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Turn Me Loose

Members say: Great acting, Absorbing, Entertaining, Funny, Thought-provoking
91
Critics
88
23 reviews
Members
92
69 reviews
 

Westside Theatre presents a bio-show about the explosive life and career of Dick Gregory ('Scandal's' Joe Morton), the first African-American comedian to expose white audiences to racially charged humor.

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Gretchen Law's two-hander tracks the course of Mr. Gregory's personal and professional history. When he forced himself onto the stage at The Playboy Club in front of an audience of Southern, white, frozen-food conventioneers, he transformed their racist heckling into howling laughter, and initiated an unprecedented comedy career. 'Turn Me Loose' explores Gregory’s struggle between his new-found celebrity and his yearning to join the civil rights movement. Produced by Grammy Award-winning pop star John Legend.

 

Cast & Creatives (10)


Reviews (92)

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews
88
Avg Score

95
The New York Times

“The show feels as raw, vital and funny as any stand-up set you’re likely to find in New York today. Some jokes feel so topical it’s hard to believe they date from decades ago...When Mr. Morton’s Gregory takes the stage, it’s as if a wrecking ball suddenly shattered the back of the theater. He’s sharp, pointed, tearing into material about racism with a fearless bite that still takes your breath away — or would, if you weren’t already wheezing from laughter.” Full Review

70
Theatermania

“Morton gives a committed (and sweaty) performance as Gregory, convincingly embodying the stand-up in various stages of his life. This is despite a somewhat messy script...It feels like a promising first draft...Morton makes these overwrought and underexplained moments work. He's a master monologist...Admirably, ‘Turn Me Loose’ is not a whitewash. Nor is it as impactful as it could be. The end result is a fuzzy portrait of a complicated figure.” Full Review

90
New York Post

“Gretchen Law’s play isn’t a traditional biopic, focusing instead on Gregory’s stand-up and activism, and how the two melded. Morton is utterly charismatic, working the mike like a man on a mission — which Gregory was, after all...Among the show’s highlights is the comedian/agitator’s first appearance at Chicago’s Playboy Club in 1961, when he was heckled by visiting Southerners. It’s equally funny and chilling, and time doesn’t make the exchange go down any easier." Full Review

85
BroadwayWorld

“Morton seamlessly segues from an energetic youth who uses gags to combat hate to an elderly sage who demands attention when speaking out on the issues of the day. As convincing as Morton is playing the character of Dick Gregory, he's just as convincing as a stand-up comic, playing routines to the theatre audience with a sharp ear for their reactions and a jaunty aggressive confidence.” Full Review

85
The Hollywood Reporter

“It's certainly a tour-de-force vehicle for its star...Morton doesn't deliver an exact impression but certainly channels his subject's biting delivery and sharp comic timing...The play, which touches on the many phases of Gregory's career, may be slightly too esoteric for non-fans. But even those not particularly interested in Dick Gregory would be foolish to pass up the opportunity to witness the remarkable performance by the play's star whose energy doesn't lag for a single moment.” Full Review

90
Time Out New York

"Even if you know the routines of Dick Gregory by heart, 'Turn Me Loose' still has the power to surprise, shock and galvanize. That's in part due to his insightful and uncomfortably hilarious views on our country's race and class problems...His scathingly accurate analysis wouldn't land with such force without Joe Morton's revelatory performance...Law distills his 83 years into 90 potent minutes...This slyly entertaining evening is a call to action, too." Full Review

80
DC Theatre Scene

“One leaves this 90-minute play by Gretchen Law thinking of it as a stand-up comedy routine more than a biographical drama...'Turn Me Loose' is an entertainment, and so his serious views—some of them still controversial, many now more or less mainstream consensus–are presented here fleetingly, with little context and without challenge, largely as free-floating rants...Morton handles the rants the way he handles the humor and the few moving moments—which is to say, persuasively.” Full Review

90
Lighting & Sound America

"Morton has long been a fine utility man in all media...Here he delivers the tour-de-force that Law's script calls for, capturing Gregory at many stages of his life...It may very well be the capstone of his career to date. Under the direction of John Gould Rubin, the action is fast and funny when it needs to be and commanding--and disturbing--when the words call for it...At least as presented here, Gregory may be in his mid-80s but his ideas are as fresh as today's newsfeed." Full Review

80
Front Row Center

"'Turn Me Loose' is not so bad as a biography. Gretchen Law has constructed a well-thought-out path and Joe Morton, under the direction of John Gould Rubin, trusts the material and the story…Morton’s performance is fluid...However, he fluctuates wildly in his physical representation of Mr. Gregory. Rarely is he able to drop his silken baritone to achieve Gregory’s higher pitched and scratchy voice…This show still leaves the audience inspired and shattered – which is the intent." Full Review

95
Theatre's Leiter Side

"Morton has always been a first-class actor. In ‘Turn Me Loose,’ a two-man (but practically solo), 90-minute piece...he achieves greatness, revealing everything from perfect comic timing to quiet determination to raging anger, demonstrating total absorption and conviction in every word and gesture...This stuff not only isn’t dated, it’s as funny as ever, perhaps funnier, while remaining painfully true to the social evils that inspired it." Full Review

85
The Huffington Post

“The beauty of this incendiary piece, directed with punch by John Gould Rubin, is that the manner in which Law has transferred Gregory’s life to the stage has him transition from one of the first black stand-up comics gaining national attention in the 1960s to an activist who stopped telling jokes because he increasingly came to believe there was less and less amusing about the condition of African-Americans in contemporary United States society.” Full Review

85
New York Daily News

"Since his 'Brother from Another Planet' days Joe Morton’s been giving memorable performances. But his current star turn is out of this world. He plays Dick Gregory, a pioneering black stand-up comic and activist who wove jokes about racism and bigotry into his act 50 years ago...Gretchen Law’s fine play toggles between the 1960s and today...There are a few awkward spots, mostly when Gregory addresses himself. But that doesn’t lessen this vivid portrait." Full Review

95
Deadline

"In one of the most astonishing performances of this or any season, Joe Morton plays the enduring comedian, activist, gadfly and author with a warmth and precision that has nothing to do with versimilitude and everything to do with passion, knowledge and chops…The intimate play is expertly staged by John Gould Rubin…Morton plays — no, inhabits — the life force that is Dick Gregory with passion, authority and astonishing power...It’s an unforgettable portrayal of an unforgettable man." Full Review

95
TheaterScene.net

"Joe Morton is spectacular…It is one of those memorably electrifying performances to be treasured...Ms. Law skillfully weaves all of the biographical details with artful concision into dramatically revelatory sequences. One can know nothing about Dick Gregory and still be entertained as Law’s execution is so informatively accomplished…'Turn Me Loose' is a riveting showcase for Joe Morton’s dynamism and for dramatizing the cultural significance of Dick Gregory." Full Review

90
Bob's Theater Blog

"Morton is giving one of the most riveting performances in town as comedian/activist Dick Gregory...John Gould Rubin’s direction is smooth. Morton’s performance is simply too good to miss. Despite being selected by the 'Times' as a critic’s pick, there were empty seats. The diverse audience made up in enthusiasm what it lacked in numbers." Full Review

90
Theater Pizzazz

"Alternately hilarious and moving...The audience is kept at rapt attention for the entire 90 minutes of Morton’s tour-de-force performance…There are standard jokes too, about aging, sex, and Michael Jackson, and Morton nails them as if he had done stand-up comedy all his life…As this extraordinary life unfolds, we listen in awe, disbelief, silent approval, occasionally disapproval, and never doubt his sincerity about trying to make the world a better place." Full Review

90
Wolf Entertainment Guide

"Joe Morton is a splendid actor, proven once again with his spot-on portrait of the noted comedian and activist Dick Gregory…It is a smooth-as-silk performance--moving, hilarious and politically razor-sharp…The evening is both entertaining and meaningful, with laughs galore that reveal so much about our society then and now." Full Review

90
CurtainUp

“What's noteworthy is the actorly technique with which he shifts from early adulthood to middle and advanced age and back again in full view of his spectators, without benefit of wigs or altered make-up. Morton embodies this monumental role with utmost believability...Law's script has no fat: what's there is essential to Gregory's story, and Morton makes a feast of every scene….Directed by John Gould Rubin, ‘Turn Me Loose’ is impeccably paced.” Full Review

90
NY Theatre Guide

"This show, which relies on a lot of Gregory’s material, has the ability to still make 'white Northern liberals' squirm a bit. There are two reasons for this. The first is the power of Mr. Gregory’s work which has stood the test of time. The second is Joe Morton’s brilliant performance…Mr. Morton doesn’t impersonate the man, but rather, he performs the character with such attention to detail that a good impersonation would pale by comparison…It’s a must-see." Full Review

100
Drama Queen NYC

"This deserves the widest audience possible! It’s both one of the most important and funniest shows I’ve seen in quite some time…One of the greatest talkers of his time, Gregory provides playwright Gretchen Law with abundant material…She has successfully distilled it all down to only the funniest, pithiest and most visionary bits…This is truly essential viewing, and as such gets my highest recommendation." Full Review

90
Off Off Online

"Morton gives a tour de force performance…His voice has a deep timbre, and he has amazing reserve and control over both his voice and physicality...The raw immediacy of Morton’s performance, coupled with the power of Gregory’s message, incites some members of the audience to murmur 'Mmm-hmmm' and 'Yeah,' as if they are receiving a message from the pulpit rather than the stage." Full Review

85
Stage Buddy

"Morton’s challenge to play such an intense character was steep, not only for its intensity, but also for the great intelligence of the character and script. Certainly, many of the best lines were taken directly from speeches and club acts by Mr. Gregory himself. But Joe Morton’s ability to step into the role is spectacular. Morton’s performance is the epitome of what we love to watch when we watch great acting." Full Review

90
Times Square Chronicles

"'Turn Me Loose' is about the legendary comic Dick Gregory who is brilliantly played by Joe Morton...You will shed a tear as the cruelty and injustice of segregation is shown and then your tears will be from the laughter of the genius of Gregory’s humor...It’s amazing what can be accomplished with a simple set and one main character...I laughed so hard I cried." Full Review

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews
92
Avg Score

90
Great acting, Intense, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Moving

See it if You want to be stirred by a caring man's fight for racial equality. Dick Gregory was more than just a comedian.

Don't see it if You prefer lighter subject matter.

87
Ambitious, Great acting, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Relevant

See it if you think ninety minutes of Joe Morton channeling Dick Gregory would be amazing -- you'd be right.

Don't see it if you're easily offended by criticisms of white privilege. Actually, scratch that -- you NEED to see it more than anyone else.

96
Absorbing, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Must see, Relevant

See it if You are/not familiar with Dick Gregory. If you want to learn what he stood for and how he expressed it. A fan of John Morton

Don't see it if You are an ignorant racist. Nah your the one thst should see it.

95
Original, Edgy, Intelligent, Mesmerizing, Masterful performance by joe morton as old and young dick gregory

See it if You want to go back in time to hear the impact of Dick Gregory 's words in the 1960's so fitting for this moment in time. Stellar Joe Morton

Don't see it if You are uncomfortable with confrontation about black and white racist attitudes in the U.S. If you don't want to think!!

96
Absorbing, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Entertaining

See it if You want to know more about Dick Gregory, and if you want to see that formidable man from Scandal in real live action. It's brief and great

Don't see it if I can't think of any reason to not see it, except if you go to theatre for pure escapism.

95
Funny, Absorbing, Ambitious, Exquisite, Great acting

See it if Joe Morton is a wonderful performer and the show is compelling and powerful.

Don't see it if You're not interested in Dick Gregory or don't want a slice of history

97
Funny, Great acting, Must see, Profound, Great writing

See it if You want to see a funny and moving play about the comedian and social activist. Dick Gregory. Morton is great. Very relevant today.

Don't see it if You don't like plays about politics or social cchange.

97
Funny, Absorbing, Clever, Great acting

See it if Beautifully acted by Joe Morton, brilliantly conceived, pungent and stimulating. Important themes!

Don't see it if A polemic about race relations and inequality do not interest you.

92
Absorbing, Thought-provoking, Must see, Entertaining, Outstanding acting

See it if You want to see a tour-de-force. Joe Morton is astonishing (he scores 100), And the play is good as well.

Don't see it if You aren't willing to hear some real and perceived criticisms of the US. The play draws directly from Dick Gregory's life.

87
Absorbing, Great acting, Remarkably topical

See it if you're interested in race relations in the last 50 years, & you want to see a great perf by Morton. Stunning & sad how little has changed.

Don't see it if you have a problem w/ a tiny theater w/ no leg room where the lights smoke & smell, & an even tinier lobby w/ 2 show audiences packed in.

80
Funny, Ambitious, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Entertaining

See it if You know DG's career, so it's a walk down memory lane. You may need to do some research. Do you know who Medgar Evers was?

Don't see it if You expect it to be all comedy, all the time

94
Funny, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Must see, Great writing

See it if want to get inside the mind of the most intelligent comedians of the 20th century who was ahead of his time. Joe Morton is masterful.

Don't see it if You don't want to hear about the civil rights movement or race relations.

91
Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Must see, Relevant

See it if you care about social issues, specifically racism and if you lie a show where you are laughing one minute and deeply moved the next

Don't see it if Everyone should see it. But don't see it if you really, really can't handle racial humor.

96
Absorbing, Edgy, Great acting, Intense, Masterful

See it if You want to see an absolutely incredible performance and to learn about Dick Gregory. Totally enthralling. Amazingly topical.

Don't see it if You'd rather not think about hard issues. Very intense but funny too. Totally worth seeing.

98
Absorbing, Great acting, Relevant, Great writing, Entertaining

See it if you want to see a brilliant, tour de force performance by Joe Morton, providing insight into the life, wit and passions of Dick Gregory.

Don't see it if you are uncomfortable with activism and racially charged themes. Even so, this is a performance not to be missed.

90
Funny, Absorbing, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Riveting

See it if you want to see a magnificent performance by Joe Morton.

Don't see it if you are put off by rude language.

95
Absorbing, Ambitious, Great acting, Must see, Entertaining

See it if you like memoir type theater done masterfully, exquisite acting, great humor, and themes of social justice and black rights.

Don't see it if you're easily offended by swear words, or don't like one-man shows. This is a great one though!

100
Funny, Absorbing, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Masterful

See it if You love great socially concious plays with incredible acting!

Don't see it if Youre a not an opened minded person.

90
Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Great writing, Great staging

See it if An amazing performance that is funny, tragic, moving throughout. Totally captivating.

Don't see it if If you are a racist.Or better yet, DO see it it if you are a racist. Maybe you will learn something!

88
Must see, Profound, Hilarious, Important, Virtuosic

See it if you're familiar with Dick Gregory or Joe Morton, you like stand-up, you have a social conscience, you like stories that punch in the gut.

Don't see it if you don't like shows about race, how far our society has to go, or 1-man shows (the structure is slightly uninspired). Well worth it anyway.

90
Great acting, Thought-provoking, Must see

See it if you have any love of great writing and acting and recent history that rings incredibly relevant to current politics.

Don't see it if You can't accept the reality of racial inequalities that continue despite the civil rights movement and the small steps forward.

82
Absorbing, Thought-provoking, Masterful, Relevant, Hilarious

See it if you want to a reliably excellent actor working that the top of his game...

Don't see it if you are rattled by frank talk (and frank language) on the topic of race in America...

95
Great acting, Must see, Relevant, Riveting, Great writing

See it if You are fascinated by interesting and lesser-known true life stories, barrier-breakers, and social justice issues made funny and relevant

Don't see it if No reason not to see this inspiring show unless you're allergic to hearing (entirely appropriate and necessary) words "nig***" and "mofo"

96
Absorbing, Great acting, Intense, Masterful, Great writing

See it if You love strong characters and political and thought provoking language.

Don't see it if You can face the racism that is woven in this country's history.

100
Funny, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Must see, Relevant

See it if You like comedy that takes about current issues.

Don't see it if You want a play with a large cast or elaborate staging.