New York | 1h 25m | Already closed

The Trial of the Catonsville Nine

From 14 critic and 82 member reviews
Members say: Thought-provoking, Great acting, Absorbing, Relevant, Intelligent

About the show

Transport Group Artistic Director Jack Cummings III has radically re-imagined this provocative piece of theater created from the actual court transcripts of the Catonsville Nine trial. More…

It is 1968 and the war is raging in Vietnam. A draft card is viewed by many as a death certificate. In the midst of a divided country, with corrosive mistrust in government and authority, nine would-be bystanders in Catonsville, Maryland decide that complacency is complicity — it is time for action. Their single act of conscience to halt the draft awakens a national resistance.    

This production is produced in partnership with the National Asian American Theatre Company (NAATCO). 

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“A creative new staging...The brilliant that a trio of fine performers interchangeably play everyone in the cast. Under the absorbing direction...the actors create a swirl of argument, moving nimbly around the desks, alternately playing accuser and accused...Thanks to powerful performances...the heartfelt passion and dedication to justice that animated the Catonsville Nine rivets the audience to their seats, with some in tears or biting their lip as the play unfolds.” Full Review

Broadway Blog

"What we witness is theatrically heightened but the result is very real, especially with the lines being spoken with rare clarity and power by each of these extraordinary actors...'The Trial' remains an important document reminding us of America's continually aggressive foreign policy. Little has changed in how we supposedly serve our national interests...Cummings's staging is rhythmically controlled, movement being both realistic and tightly predetermined." Full Review


“Not seen in New York in 30 years, ‘The Trial of the Catonsville Nine’ has been reimagined in a new version by Jack Cummings III, artistic director of the innovative Transport Group theater company, which also uses other sources. A powerful experience, the revival proves to be a provocative investigation of what a citizen should do when he or she feels that the government is engaged in immoral actions.” Full Review

Theatre is Easy

" A brilliant revival of an always timely play....The acting is stellar and it’s compelling to hear Berrigan tell the court that the group’s goal was 'to raise an outcry against a crime, a wanton slaughter, to halt the machine of death'...Thanks to a well-honed script, the actors are able to convey a sense of political urgency without lapsing into rhetoric or making the audience feel guilty for not doing enough. The end result is inspiring, uplifting, and powerful." Full Review


"It's a testament to both Cummings's steady directorial hand and the uniformly strong performances of the cast that it is always crystal-clear who is speaking, and about what...In design and staging, Cummings uses the old Neighborhood Playhouse stage in unexpected and exciting ways...With searing moral clarity as powerful as it must have been in 1971, 'The Trial of the Catonsville Nine' challenges us to reassess our responsibility as citizens." Full Review

Time Out New York

"This remarkable moment in political and theatrical history now comes roaring back to life with the fervor its subjects deserve...Performed by three Asian-American actors who rise beautifully to the challenge of playing numerous different characters...'The Trial' is activist theater in the best sense of the term. You won’t learn much about the defendants’ lives beyond their political activities, and the same argument tends to get rehashed repeatedly—but it’s a damn powerful argument." Full Review

America Magazine

"A stirring, often poetic piece of protest art, it is being brought to vivid new life...Cummings III has reimagined it as a kind of found text...It is a fascinating way to stage this time capsule of an age ever more polarized than our own, holding it at a remove that often makes its contemporary resonances ring all the louder...The play and its arguments remain easy to follow...Less easy to parse is the way the presence of Asian American actors reframes the play’s central strategy." Full Review

New York Theater

“A radical re-imagining of the play...Cummings III is credited with adapting the script...What’s changed most drastically is the staging...There’s a powerful theatricality happening here...but the reasoning behind some of the choices is not exactly clear. The casting of Asian-American performers is certainly intriguing...But why just three performers...It’s harder to be impressed by the actors’ dramatic emoting at any particular moment if we’re not certain who they are.” Full Review

The New York Times

“Presented with the NAATCO and performed by three actors of Asian descent, Cummings’s adaptation is ‘Catonsville’ pared down and reassembled...The moral weight of the activists’ defense proves more important than our need to know always which character is speaking, though Cummings’s willingness to blur that clarity does dilute Berrigan’s argument about the power of the individual. It also weakens the play’s emotional potency.” Full Review

Times Square Chronicles

"A little too liberal with its facts...The production remembers these brave men and women, but seems at times to be forcing their hand...The actors enter from the back playing multiple characters, breaking gender...Highly confusing, though each of these actors are brilliant at what they do...Jack Cummings III remix, adapted and directed and the original is much more powerful. Sometimes less is more when trying to make your point." Full Review


“Transport Group has a well-deserved reputation for innovative staging. And, in this respect, ‘The Trial of the Catonsville Nine’ does not disappoint...One wants desperately to like these people and love the play. But after 85 minutes we can only come to the conclusion that Berrigan's play does not make for a particularly compelling drama...It is very much like a good documentary...At times we are moved by Berrigan's poetry and decency, there are also times when we're just bored.” Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"Reimagined in ways that are sometimes theatrically arresting but, more often, are at cross purposes with the text...In its best moments, 'The Trial of the Catonsville Nine' shines a light on the moment when the American consensus began to come apart...There's also a tendency to underline every moment unnecessarily, shortchanging the text's plainspoken power...The words of the Catonsville Nine are, if anything, more relevant than ever; do they really need all this artificial sweetening?" Full Review

Exeunt Magazine

“The stiff text and distancing production choices...make it hard to fully engage...The history presented feels somehow both starkly black and white and murky all at once...By trying to disentangle age, gender, and identity from the voices, we are a little adrift...The production is directed with a heavy-hand...The play itself bears a self-important quality...It becomes lecturing documentary theater...We never know who our are guides are...or why they are telling us this story.” Full Review


"Cummings, whose directorial efforts far more often win than lose. But, sad to say, here’s a loss in which he’s defeated by his own concept...A play of all talk and no action. Thus, you’ll want to hear every word of each pro and con argument. Unfortunately, the actual stage of a theater was never designed with acoustics in mind, so the unmiked actors are hard to hear...We don’t get to know the people as individuals, what with all the mix-and-matching – which makes us less emotionally involved." Full Review

Absorbing, Clever, Entertaining, Ambitious, Intelligent

See it if You're interested in the history of our land and society.

Don't see it if You don't enjoy a history lesson, regardless of the top quality of its delivery.

Absorbing, Great acting, Intense, Intelligent, Thought-provoking

See it if you want an extraordinary night of amazingly still relevant theater

Don't see it if you’re looking for s musical

Intense, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Great staging, Compelling

See it if You are a jury in 1968 hearing the impassioned words of war objectors. Powerful issues made personal. Excellent staging w/great ending.

Don't see it if You wouldn't enjoy an artistic nonfiction re-enactment. You are not interested in Vietnam War issues, even though relevant to today.

Absorbing, Great acting, Ambitious, Clever, Intense

See it if You like history and retelling of an event from one perspective, limited set design.

Don't see it if You don’t like history from one perspective and limited set design.

Absorbing, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Riveting, Intelligent

See it if You want to learn a bit about US History while being entertained

Don't see it if US History bores you

Absorbing, Great staging, Intense, Thought-provoking, Intelligent

See it if You are or aren't familiar with this true-life tale of political heroism, and if you are a fan of environmental, site-specific theatre.

Don't see it if You like conventional settings for a story to take place in.

Also I went into this production knowing nothing about the story. I am so h... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Great acting, Great staging, Intelligent, Refreshing

See it if you like an intimate experience and a wonderful ambiance alongside great acting

Don't see it if you dislike trial plays or want something with extravagance

Great staging, Intelligent, Slow, Thought-provoking, Relevant

See it if story of 9 Vietnam protesters interests you. Script is from actual trial transcripts. 3 actors portray many characters.

Don't see it if you want a "routine" play with a full cast and linear storytelling. You don't like in-the-round productions.

Also This is one of the most creative and well-fitting stagings I've experi... Read more Read less

Ambitious, Great acting, Relevant, Resonant, Thought-provoking

See it if you enjoy verbatim or political theatre. Great cast, great direction, great set design, great lighting & sound design.

Don't see it if you are expecting a traditional prod.

Absorbing, Intelligent, Relevant

See it if If you like history plays that comment on current events by analogy. If you lived through the culture wars and protests of the 1960s.

Don't see it if If you want a big production rather than an intimate experience. If you're sensitive to potential overacting or cults of personality.

Absorbing, Ambitious, Resonant

See it if you like politically charged, docu-style theatre.

Don't see it if you prefer more of a traditional play or especially if you only dig the fluffy musicals.

Also While there really isn't much of an argument that an audience faces, i... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Great acting, Great writing, Relevant, Resonant

See it if You remember the years when the Vietnam war draft was front & center for all young men. Passions ran high. Reliving those times was hard.

Don't see it if You don't care to remember which side of the anti-war movement you were supporting. Still not clear if protests changed anything.

Absorbing, Intense, Thought-provoking

See it if You want to learn about true events surrounding the Vietnam war

Don't see it if You want to be entertained through music or dance

Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Intense

See it if You like theater that is off the beaten path. Strong performances. Appreciate a story that is not purely linear.

Don't see it if You want to relax and be entertained. This is an exciting piece of theater, well staged. But it’s intense.

Absorbing, Clever, Great acting, Intense, Thought-provoking

See it if You are interested in the trial or just want to learn a piece of history.

Don't see it if If you are looking for standard theater.

Relevant, Intense, Intelligent, Confusing, Immersive

See it if You are interested in human rights and historic documentation, excellent acting, sound, lighting, staging, presented in an immersive setting

Don't see it if The script was rather confusing, you get the gist but the story is not clear, you have to do your research before coming to see the play.

Great acting, Edgy, Thought-provoking, Great staging

See it if You are interested in political, historical plays that take a risk with unusual staging. --this focuses on the Vietnam War period.

Don't see it if You don't like a lot of talking with not much plot. Also-- be warned there's a lot of smoke

Intelligent, Relevant, Profound

See it if you like history plays

Don't see it if a little one-note

Ambitious, Disappointing, Indulgent, Slow, Great staging

See it if You enjoy plays based on history. You want a portrait of the Vietnam War protests. You like immersive staging. You enjoy political dramas.

Don't see it if You want characters that are more realistic & less archetype. You want a political play that shows both sides of an issue.

Also While I appreciate the company presenting this story, the writing is o... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Great acting, Great writing, Intelligent, Relevant

See it if You love a compelling docudrama about a nearly forgotten anti-war protest that is both inspiring and chilling in its relevancy to now.

Don't see it if You supported the Vietnam War.

During previews
Absorbing, Great acting, Relevant, Resonant, Intelligent

See it if you are interested in anti-war activities during the Vietnam War or historical plays in general or if you just love outstanding acting.

Don't see it if graphical descriptions of horrors of war are too much for you or if you have problems following 3 actors portraying > 12 people.

Also We thought this play was absolutely amazing: great light and sound eff... Read more Read less

During previews
Absorbing, Exquisite, Great acting, Great writing, Relevant

See it if If you want to understand a part of the history of US and enjoy every single moment watching a incredibly well directed play!

Don't see it if If you want to miss out!!

During previews
Absorbing, Clever, Great acting, Great staging, Intelligent

See it if Theater In the round done expertly. Great acting by David Huynh and Eunice Wong. Approx. 70 seats make one a part of the show. see also

Don't see it if One has to adjust to the 3 actors playing all of the roles, the 9 accused and the lawyers and judges.Only 90 minutes. See also

Also Daniel Berrigan lives again, Fascinating play. Take a tour of Abron Ar... Read more Read less

During previews
Absorbing, Ambitious, Great acting, Intelligent, Thought-provoking

See it if You want to see bravura acting by 3 talented actors while learning or being reminded of a major anti-war action; gripping, not didactic

Don't see it if You have no interest in political theater, regardless of how well written and performed

During previews
Important, Inspirational, Great staging, Relevant, Thought-provoking

See it if The courage it took these people to do what they did serves as inspirational, uplifting message to us all-that we can, & should, take action

Don't see it if U leave theatre wanting to be a better person. If u want a traditional performance on stage/arent into the subject/believe govt always right

Cast & Creatives (10)