Closed 2h 0m
The Saintliness of Margery Kempe
Midtown W
67

The Saintliness of Margery Kempe NYC Reviews and Tickets

67%
(112 Reviews)
Positive
52%
Mixed
38%
Negative
10%
Members say
Disappointing, Great acting, Slow, Quirky, Funny

About the Show

Austin Pendleton directs a new revival of this comic drama from the 50s, which follows the true-life misadventures of the famed English woman of the 14th Century. 

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Member Reviews (112)

70
Range of acting, Uneven tone, Drawn out, Interesting story, Thought-provoking

See it if you're a Nichols fan; she stands out. O'Connell is a worthy counterpart. Ensemble isn't great (director's fault?) TSMK's plot fascinates.

Don't see it if you're easily bored; every scene is too long. Humor unevenly elicits laughs. Key messages get buried. Not a waste, but misses the mark. Read more

65
Disappointing, Confusing, Funny, Quirky, Uneven

See it if You don’t mind seeing a show that’s got some pretty good moments in it but gets bogged down with some pretty uneven acting.

Don't see it if You want a great show with good acting, sets and costumes. It all felt pretty amateurish to me.

Critic Reviews (19)

August 1st, 2018

"The great Frances Sternhagen played Margery in the original Off Broadway production, in 1959, opposite Gene Hackman...The delightful news about Austin Pendleton’s uneven revival, is that the standard for those roles hasn’t slipped a millimeter...Nichols and O’Connell are delicious to watch...The play is most fun when it moves at high speed, and a languor overcomes the slack first act...Not all of the casting is as spot-on as the leads."
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July 12th, 2018

"Performance-wise, it’s all over the place...Nearly half of Wulp’s comedy is repetitive and, in this iteration, unfunny. After a long stretch of dullness, the play finds a spark of energy in its second act...There’s relevance here—something about our seemingly endless appetite for attention, or about the performative nature of holiness itself. But the play needs more beauty, more speed, more strangeness, more noise."
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July 12th, 2018

"Something much duller than it has any right to be...With no rhyme or reason to Margery's victories, defeats, and internalized lessons, these ebbs and flows feel as arbitrary as her whims. Director Austin Pendleton has set out to dust off this 60-year-old play. Dust, however, isn't so much the problem as is 60-year-old clutter that this production dances around in lieu of doing a thorough purge...Our title character feels similarly stranded in a narrative that renders her less than the sum of her parts."
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July 12th, 2018

"One can understand the attraction...Ultimately, however, Wulp's play is disappointing. The play aims for big laughs, but not all of the ludicrousness lands...Still, Pendleton has drawn fine performances from his nine-person ensemble...The production benefits from a spare design, allowing the focus to remain on the strong performances...Despite its flaws, 'Margery Kempe' is a reminder that a woman does not have to be a saint nor a sinner to change the world."
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July 12th, 2018

"In one of my first jotted notes, I wrote, 'Is this a comedy?' I never laughed, but at the performance I attended there were a few titters. So here’s the benefit of the doubt: Okay, 'The Saintliness of Margery Kempe' is a comedy, but a bad one...On how to shake out this dust-ridden screed, director Pendleton is at a complete loss...The pseudo-poetic lines the nine actors are handed—all but Nichols doubling, tripling, quintupling—prove insurmountable."
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July 12th, 2018

"Neither a Monty Python-esque spoof of a darker age nor an amusing character study of an obstreperous individual. It is merely a mildly facetious comedy about a self-centered woman whose personal dramas endear her to no one other than a long-suffering spouse. Overlong at two acts and nearly two hours, the spotty play benefits from the sort of good, solid acting that typically characterizes so many of Pendleton’s productions."
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July 19th, 2018

"The cast list in the program reads more like a medieval phone-directory--even if there were no phones in the Middle Ages--than it does a dramatis personae. And then there's what happens to the characters during the course of the play which is as hard to say as it is to remember all of their names, let alone pronounce them."
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July 12th, 2018

"The thematic relevance of a forgotten play doesn't automatically translate into dramatic effectiveness…Much of interest but also something of a lump…Working under Pendleton's not particularly inventive direction…Nichols makes a dynamic and forceful Margery, embodying the comical and serious sides of her kooky determination…The arch manner in which Margery's experiences are presented, and the generally tepid quality of the humor, would try the patience of a saint."
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July 14th, 2018

“Pendleton has wisely recruited Nichols to play the insufferable protagonist...Her performance as Margery is downright mesmeric. Wulp's script, though admirably literate, is overlong and overwritten; but the scenes in Act Two when Margery travels to Jerusalem are worth the price of admission...This comedy may be overlong, but it's dollars to doughnuts that Wulp's script and Pendleton's production afford a far more invigorating experience than any of those academic papers at the Kempe symposium in Oxford.”
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July 19th, 2018

“With wit, sharp wordplay, irreverence and numerous characters Mr. Wulp uses language advantageously; characters speak poetically, imagery abounds and stakes are high...Although the script could use some pruning, director Austin Pendleton keeps the action moving...Multitude of medieval characters, ranging from the commoner to the bishop, are gamely portrayed by a plucky group of actors...The cast standout is the gifted Jason O’Connell.”
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July 13th, 2018

“A two note play, with the one note delusional and schizophrenic lead challenging a more consciously fabricated Joan of Arc on one side of the net against a devilishly desperate soul on the other...Somewhat odd morality play...Bounces back and forth, from farce and fun to tiring and long...Too much explanation and not much variety in its conflict leads to a long tennis match of godliness, one that loses its funny premise early on, and the game just falls flat after that.”
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July 14th, 2018

“Would fare much better if it had remained undiscovered, left lying dead...Historically inaccurate, filled with tedious twists and turns that are insignificant...Difficult to decide if it is a comedy, drama, farce, spoof or a play of historical fiction...Non-coherent, with no apparent continuity, timeline, or purpose...Few comic moments; but, they are far and few between the laborious and dull script...Cast is overly competent and diligently attempts to transcend the material with minor success.”
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July 12th, 2018

"There are two problem with the Voltairean touches in 'The Saintliness of Margery Kempe.' First, they undermine the promise of entering the world (and the mind) of a medieval mystic; satire keeps us at a distance — or, more precisely, keeps us in the modern world. Second, Wulp is no Voltaire. For that matter, Austin Pendleton is no Mel Brooks. There is pointed dialogue, clever ironies. There is talent on stageLAndrus Nichols makes a fine Margery...But the entertainment goes just so far."
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July 14th, 2018

"It is hard to care about a character when she is so self-absorbed...The main character wants to be spectacular. The problem is, she doesn’t care at whose expense...Wulp’s text is at times humorous, but it lacks any kind of fiber. Poetic at times, the audience struggles to find meaning in this.. Pendleton has tried his best to make this 60-year-old play entertaining...As Margery, Nichols’s performance struggles against the text to make her human."
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July 13th, 2018

“An attempt to highlight Kempe’s break from the expected position of women in society in her time as a parallel to wider aspirations for women today. But what we see on stage doesn’t mesh with such a leap...But what we see is of interest, especially given the flamboyant portrait of Kempe as vigorously enacted by Nichols...Pendleton as director struggles to keep all of the broad components making sense and effectively integrated. But dominating everything is the force of Nichols’s performance."
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July 13th, 2018

“Much of the writing is period poetic, much is amusing, yet the production rarely lifts off. The company is lackluster and unfocused. Physical direction lacks imagination and structure. What should, I think, snap, doesn’t...O’Connell is too casual/contemporary by half and a hammy member of the crowd...Doyle brings the stage to life with every nuanced appearance. A subtle and sympathetic performance...Nichols offers just the right obtuse, bright-eyed, pigheaded portrayal.”
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July 23rd, 2018

“Sometimes the play meanders and becomes as messy as a Collier Brothers’ Fifth Avenue home. There’s an all-too-convenient deus ex machina, too. At least Wulp stokes our interest in a genuine historical character we’ve probably missed along the way...Nichols does well by it. One does wish that a major star had tackled the part...Pendleton’s direction impresses. All his supporting actors give unmannered, real-person performances with one exception: O’Connell."
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July 19th, 2018

“As the play progresses, the story goes awry...Luckily the cast are marvelous as they play multiple roles adeptly and distinctly and keep things moving. It’s them that we come to appreciate as the script takes its turn downward...Pendleton saves this sinking stone of a story with a light touch and wonderful staging...There are many enjoyable moments in the play, but Margery, ultimately, is rendered a caricature, defeating the fun and strong feminist message of the beginning.”
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July 15th, 2018

"Would be an even more entertaining production were it somewhat shorter...The play is talky, funny and energetic although it comes down to a picaresque venture that doesn’t impart meaning deeper than a look at a woman who rails against having her life defined by men. What’s new?...Although entertaining much of the time, the play lacks substance. Despite the good performances, it comes off as a series of vignettes with a lot of nudge-nudge/wink-wink."
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