it all together beautifully."
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September 11th, 2017

"The emotional stakes of the action are never given the opportunity to compete with the metatheatrical drapery...Ms. Lahti comes up short when it is her turn to offer a foil to the gallows humor, an emotional entry point which will bring both aspects of the drama into sharper relief."
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September 17th, 2017

"Powerful pieces...The connection to Hawthorne is subtle, resting mostly on the ideas of class distinction and human suffering...Hester, played with a potent mix of strength and vulnerability by Lahti, has but one goal: to earn enough money to get her son out of prison...Parks describes these works as 'sister plays,' but really they’re about mothers, and the choices they must make to protect their children from all that life throws at them. Any mother will relate."
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September 12th, 2017

“'Fucking A' doesn’t really sustain itself over its two-hour-plus running time. That’s the takeaway from director Bonney’s occasionally stirring revival…The plot is intricate and a bit of a mess…The action also grinds to a halt every few minutes for one of Parks’ original songs…Lahti…makes Hester a paragon of both abjectness and steely determination in dire circumstances. But the script, including the abrupt twists of the bloody and tragic climax, keeps letting her down.”
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R
September 11th, 2017

"Christine Lahti and Brandon Victor Dixon stand out in an excellent cast in 'F**king A', a searing play based on the themes found in 'The Scarlet Letter.' 'F**king A' takes place in a dystopian mash-up where women are not valued, petty infractions turn into life sentences and only a lucky few live well. Hester (Lahti) is forced to work in a shameful job to buy the time to visit her son in jail. It is a bitter tale of a society's descent and a mother's loss."
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September 22nd, 2017

"An overwhelming, wonderful, theatrical, human experience...I was appalled, devastated, exhilarated and amazed...I felt powerless, enraged, emboldened, and understood...Kind of a mishmash of a Brechtian musical and a Jacobean revenge play...'Fucking A' is dark, dark, dark, with fatal inevitability hanging over it, though there is also a lot of humor and really terrific songs...Parks is dramatically showing us the plight of women and what women do to subvert and survive...The acting is sublime."
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September 27th, 2017

"The story seems straight out of Bertolt Brecht...Though Parks the composer can’t hold a candle to Weill, Parks the playwright is Brecht’s equal as a dramatist...The performers most experienced in musical theater—Dixon, Kalukango, Kudisch, Stanley—have the best luck with Parks’s poetical patois...Bonney's naturalistic staging is at odds with Parks’ impressionistic text, creating often enervating stage pictures that take at its word a play much more interested in what lies underneath."
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September 14th, 2017

"Always daring, always pushing the envelope...Parks strives to inculcate the principles of Brecht within an American vernacular. She succeeds...The theatrical experience is often dizzying...The work conveys the terrible cost of a society bound by hierarchies of class and gender...Despite the bleakness, the play is often funny...Not always an easy play to sit through, but it is a vital, necessary evening of theatre that further cements Parks’ earned reputation as one of our leading playwrights."
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September 14th, 2017

"One of the most wildly uneven outings in recent memory...Parks's incendiary drama receives a lobotomized and cryogenic revival...It gets worse...And by worse, I mean structure, logic, theatricality, and entertainment take a hit...The sexual politics and power play within it seem to be remnants from the ash heap of second-wave feminism; the author's dated animus signifying the play's shortcomings."
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