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The Red Letter Plays: Fucking A

Members say: Great acting, Absorbing, Intense, Great writing, Ambitious
78
Critics
72
30 reviews
Members
80
117 reviews
 

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.

 

Cast & Creatives (16)



Reviews (147)

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews
72
Avg Score

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

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

45
The Hollywood Reporter

"'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." 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

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

45
Lighting & Sound America

"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." Full Review

40
Broadway Blog

“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.” 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

45
The Wrap

“'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.” 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

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

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews
80
Avg Score

69
Ambitious, Edgy, Intense, Thought-provoking, Relevant

See it if you like having a story you think you know turned upside down on its head.

Don't see it if you can’t stomach the future results of the Trump presidency plan for woman’s health care services.

Also Through the lens of playwright Suzan-Lori Parks, we get a glimpse into... Read more Read less

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

82
Absorbing, Great acting, Intense, Thought-provoking, Relevant

See it if You care about the important plays by our important playwrights

Don't see it if You dislike dark, difficult material

Also Disappointed to have missed Dixon, but Lahti, Kalukango and--especiall... Read more Read less

82
Surprising, Controversial, Didactic, Allegorical, Artistically-diverse

See it if you don't mind didactic allegories that blend music into the drama in ways that make the satire feel sometimes too obvious; are openminded.

Don't see it if easily offended by crime, violence, rape, abortion, misogyny, and immorality; prefer classic dramas; don't want to confront awful truths.

Also Having seen both of Suzan-Lori Parks' The Red Letter Plays, I can atte... Read more Read less

79
Absorbing, Ambitious, Great acting, Intense, Great writing

See it if You are a fan of Parks, Lahti, or Kudisch -- all who shine in this production. You like intense, proactive theatre and bold staging.

Don't see it if You are offended by harsh language, sexuality, violence, or difficult life situations.

Also A very bold production. It pulls no punches.

83
Absorbing, Ambitious, Edgy, Great acting, Intense

See it if you want to see an absorbing reaction to THE SCARLETT LETTER (just read a mini-synopsis 1st) with music. Christine Lahti=Perfection

Don't see it if you don't want to deal with Very Adult themes with music.

Also I had loved the play when first done at the Public in the late 90's an... Read more Read less

76
Absorbing, Ambitious, Clever, Great acting, Indulgent

See it if you enjoy audacious, compelling, original works full of ideas

Don't see it if you need a piece to fully hang together or have a solid message it clearly gets across

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

75
Absorbing, Intense, Profound, Resonant, Entertaining

See it if you want to see some great actors tackle tough material; you want to talk about the art you see after leaving the theater

Don't see it if you can't handle dark theater; you are not a fan of plays with music involved

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.

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.

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

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

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??

82
Great acting, Intelligent, Riveting, Great staging, Harrowing

See it if you enjoy serious drama. This play has themes resembling Mother Courage and Sweeney Todd.

Don't see it if you like to leave a theatre laughing or at least smiling. While recommended, this is heavy/dark.

90
F***ing "a"mazing storytelling

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

80
Ambitious, Edgy, Great acting, Intense, Thought-provoking

See it if you like Susan-Lori Parks dramas. you like alternating horror and comedy. you like some very dark drama

Don't see it if you don't like to see onstage violence, don't like profanity and sexual discussions.

Also A very interesting take on the Scarlet Letter with excellent acting. I... Read more Read less

82
Absorbing, Ambitious, Intelligent, Intense, Entertaining

See it if you're interested in a genre-bending work that veers more towards dark comedy. More entertaining of the two plays, but still serious topics

Don't see it if you're not interested in dark & somber social themes or play/musical hybrids (there are many songs), or don't like mix of sad & funny scenes

82
Great acting, Intense, Relevant, Heavy, Brechtian

See it if you like Brecht plays with their focus on the ugly ramifications of social inequality. This is a modern update based on the Scarlet Lett

Don't see it if you prefer something light and entertaining. This is a dark play.

58
Raunchy, Excruciating, Overrated, Confounding

See it if you understand Parks' aesthetic & want to see her attempt to repurpose The Scarlet Letter in a Brechtian style; you're a Christine Lahti fan

Don't see it if like me, you are baffled by Suzan-Lori Parks fandom and her heavy-handed and absurd (and not in a good way) storytelling.

80
Ambitious, Intense, Riveting

See it if You're a fan of Suzan-Lori Parks and dystopian drama. Or you want to see some great acting and have a challenging theater experience.

Don't see it if You're looking for a light entertainment, you're squeamish about abortion and/or rape and violence portrayed on stage, you want easy.

81
Absorbing, Great acting, Intense, Profound, Riveting

See it if Well written and produced drama. Incredible acting by the ensemble.

Don't see it if If you do not enjoy an intense drama.

82
Dark, dystopian musical of abused women

See it if Original Parks drama of totalitarian society. Small band over the stage plays songs by Parks, sung by the cast.

Don't see it if Bloody and eerie. Grim with humor in how miserable these characters are. But illuminating and theatrical

84
Absorbing, Ambitious, Edgy, Intense, Masterful

See it if You enjoy new forms of drama that experiment with different styles, or if you like work similar to that of Brecht.

Don't see it if You dislike tense, bloody plays or dystopian dramas.