New York | 2h 15m | Already closed

The Ruins of Civilization

From 14 critic and 57 member reviews
Members say: Thought-provoking, Absorbing, Slow, Great acting, Intelligent

About the show

Manhattan Theatre Club presents the world premiere of Penelope Skinner's exploration of our need for free will and connection, even in a world on the brink of extinction. More…

Sometime in the future, spouses Dolores and Silver (TV star Tim Daly) are living their lives within the constraints of a new world order. In an act of what seems like generosity, Dolores secretly opens their home to a stranger in need, but will she come to regret it? Can her actions have an impact or is it just too late?

Financial Times (UK)

“Skinner has a fine ear for such Orwellian turns of phrase. Under Leah C. Gardiner’s Pinteresque direction, her dialogue can sound stilted...Her play loses its way, however, after the interval, when the plot becomes reliant on several psychologically far-fetched twists, prompted by the arrival of an immigrant...Roxanna Hope plays the part convincingly, but Skinner doesn’t seem to know quite what to do with the character.” Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

“‘Ruins’ is never exactly subtle, but it is effective when it's underplaying its hand...Skinner, alas, doesn't avoid that much beyond intermission...and ‘Ruins’ drowns in boring, preachy pathos...The shift in tone is jarring, in part because the characters transform instantaneously, not because they've earned their evolution...Seeing how all these people deal with that unflinching reality from their unique perspectives is original and, in its way, gripping." Full Review


“Climate change, privilege, women having control of their bodies and putting up walls, British playwright Penelope Skinner bundles them all together...After her intriguing ‘The Village Bike’ two years ago, ‘The Ruins of Civilization’ seems a letdown, as the dystopian plot plays all too familiarly. Director Leah C. Gardiner's staging is efficient and the ensemble company is fine, but the meandering dialogue and thinly-developed characters create little reason for empathy.” Full Review

Front Row Center

"This is a well-intentioned piece that is part 'A Doll’s House' and part 'Twilight Zone.' Ms. Skinner’s writing, however, rather than being exploratory, is confining. While the character of Mara is many layered, the other three are one-note...We get the point very early on in this play. The world is going to hell in a handbag, and the people who believe in a Solution are offstage somewhere very far away...Once this is established the play idles like an old Ford pickup." Full Review

Ambitious, Intense, Slow

See it if sex trafficking, global warming, refugee crises and other current world pandemics suggest a dystopian future for us. Big topics, not new.

Don't see it if none of those things 'touch' your life or you really don't care about them, or would rather not think about them when you watch theatre

Original, Disappointing, Cliched

See it if you like future related shows, almost a 1984 quality to it, big brother watching you.

Don't see it if Takes place in future revolving around a couple who don't want children in order to maintain their govt subsidy.

Cliched, Intelligent, Intense, Relevant, Thought-provoking

See it if You want a Black Mirror-esque tense dystopian drama dealing with themes of climate change and immigration with echoes of A Doll's House.

Don't see it if You want that drama to have fleshed-out, three dimensional characters or the sense of a lived-in, fully realized world.

Banal, Slow, Relevant, Schematic

See it if You like plays about a dystopian future, even though ideas are limited and without foundation.

Don't see it if You like to see a fully realized future where you can understand how we got from now to there. And some of the action is predictable.

Disappointing, Great acting, Edgy, Intense, Slow

See it if You like twists in story lines

Don't see it if You don't like dominating controlling husbands...

During previews
Challenging, Slow, Original

See it if This play does have something to say about our present deficit of empathy through its dystopian future vision of environmental catastrophe

Don't see it if The show takes well over two hours to make its point, and tells the story through sad characters who I struggled to root for.

During previews
Ambitious, Relevant, Thought-provoking, Confusing, Cliched

See it if you have an interest in post-environmental disasters, governmental control and national sterilization.

Don't see it if you prefer straight-forward clear exposition or are sensitive to discussion of animal or child violence.

During previews
Safe, Committed actors, Melodramatic, Clean design

See it if you're addicted to the trend of dystopian plots with plenty of drama, but are not expecting to see an articulate point of view.

Don't see it if you're craving something adventurous or if you're looking for a drama to leave you hanging onto the edge of your seat. This is not that play

During previews
Confusing, Great acting, Slow

See it if There's a good play in there somewhere (with massive cuts needed) and the actors are terrific...

Don't see it if ...but the show is extremely slow-paced (2 hours 20 min) and I didn't totally understand the sci-fi plot.

During previews
Dark, Long

See it if you want a less intense Children of Men.

Don't see it if I don't know, it's hard to tell because it was only the second preview but there's some strange dramaturgical stuff I wasn't into.

During previews
Slow, Good acting, Dystopian, Overly long

See it if You've ever watched Black Mirror and thought "this is too intelligent and well written." Or if you want to see a well-aged Tim Daly.

Don't see it if Plays with a bleak, inevitable views of the future aren't for you. Or if violence toward children and animals make you uncomfortable.

During previews
Spectacular set, Disappointing, Over acted, Brave new world not, Pretentious

See it if You like Tim Daly, wonderful set design by Neil Patel, you don't mind predictable futuristic theme suggesting future environmental disaster.

Don't see it if You don't mind use of phoney British accents to mask bad writing and stilted acting, non PC themes. You need more than a beautiful set.

During previews
Cliched, Disappointing, Great acting, Slow, Simplistic

See it if you are a fan of the actors, all very good, or if you are a collector of dystopian visions.

Don't see it if you're tired of indictments of the patriarchy that don't bring anything new to the table.

During previews
Slow, Indulgent, Excruciating, Disappointing

See it if Not really worth seeing. I usually love Manhattan Theatre Club but this was just not up to their usual level.

Don't see it if You enjoy entertaining, amusing & interesting theater. This is slow and not that engaging. I found it hard to stay awake.

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Cast & Creatives (11)