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The Whirligig

From 41 critic and 139 member reviews
Members say: Great acting, Disappointing, Absorbing, Slow, Confusing

About the show

The New Group presents Hamish Linklater's new drama about a fractured community weaving a circuitous route back to one another. ​Starring Zosia Mamet ('Girls') and two-time Tony winner Norbert Leo Butz. More…

After much time away, Kristina is back in Berkshire County, and word spreads that she and her ex-husband are caring for their estranged, ailing daughter Julie. Brokenhearted and giddy with love and confusion, surprising visitors from Julie's complicated past practically trip over each other to reach the young woman they thought they'd lost years before but still feel deeply connected to.

Reviews Off Broadway

"'Whirligig' pitches the audience forwards and backwards in time and emotion, without ever losing its own footing. A beautifully efficient story of love in its many forms, the players in 'Whirligig' have taken the play's honesty to heart with touching and perfect performances. It is the story of a young woman's return home as she is dying, and the people who loved her. The tragedy is how long it takes us all to cut through the bullshit to truth and forgiveness." Full Review

Theatre Reviews Limited

"Linklater’s characters are all well-rounded and authentic, with believable traits and rich and complex conflicts that successfully drive the engaging plot...Under Scott Elliott’s thoughtful and embracing direction, the characters 'unfold' in layers of surprising details...'The Whirligig' is a gripping psychodrama that explores the intricate dynamics of grief, forgiveness, and reconciliation...Linklater’s impressive play is a must-see." Full Review

Theatre is Easy

"An exquisitely composed play...Director Scott Elliott has a way of clarifying the play's labyrinthine connections...Everything fits together organically to propel the narrative forward, without being singularly overwhelming. An ensemble of masterful actors also perfects the intimacy...The play is a thoughtful balance of characters and plot, an intricate design without a single wasted stoke. Each loose end gets tied up, and everything has a satisfying payoff." Full Review

Woman Around Town

"The densely written, highly literate 'Whirligig' is only actor/playwright Hamish Linklater’s second effort, yet it arrives with the gusto and definition of a practiced hand...Characters are well drawn and skillfully manifest...Director Elliott has done an inspired job of controlling both visual and emotional ebb and flow. Timing is pristine. The company is cohesive and focused. A difficult and successfully realized production to which attention should be paid." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"The conversations are quick-witted, filled with some terrific comedy lines...It’s a thought-provoking dramedy that will leave you feeling uncomfortable, with real impact...The high-level performances and complexity of this entwined ensemble are quite remarkable, making it difficult to highlight any one specific actor as each is a standout. Scott Elliott’s precision direction creates powerful storytelling on the brilliant turntable set design by Derek McLane." Full Review

Times Square Chronicles

"Linklater’s new play 'The Whirligig' is wrapped in grief, yet you laugh at the insights on life...Filled with some amazing performances...To many this play will seem overwhelming, as if too much has been stuffed onto this canvass. The actors are all sublime and the direction by Scott Ellis is a dance of destruction nicely played. I found this show so emotional I was laughing through the first act and in tears by the end...Smart, funny and touching." Full Review


"Expressionistic in form and melancholy in tone...Despite the downbeat subject, it’s a touching play and exceptionally stageworthy in this polished production...The emotional swings of the play are best realized by Butz, who’s giving a brilliant chameleon performance...This sprawling, plot-free play has room for all sorts of characters...Director Elliott is a certifiable casting maven, so each of these colorful supporting roles is played to eccentric perfection." Full Review

Time Out New York

"This uncomfortable mixture of tragedy and comedy is central to Linklater’s affecting and intelligent new play...Scott Elliott’s production keeps a steady sense of balance amid the play’s swirling parts, creating strong bonds of unspoken history within his cast of eight...Even in its exuberant penultimate scene, crowded with characters and revelations, Linklater doesn’t overexplain. He gives his stricken creations room to understand themselves, if not redeem themselves." Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

"Quirky, tender, and often quite funny...The play's broad and ambitious theme of our collective responsibility to one another in this crazy world takes a back seat to the production itself. The power of the play lies within its individual scenes, each of which is a self-contained mini-drama...Credit Scott Elliott's direction...and the outstanding performances by a stellar and eminently talented cast for making 'The Whirligig' as fully engaging as it assuredly is." Full Review

The Huffington Post

"Linklater has a keen dramatic sense, plus a knack for sparkling dialogue...Despite the serious strains of the evening, the result is heartening and life-affirming...The cast, methinks, could not be bettered...Let it be said that 'The Whirligig,' as a play, is not without its problems; it is long and might seem overcomplicated for playgoers who haven’t necessarily signed on for an evening of studying...I would say, though, that the revenges of the whirligig of time are Linklater’s point." Full Review

Front Row Center

"The writing, combined with fine, fine performances and a sensitive touch by director Scott Elliott, make for a mighty fine evening of theatre. So fine that a person could almost forget that this play needs a trim...Linklater is in no hurry to move the plot along, which causes the story to get bogged down. What saves everything is his masterful work creating these characters. Each person is a fully formed hunk of damaged goods...A jewel in the making. So close." Full Review

This Week in New York Blog

"An emotionally powerful drama about love and addiction, friendship and responsibility, and what encompasses 'fault'...The torrent of revelations could overwhelm the story but instead helps everything fall into place...Told with a clever circularity, with well-developed characters and a tightly written script that, despite some bumps and bruises, bring it all together, complete with unexpected twists and turns...The cast is excellent." Full Review

Stage Buddy

“Linklater’s dialogue is sharp and intelligent, and he finds a fine balance of comedy...The formidable ensemble cast carries it off remarkably well…Though some threads remain tangled and big revelations towards the end lead to lopsided emotional reactions, director Scott Elliott choreographs an intricate deep-dive into a not-unfamiliar community, letting a mighty bunch of actors throw their weight into a heart-tugging exploration of the bonds formed, uniquely, by loss.” Full Review


"Linklater creates great roles for talented actors, and this cast just happens to be full of them...We are glad to get to know these characters so intimately, but the price is a script that often feels shaggy and overburdened by ancillary details. Linklater could stand to trim some of his dialogue, even if this cast is doing an excellent job of selling it all...Director Scott Elliott's tidy production also helps to keep the play from getting stuck in a rut." Full Review

New York Theater

"Such unlikely coincidences and contrivances might have sunk completely a different production and a different new play. But Linklater manages to salvage the play’s odd mix of the forlorn, funny, and fanciful by creating appealing and playable characters, who are portrayed by a fine eight-member cast...The design team is adept at keeping the places and periods clear, and helping to infuse what on paper would seem an unrelieved dark tale with a sense of wonder." Full Review


"Anyone giving this somewhat self-indulgently long, complex drama the called for close attention will be well rewarded. Linklater has created a rich tapestry of inter-connected lives. He writes terrific dialogue, full of wonderful literary references...Norbert Leo Butz is ideally cast as Michael, the father who's always ready with a funny routine even when his heart is breaking...The cast overall is outstanding." Full Review


“Many scenes strike hot, though a couple of important ones fizzle…For the most part, the clever unspooling of the plot is a joy to follow, while the fine cast burnishes individual moments of character revelation into a constellation of inky pathos and acidic humor…Dramatically satisfying, sometimes dizzying plot revelations revolve into view as the scenes spin round…‘The Whirligig’ doesn’t sustain its dreamy magic consistently, but it offers much to appreciate.” Full Review

Front Mezz Junkies

“A touching new play…Each and everyone in this spectacularly talented cast is playing their parts with solid authenticity and exactitude...The dialogue is so smart but sometimes so hard to watch…It’s a shame that as a whole, the play doesn’t rise to the same level of solid authenticity as these few moments…As a whole, it’s convoluted and blurs the deep pain that hovers over these people…The heartbreak comes into focus every so often, but then retreats to the background.” Full Review


"Linklater’s ambitious and moving new play...being given a top-notch production...Linklater’s grasp doesn’t always match his reach; the play clearly aims for (and falls short of) that perfect Chekhovian mixture of comedy and tragedy. Nonetheless, the author is to be applauded for crafting a compelling story—one brought to life here by a superb ensemble...Even when the plot falters slightly, there is always remarkable psychological acuity in how he treats familial relationships." Full Review

Wolf Entertainment Guide

“There are time changes and flashbacks to follow the trajectories of Linklater’s assorted characters, with whom you may or may not relate appreciatively. But you will be unlikely to question the veracity or effectiveness of the acting…Linklater deftly exposes his characters in the different time frames...Death is inevitably sad, but the extent that one will respond emotionally will be governed by how deeply one feels for the characters.” Full Review


"Hamish Linklater has written a generous work, one that offers substantial roles to all eight of its actors...There is a humanity here that is missing from more conceptual contemporary works, and while the New Group has been marked recently by superb challenges to theatrical form and purpose, it feels comfortable and comforting to settle in to one that is simply and expertly written in the tradition of the well-made play." Full Review

Broadway Blog

“Hamish Linklater's rambling but often richly listenable new play…It takes a long time to get an inkling of where the play is going, what the stakes are, or why we should be concerned enough to return for Act Two…The dialogue often has a nimble, smartass flavor that, while sometimes registering more as clever stage talk than believable conversation, nevertheless helps sustain interest and spark laughter…'The Whirligig' offers considerable meat for its actors to chew on.” Full Review

The New York Times

"While 'The Whirligig' offers treats for fans of in-the-moment acting, its moments fail to cohere...Linklater has done a great job in furnishing the interiors of his characters’ lives, but the teetering structure they inhabit creaks...By the end, you may feel as if that set had nearly been spun off its axis. But you’ll also be unlikely to forget the moments in which time seemed to stand still, when the cast fully embodied the script’s insights about the consequences of self-medication." Full Review

Theater Life

“Linklater’s new play displays a performer’s instinct for juicy, conflict-stuffed scenes. There are flaws in construction, but overall, it’s a worthy effort…Linklater is guilty of oversimplification...But he makes up for this error with engaging dialogue and heartbreaking pathos…The first act spends too much time going over the past while the superior second act shows us these conflicts in flashback...Director Elliott and a solid cast valiantly attempt to keep the rehashing vital.” Full Review


"Linklater’s playwriting skills are at their best in his two-person scenes...Unfortunately, the play’s penultimate scene proves clunky. Secrets spill out and character connections are disclosed in a farcical manner that feels out of keeping with the darkly comic style that preceded it. Director Elliott doesn’t help matters by arranging cast members in a semicircle that feels oddly inorganic...Elliott has assembled a strong ensemble, with particularly fine work from Orsini." Full Review

Thought-provoking, Great writing, Clever

See it if you ever loved someone.

Don't see it if you have to blame someone.

Absorbing, Entertaining, Great acting

See it if Extremely well-acted & heartbreaking tale about a mom's daughter who is dying because of a decision made years ago. Superb cast.

Don't see it if You're easily confused and can't keep track of scenes that go back and forth in time.

Great acting, Great writing, Intelligent, Riveting, Quirky

See it if Intelligent commentary on how an adolescent went astray, with excellent characterization of the key persons in her life.

Don't see it if You cant stand having a single retrospective scene in the middle of the play. If some stupid medical script errors would drive you batty

Absorbing, Great acting, Great writing, Masterful, Resonant

See it if You love a great drama and great actikfm. Fresh. Innovative. Engaging.

Don't see it if You don't want to see another dysfunctional family

Absorbing, Clever, Interesting

See it if You like theater that interweaves characters and situations.

Don't see it if You are easily confused

Great acting, Great writing, Great staging, Confusing, Ending is its only flaw

See it if you want a play that infuses comedy into sad situations beautifully. Because of its flow between now and then, it requires concentration.

Don't see it if you are looking for an easy straight forward play

Great acting, Great staging, Intense, Profound, Unique

See it if You want to see an intelligent show that has a great ensemble cast.

Don't see it if Substance abuse, or issues of a psychological nature are too much for you.

Great acting, Confusing, Edgy, Great staging, Thought-provoking

See it if you like plays about people, their struggles, and how we are influenced by our relationships

Don't see it if you only like to see straight forward "well made" plays

Absorbing, Clever, Great acting

See it if you can follow interlocking stories

Don't see it if your concentration is poor. You can't fall asleep here

Clever, Great acting, Relevant

See it if You're up for a night of heavy subject matter nicely interspersed with genuine laughs. You've enjoyed the work of the playwright before.

Don't see it if You get bored easily by non-linear storytelling. You want something fluffy.

Also Definitely worth seeing. As others have mentioned, Act Two is more coh... Read more Read less

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

See it if Can deal with serious real life family issues and tragedy

Don't see it if If you like comedy or light hearted shows not suitable for children

Absorbing, Delightful, Great acting, Great staging, Great writing

See it if you enjoy an entertaining play that is about today's culture. At bit confusing at first but it all comes together in the end.

Don't see it if you are the type whose mind wanders and you can't sit still and follow a story because this one requires your attention.

Absorbing, Ambitious, Great staging, Quirky

See it if you enjoy Norbert Leo Butz. Have a soft spot for quirky characters.

Don't see it if you are triggered by drug abuse or have abandonment issues.

Resonant, Refreshing, Slow, Absorbing, Quirky

See it if Grace Van Patten and Mamet's acting is wonderful. Strong characters. A little to much of an effort to tie all ends up too neatly at the end

Don't see it if Waits until second act to pick up. If you don't like family/small town dramas, dramas dealing with terminal illness, substance abuse

Absorbing, Clever, Great acting, Riveting, Masterful

See it if Beautifully written and produced play about family and friends relationships.A psychological look at the results of early unmet needs.

Don't see it if If you prefer light dramas or musicals.

Attractive new staging,, Very well acted,, Good to look at and compelling., It's somewhat of a challenge to follow clearly, yet still understand most., Worthwhile, for sure.

See it if You want a well staged comedic drama with interesting quirky characters. Small theater, higher production values evident.

Don't see it if Some convolution in story doesn't bother you. You need to be strongly moved in a drama.

Relevant, Thought-provoking, Intense, Well acted, Great staging

See it if you enjoy serio-comic plays, quite relevant to our world, leaving you with something to discuss.

Don't see it if you want show-stopping dance numbers or belly laughs. Not for children.

Absorbing, Clever, Entertaining, Great acting, Intelligent

See it if You want to see some great acting and an interesting story. Much better than I expected after reading a bunch of reviews.

Don't see it if I liked it I think you should see it.

Great staging, Thought-provoking, Great acting

See it if You're a fan of any of the cast. Great staging and acting.

Don't see it if You're looking for something light

Intelligent, Great acting, Relevant, Great writing, Great staging

See it if want to get involved in a good story with developed characters. The acting is wonderful.

Don't see it if You want to see a big showy production. You don't want to pay attention to what the characters are saying or doing or feeling

Great acting, Funny, Sad, Thought-provoking, Interesting set

See it if You like sad but funny, well acted shows.

Don't see it if You have trouble dealing with addiction issues.

Interesting, Great acting, Indulgent

See it if you enjoy A play based less on action and more on emotions - goes back and forth in time. I liked it better than the reviews. Loved NLB

Don't see it if You do not like family dysfunctional drama plays. The idea of drug abuse and/or alcoholism bothers you.

Absorbing, Relevant, Great staging, Thought-provoking

See it if you're open to a serious topic and lots of dialogue punctuated with humor; great ensemble

Don't see it if you dislike non-linear storytelling or need all of your questions answered

Great acting, Intense, Confusing, Sad

See it if You appreciate great acting within a somewhat confusing play. Sad examination of the cycle of addiction. Norbert Leo Butz was outstanding.

Don't see it if The play doesn't totally hold together coherently; some characters seemed unnecessary, confusing. The acting was better than the play.

Clever, Edgy, Great staging, Thought-provoking

See it if Loved the staging, acting all good But... 80 and and a 70 produces the 75. Sets are great. Small space works well.

Don't see it if some scenes needed more projection by the actors. .. some confusion re; who is whom.. Will be better with some tender loving care.

Cast & Creatives (16)