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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Produced together for the first time and running in rep, Parks' 'The Red Letter Plays: Fucking A & In the Blood' explode our ideas of love, society, sex, and power with wit and fearlessness. In 'Fucking A,' Hester Smith, the revered and reviled local abortionist, hatches a plan to buy her jailed son’s freedom—and nothing will deter her from her quest. In this wild-eyed blend of story and song, Hester’s branded letter A becomes a provocative emblem of vengeance, violence, and sacrifice. Directed by Obie winner Jo Bonney.


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92
Reviews Off Broadway

"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." Full Review

90
New York Magazine / Vulture

"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." Full Review

90
Theatre is Easy

“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.” Full Review

90
Stage Buddy

“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.” Full Review

85
The New York Times

"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." Full Review

85
AM New York

"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." Full Review

85
Front Row Center

"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." Full Review

85
This Week in New York Blog

"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." Full Review

85
Magical MissTari Tour

"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." Full Review

85
The Modernist Beat

"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." Full Review

80
BroadwayWorld

“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." Full Review

80
Variety

"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." Full Review

80
Time Out New York

"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." Full Review

80
CurtainUp

"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." Full Review

80
Gotham Playgoer

"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." Full Review

80
CitiTour

"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." Full Review

80
Wolf Entertainment Guide

"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." Full Review

80
City Cabaret

"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." Full Review

80
Newsday

"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." Full Review

70
Theater Life

"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." Full Review

65
Off Off Online

"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." Full Review

60
Talkin' Broadway

"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." Full Review

60
Financial Times (UK)

"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." Full Review

55
Times Square Chronicles

"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." Full Review

50
scribicide

"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." Full Review


99
Great acting, Masterful, Must see, Profound, Great writing

See it if You like Brecht, Weill and challenging political theater

Don't see it if You go to the theater merely to be entertained.

95
Great acting, Intense, Excruciating

See it if You like edgy new work.

Don't see it if you're squeamish. Not for the faint of heart.

95
Funny, Absorbing, Delightful, Thought-provoking, Refreshing

See it if A dystopian world, almost a musical, well acted making salient points about society today appeals to you. Reminded me of Sweeney Todd

Don't see it if You aren't in for depressing, but funny theater.

94
Absorbing, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Must see, Great writing

See it if You like moving dramas with great acting about injustice, and women's role with have and have nots.

Don't see it if You don't want to be moved.

92
Absorbing, Great acting, Intense, Resonant, Great writing

See it if you want to see an intelligent, thought-provoking, beautifully acted drama.

Don't see it if you don't like the work of Suzan-Lori Parks.

91
Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Great writing, Great staging

See it if your ready for a unique & intelligent update on the Scarlett Letter, including allusions to Brecht and Sweeney Todd. Superb cast and script!

Don't see it if the sight of blood is something that you can't deal with or are uncomfortable with the themes of abortion, rape and abuse of women's souls.

90
Absorbing, Clever, Great acting, Intense, Great singing

See it if f you want to see a different take on the Scarlet Letter and see great acting.

Don't see it if your not into small productions

90
Dizzying, Great acting, Great staging

See it if Very creative staging, absorbing story that unspools in a very dramatic way

Don't see it if If the title puts you off, you know it is not for you.

90
Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Intense

See it if You like Brecht, Christine Lahti and dark tales well-told. The music and singing were well done and added to the show.

Don't see it if You prefer light entertainment.

Also A dark story but superior to "in the blood" her other red letter play.

90
Clever, Great acting, Intense, Great writing, Darkly comic and darkly tragic

See it if You want to see a well-written, well-acted modern day riff on The Scarlet Letter.

Don't see it if You are looking for something light and fluffy. This is an intense show.

Also Christine Lahti and Brandon Victor Dixon lead a phenomenal cast in thi... Read more Read less

90
Relevant, Resonant, Great writing, Great staging, Raw

See it if if you are in a mood for fantastic writing, exquisite staging and intense rhythm

Don't see it if You don't like strong women characters and want to see something light

90
F***ing "a"mazing storytelling with hester prynne reimagined as an "a"bortionist

See it if story of vengeance, power, use of sex to various ends brilliantly captured in medieval world; multitalented cast plays and sings new music

Don't see it if this is brutal, but like Game of Thrones you can't avert your eyes from the carnage; starts slowly but gains momentum 2 bloody ending

Also There is a brilliant scene in which the Butcher character provides a l... Read more Read less

90
Absorbing, Great acting, Riveting, Great writing

See it if You enjoy superb acting and riveting story

Don't see it if You don't like serious plays lasting over 2 hours

90
Funny, Epic, Intense, Masterful, 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.

Also Loved the creativity. This was a satirical black comedy, compared to t... Read more Read less

90
Absorbing, Great acting, Masterful, Profound, Resonant

See it if you love Suzan-Lori Parks' writing. Or if you love edgy, slightly more avant-garde theater. This is an exquisite production of this play.

Don't see it if Brechtian style theater isn't your thing. If you are bothered by implied violence or are strongly against abortion.

88
Absorbing, Ambitious, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Resonant

See it if you're a Parks fan, admire the excellent Christine Lahti, want to see Elizabeth Stanley push herself, enjoy cast breaking into bitter songs

Don't see it if having an abortionist as a main character would bother you, not a fan of Oedipal like coincidence or of Brecht-Weill style presentation

88
Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Resonant, Great writing

See it if you want to watch an amazing writer at work, and great acting, surprisingly harmonious music, a few [bitter] laughs. Staging is excellent.

Don't see it if you want a lighthearted evening, or cant bear to contemplate cruelty & violence. It's dark yet, remarkably, it is not depressing.

88
Disturbing, creative, absorbing

See it if you like stories that rift on a theme but take it to another level and makes you question your world.

Don't see it if you want a pretty look at life and expect to walk out happy.

88
Intense, Masterful, Resonant

See it if you like brilliant acting in intense scenes that push you emotionally and morally. Singing nicely complements dialogue.

Don't see it if your views on abortion are fixed or physical/ sexual violence upsets you. Not for squeamish. Lahti is wow. Voices impressive.

87
Funny, Absorbing, Clever, Great acting, Great staging

See it if Great acting... interesting theme. Humor clever twists

Don't see it if If you are opposed to crude language and sexual content

87
Absorbing, Ambitious, Edgy, Great acting, Thought-provoking

See it if You enjoy writing that gingerly references classical literature i.e. The Scarlet Letter, that brings a modern twist to an old story

Don't see it if You have no interest in thinking about painful issues like abortion or unlawful imprisonment and a justice system gone awry.

Also Don't see it if you're looking for light entertainment

86
Funny, Clever, Great acting, Great writing

See it if you like Suzan Lori-Parks, quirky writing, unforgiving/unforgivable characters. The show is worth seeing!

Don't see it if you like Brecht and think that derivative plays are a waste of time. This is Mother Courage with a twist

86
Absorbing, Epic, Profound, Great writing, Great staging

See it if you love a profound and powerful piece of work and Brecht's Epic theater

Don't see it if you prefer a more indulgence in theater

85
Great acting, Masterful, Resonant, Great writing

See it if Christine Lahti as Hester carriesher letter A spectacularly well. Parks play is engagingly dark and inventive. Refreshingly now!

Don't see it if Adult themes and dark tales bother you

85
Great acting, Intelligent, Intense, Profound, Resonant

See it if you aren't afraid of dark, violent subject matter that is intelligently written and beautifully acted and staged. There's also music!

Don't see it if you don't like dark, intense, violent subject matter with a dystopian view of the world.


Cast & Creatives (16)