Closed 1h 15m
Underground Railroad Game
West Village
80

Underground Railroad Game NYC Reviews and Tickets

80%
(123 Reviews)
Positive
91%
Mixed
7%
Negative
2%
Members say
Thought-provoking, Edgy, Ambitious, Relevant, Intense

About the Show

Ars Nova presents a return engagement of this taboo-smashing comedy that ravages American tropes about race, sex, and power politics. Winner of the 2017 Obie for Best New American Play.

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Member Reviews (123)

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79
Shocking, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Funny, Surprising

See it if Definitely not what I expected. Very fresh and surprising. Creative, thought-provoking and funny.

Don't see it if Exaggerated scenes, nudity or racial issues bother you.

75
Edgy, Relevant, Thought-provoking, Great acting

See it if Very unexpected (in a good way) with great performances .

Don't see it if You are uncomfortable with nudity or sexual situations.

Critic Reviews (24)

June 1st, 2019

“An unusually entertaining piece...Hilarious and provocative and original...This unconventional and decidedly unsettling work presents a bold, thought-provoking consideration of racial and sexual assumptions that does not provide any answers but certainly will spark conversation...The play is fearlessly performed...Smart writing and sharp interplay are enhanced by the fluency of Magar’s subtle staging that seamlessly shifts events between real and surreal...Delightfully adventurous show.”
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June 2nd, 2019

"Kidwell, who is black, and Sheppard, who’s white, have exactly the opposite intent. Both are smart, vibrant performers who, abetted by director Taibi Magar and a talented design team, evoke slavery’s poisonous and enduring legacy with daring, intuitive theatricality...The audience members around me alternately laughed, sucked in their breath and sat in stunned silence...This accomplished, compelling play, suggests that the arc of justice has not yet been permanently derailed."
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June 1st, 2019

"Sheppard and Jennifer Kidwell have fashioned a captivating work of theater that is bravely acted, inventively designed, and relentlessly surprising — dizzying in its anarchic turns from playful to hateful, satiric to sadistic...Since the surprises are much of what made the show feel so theatrically explosive to me, I am reluctant to disclose many details...Now, it’s hard to miss the pointed commentary beneath both the humor and the ferocity in the show."
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June 1st, 2019

"This hilariously discomfiting examination of race, sex, and power...The audience is occasionally induced to be the student body at an assembly...The play, which jumps rapidly from the lesson plan to fantasies and surreal episodes, is so crammed with material that it is hard to believe that it is only 75 minutes long...I was alternately amused, annoyed, shocked and baffled. I don’t know whether you will love it or hate it, but I can guarantee that you won’t be bored."
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September 26th, 2016
For a previous production

"In-all-ways sensational...This production lures you into its seemingly sunny classroom with the snarky cheer of a hip comedy sketch. But as its title promises, this play winds up taking you into subterranean territory...The play conjures searing theatrical visuals to match its wayward words, the sort of images that used to send people to Freudian analysts when they cropped up in nightmares...Manages to be...shocking in ways that 'Dutchman' must have been 50-some years ago."
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September 26th, 2016
For a previous production

"There's a hint of race war in the color war–style kids’ game for which Jennifer Kidwell and Scott Sheppard’s outrageously funny and discomfiting show is named...The taboo-flouting script is matched by bold, smart performances from both actors...At the performance I attended, the laughter and shock of the almost exclusively white audience had a tinge of self-flagellation, which felt gratifying—if not, as the play makes clear, necessarily liberating."
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October 7th, 2016
For a previous production

"This riveting, whip-smart performance piece is as daringly unexpurgated as anything you’ll encounter onstage today. It’s an effort to reset the table for the complicated conversation about race that America eternally attempts to start, and always ends up recoiling from in guilt and insecurity and anger…Kidwell and Sheppard are equally magnetic here and yes, truly brave. Along with their savvy director and designers, they play enthrallingly with dynamite."
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October 5th, 2016
For a previous production

"Kidwell and Sheppard have devised an effective vehicle for their talents, one that confidently rides the audience's nerves for 90 minutes, daring us not to be offended and forcing us to think hard about what we're feeling...They play together with unusual finesse, even as they follow the play's argument down some distinctly dark corridors. Taibi Magar's direction keeps us on pins and needles, ricocheting from easy laughter to high tension and back again."
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October 11th, 2016
For a previous production

“‘Underground Railroad Game’ is Neo-Burlesque at its most outrageous – a balancing act of satire, irony and comedic bedlam concerning race and romance. Underground Railroad Game is a ‘R-rated, kaleidoscopic, fearless comedy,’ where the playwrights, Jennifer Kidwell and Scott Sheppard, cross their own Mason-Dixon line with their provocative approach to what a contemporary Underground Railroad ‘game’ might offer.”
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September 26th, 2016
For a previous production

"It is indeed a feast of various styles of storytelling, keeping audience members on the edge of their seats as the play snaps between its different aspects like a well-conducted orchestra, all the while challenging you to look into the depth of our nation’s history...It takes courage to create a play like 'Underground Railroad Game.' The 'Inception'-like layers of the plot do not sacrifice clarity, as the message of the play is relevant to all."
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September 27th, 2016
For a previous production

"The actors play sexual attraction with a light touch, but the script is uncompromising in its depiction of fantasies and prejudices...Magar keeps the actors moving at high velocity through the script's vibrant absurdism...The writer/performers are hardpressed to achieve a dramatically satisfying conclusion. But with issues as thorny and urgent as those addressed, it's hardly reasonable to ask for a denouement that's satisfying in any traditional sense of the word."
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September 27th, 2016
For a previous production

"They have used the theater to do exactly what it is best suited to do: Take a thorny topic and explore, question, reflect, and reveal the human condition with intelligence, compassion, humor, bravery, no bias and no easy answers...This R-rated play tackles the very topical subjects of race, power and sex...There is an incredible level of trust between the two performers and creators of this piece...There are no neat answers, just raw, honest questions."
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September 27th, 2016
For a previous production

"They are really sifting through the speech we use, black and white, to talk about ourselves and each other. And they are using all the languages we humans have at our disposal: physical, intellectual, rational, emotional...The writing is consistently, searingly funny, especially when it reveals exactly what the characters most want to hide...A+ for ideas, effort and for making us laugh, cathartically, all the better to reflect and learn."
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September 27th, 2016
For a previous production

"I don’t especially favor some of the methods Kidwell and Sheppard employ...but it can’t be denied that they’ve found a provocatively original way to bring their subject to the table...‘Underground Railroad Game’ is filled with artistic and intellectual conundrums; you may even leave the theatre asking, “Now what was that all about?” But, while watching, its preoccupations, even if not easy to articulate, are likely to seep into your consciousness and stay with you after you get home."
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October 24th, 2016
For a previous production

"It is crass and tasteless for the purpose of shock. I wasn’t shocked just sickened that this is now theatre...It's hard to talk about the direction by Taibi Magar and the acting by Jennifer Kidwell and Scott Sheppard because I honestly do not understand what I was truly supposed to be seeing...I honestly cannot believe how anyone gave this a rave review, but they did. Maybe I still believe that you can catch more flies with honey and the Emperor has NO clothes!"
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September 27th, 2016
For a previous production

"Kidwell and Sheppard make their overall engagé point. They make it with such vigor and conviction that it occurred to me some audience members might be thinking how brilliant the folderol was...I believe there's a thin line between commenting on vulgarity and being straightforwardly vulgar. In the instance of 'Underground Railroad Game,' I'm convinced the line has been crossed from comment-on to example-of."
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W
September 28th, 2016
For a previous production

"It took a while for the cynical part of me to warm to this show. It is a little too earnest in places and tries too hard to be edgy. But halfway through the fast-paced show I was hooked...Kidwell and Sheppard are excellent in the roles, but even more than that, they are fearless. They walk right up to the edge of what people are comfortable with and then jump across, believing we have the guts to follow...By the end, I wasn’t positive what I saw, but I knew I would remember it for a long time."
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May 13th, 2016
For a previous production

"A brilliant theatrical commentary on contemporary race relations…’Underground Railroad Game’ is both wildly entertaining and profoundly troubling…Under Taibi Magar’s direction, the two brave actors play with and mock their own and each other’s physical presences...All the while they craft characters within characters. We watch layers piled on and then layers peeled away."
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October 1st, 2016
For a previous production

"'Underground Railroad Game,' a bold and imaginative theatrical piece, is a bawdy satire in which the audience is made to look head-on at the serious issues of race, sexuality, and how we deal with them in the aftermath of slavery...Kidwell as Caroline gives a raw, bold, yet vulnerable interpretation...Sheppard’s comical yet painfully exposed performance as Stuart breaks through serious barriers that society doesn’t often discuss."
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September 8th, 2015
For a previous production

"There’s something in it to offend almost everyone. And I wouldn’t have missed it for the world…’Underground Railroad Game’ is an outrageous and hilarious show, a play that explores race relations…Sarah Sanford’s dynamic direction moves the audience fluidly from reality to fantasy and from century to century…’Underground Railroad Game’ is often uncomfortable to watch, but that’s the point. There’s no resolution to these contradictory viewpoints, no easy answers."
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September 9th, 2015
For a previous production

"A funny, poignant take on racial politics...Director Sarah Sanford teases out this devised production's humor with exaggerated movements and dialect…Kidwell and Sheppard show us the social construct of American racial difference. It's learned behavior...But it's historical legacy, and an indelible aspect of our collective psyche, and now we're stuck with it. At least Kidwell and Sheppard help us laugh at the mess we've made, even as we try to clean it up."
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P
September 7th, 2015
For a previous production

"Kidwell and Sheppard’s skillfully devised work slowly bends and breaks the separation between historical Americana and contemporary experience…The dialogue in this work, particularly in a scene where Stuart and Caroline walk home from a movie, was honest and well thought out…The audience was at times in fits of laughter or prayer-like silence…The deftness of this work in its ability to use humor and emotion honestly produced a complex performance from two gifted co-creators."
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September 6th, 2015
For a previous production

"The delightfully awkward metafiction ‘Underground Railroad Game’ is a twisted melange of some of our fiercest taboos...This two-person play (masterfully helmed by Jenn Kidwell and Scott Sheppard) revels gleefully in seditious satire…As scenes and timelines shift, so does the comedic intensity and so do the stakes …’Underground Railroad Game’ doesn’t so much provide answers, but instead maniacally guides us towards the questions we never thought we should be asking."
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May 17th, 2016
For a previous production

"'Underground Railroad Game' addresses all the awkward peculiarities of interracial interaction without sounding cheap or even full of itself. Despite the play’s reputation for being raunchy and offensive, I found myself feeling exposed more than uncomfortable, and in an inexplicably good way; with so many relatable, valid observations being manifested before my eyes, I felt as if the play was written specifically for me...But the truth is that it was written for everyone."
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