New York | Already closed

Van Gogh's Ear

From 17 critic and 44 member reviews
Members say: Slow, Ambitious, Great staging, Great singing, Disappointing

About the show

The Ensemble for the Romantic Century presents a theatrical exploration of the Dutch Post-Impressionist painter inspired by Vincent's letters to his brother Theo. More…

Van Gogh frantically worked on several paintings at a time, experimenting with color and form. Time became his enemy as violent fits of madness and terrifying hallucinations consumed his being. Wrestling a fractured psyche with his determination to paint the beautiful, fragile world he saw, Van Gogh revealed his struggle to his brother Theo. Accompanied by live chamber music, this show brings the tormented creativity of Van Gogh to life.

The Huffington Post

"A singular presentation. It is a theatrical concert that uses music to capture van Gogh's life and work—and the result is stunning...An innovative and hypnotic exploration of the color of sound and the sound of color, smoothly directed by Donald T. Saunders...Hudson plays the tortured artist with depth and sensitivity...'Van Gogh’s Ear' is a high-quality production; its combination of visual and musical sensations is mesmerizing." Full Review

Woman Around Town

"Hudson’s intense examination of that which his character sees, past us, over our heads, is mesmerizing...Wolf did a masterful job of editing hundreds of letters, creating a cohesive story...Vocalists and actors propel the scenario with vigorous presence. Integration of the visual and audible is almost seamless...Our eyes are subliminally directed from dramatic or musical vignette to vignette with a feast of related art...The piece is compelling, intriguing, and a feast for ears and eyes." Full Review

The New York Times

"It often exudes an uncanny beauty and emotionalism that evoke the state of hellish pain and holy wonder in which its title character existed. It helps that van Gogh is embodied by the actor Carter Hudson...'Van Gogh’s Ear' can initially come across as too consciously and carefully 'artistic'...But the thoughtfulness that infuses every aspect of Mr. Sanders’s production — and the committed skill of its performers and designers — soon wears down your resistance." Full Review


"The show ties events in the troubled Dutch artist's life to some of the most arresting music of his age. It's less a play with music than it is a concert with elements of theatricality...Hudson entrances us with his observations of light and color, like a badass Bob Ross. Bengali's vibrant projections, all of which are drawn from van Gogh's own paintings, further illustrate his words...A dreamlike (if a bit sleepy) staging...There are few lovelier ways to spend 100 minutes." Full Review

Off Off Online

"Abounds in pleasures, from its stately pace, to the extraordinary musicianship that suffuses it...The Van Gogh that Hudson portrays is in turmoil, but he is never weak...The musicians add a central contribution, classical music, that is seldom found in theater...The combinations of music, voice, language, live actors, and visuals evoke passion, mystery, and a persuasive alchemy." Full Review


"Hudson portrays the title character wonderfully, with the production under the strong direction of Donald T. Sanders...The audience is able to view and understand van Gogh not just as an artist, but as a human being whose struggles with doubt and depression are all the more relatable...The overall production elements were also key to the success of the performance...'Van Gogh’s Ear' provides the audience with more understanding of the man who painted iconic works." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"Beautifully sung, creating mood along with some emotional magic, the show was an effort at giving multi-media resonance to Van Gogh’s life and art...Also noteworthy was the unusually excellent and artful use of David Bengali’s projections, which often showed Van Gogh’s brushwork in close detail juxtaposed against a larger view of that portion of the painting. Fascinating! And that goes for the entire show, as well." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"An ode to the exquisite paintings but minimal insights into the life of Vincent van Gogh...The beauty of the van Gogh art is cleverly projected as backdrop...Wonderful highlights that accessorize the beauty of the music...I’m of the mind that the addition of dialogue between characters might enhance this production as would a shortened presentation...If you are a fan of classical music brilliantly played, then you’ll enjoy the uniqueness and creativity of how it is artfully shared." Full Review

Theatre is Easy

"More dramatized concert/multimedia exhibition than traditional play...While aesthetically pleasing, I often found myself drifting away from the story...Nevertheless, it does a great job conveying a sense of the romantic desperation of the haunted character...If you are an aficionado of classical chamber music and might enjoy a dynamic exhibition of Van Gogh's painting, you'll be thoroughly satisfied by this show. But those looking for traditional dramatic structure...may be less satisfied." Full Review


"While the two hours do indeed offer many pleasures in terms of script, staging and music, the epistolary setup didn't work all that well here...nor did the casting decisions or Sanders' direction for Vincent during the musical interludes...For classical chamber music and lieder fans the playing and singing will be a not-to-be-missed treat...Carter Hudson doesn't exactly have a cakewalk as Vincent...Sanders has directed Hudson to do everything possible to ratchet up van Gogh's crazy side." Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

"If nothing else, the production is a unique exegesis on the creative vision and deteriorating mental health of van Gogh toward the end of his life...The connections among the three art forms that are being presented here are not readily apparent, or at least they weren't to this theatergoer. It does help that Carter Hudson as Vincent and Chad Johnson as Theo manage to humanize the brothers beyond what you might expect from a presentation based on excerpts from letters." Full Review

Village Voice

"The show often achieves an intriguing balance via the deeply romantic nature of this music and the increasing desperation of van Gogh’s letters to his brother...The only real problem with 'Van Gogh’s Ear' is the casting of Carter Hudson as van Gogh...The music is regularly transporting...The music and the imagery start to interact and to challenge each other, but unfortunately, whenever the music stops, the words, as delivered by Hudson, bring things to a screeching halt." Full Review

Theatre's Leiter Side

“Although musically marvelous and visually vibrant, ‘Van Gogh's Ear’ is dramatically dull…Perhaps a more powerful performance by…Hudson might have made van Gogh's suffering theatrically palpable enough to overcome the dramatic inertia. But his blandly uninteresting portrayal demonstrates the danger lurking in Wolf's conception: if you're seeking to capture the spirit of so vigorous a personality as…van Gogh's, then you need more than beautiful music and gorgeous projections on your palette.” Full Review

Wolf Entertainment Guide

"More of an elegy than a drama...As the painter, Hudson’s interpretation of the dialogue is rather emotionless...What makes a more profound impression is the playing of compositions...The production has a haunting quality, but its lack of intense drama can make the effect at times soporific. Apart from the music, the most striking aspect is the projection of van Gogh’s art...It would help if there were more sparks to the enterprise." Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"Offers some stunning musical performances, attractive visuals—and nothing remotely like drama...Wolf's script does very little to illuminate Van Gogh's life...No real attempt has been made to forge a character, and, as played by Hudson, Van Gogh often sounds like an aggrieved 21st-century American millennial...So dramatically pale are these passages that they practically vanish next to the music, which is ravishing throughout...It has its charms—but, really, I'd much rather see a play." Full Review

Show Showdown

"'Van Gogh's Ear' is one of the most thoughtful and elegant shows I have ever seen, and I really, really, really wanted to like it. Unfortunately, the show is boring...The direction features painfully slow pacing that aims for meditative but achieves dull...Hudson also lacks the intense spark of the insane genius...If you are really into van Gogh...and if you're okay with ponderous pacing, you might want to completely ignore this review. There's a lot of talent and beauty here." Full Review


“There is more emotional weight within eight measures of Debussy's String Quartet in G minor than in Eva Wolf's entire ‘Van Gogh's Ear’ at the Signature Center. Same for the French chansons performed during the play by singers portraying characters intimately associated with Vincent. All of the quotations from Vincent Van Gogh's diaries and letters that make up about half the play's two hour running time fall flat as delivered by the leaden Carter Hudson who moves about as if sleepwalking.” Full Review

Creative, intelligent, beautiful mise-en-scene

See it if to explore synesthesia, Van Gogh's, via letters/gorgeous projections/music; love between brothers; society v emotionally 'different' artist

Don't see it if prefer linear drama, not interested in VG or theme of artists in society

Ambitious, Intelligent, Entertaining, Original, Clever

See it if you want to see a truly unique hybrid entertainment.

Don't see it if you're looking for a comedy or you don't want to be challenged.

Clever, Ambitious, Profound, Masterful, Intelligent

See it if you have a great interest in the art of Van Gogh and appreciate the beautiful French chansons both sung and adapted for chamber music.

Don't see it if you want an interpersonal play with dialogue and the usual theatre experience. This is a niche production.

Clever, Great acting, Ambitious, Great staging, Unique

See it if Love innovative staging like to experience artistry want to see something totally different

Don't see it if like a typical Broadway musical Don't like monologe Are closed off to something new

Great singing, Great staging, Exquisite, Unique

See it if you want a to see and hear a beautiful blending of chamber music, vocal recital and theater, The staging is exquisite.

Don't see it if you are looking for a traditional play or musical. This may not be for you, Also, if classical music is not your thing.

This show will divide audience: some will see as ambitious effort to evoke vg's art through synthesis of words, graphics and music; others will find this to be a pretentious failure

See it if combo amazing projections VG paintings, VG movingly played by Carter Hudson, fine lieder/instrumental ensemble evoking VG's inner turmoil

Don't see it if much more successful as a concert than a play; but over time this "tone poem" makes you sense the manic pain behind VG's unique art

Absorbing, Clever, Great staging, Great singing, Slow

See it if You want a one man show mixed with a chamber music concert and a lieder recital . ..all excellent , amazing projections too

Don't see it if None of those things appeal to you

Absorbing, Great acting, Great staging, Great singing, Intense

See it if You like something different, multi-media theater, interesting staging.

Don't see it if You expect a traditional theater experience, don't like classical music and singing.

Also It's a very interesting concept that held my attention and fascination... Read more Read less

Ambitious, Slow, Great staging

See it if You like classical music and want to see aninnovative show

Don't see it if You don't like classical music instrumentally and vocally because it's a major part of the show

Slow, Ambitious, Quirky, Clever, Resonant

See it if You are open to a slow-paced theatrical experience that is more a concert than a play. Beautiful visuals, well-performed.

Don't see it if You are looking for an action-packed play or if you dislike classical music and operatic singing.

Ambitious, Great staging, Absorbing, Wonderful projections and instrumental music

See it if you're open to an unusual mixture of drama, projections and music. A fascinating story, amplified by the music and art.

Don't see it if you want straight-forward plot movement and dislike innovative takes on a well-known story.

Ambitious, Great singing, Intelligent, Slow, Quirky

See it if Highly theatrical choral poem about Van Gogh's tortured life Concept heavy but well sung w/excellent chamber music & Hudson's fine Van Gogh

Don't see it if Interaction of musical elements & script often stodgy & lacking fluidity Works better in parts rather than as a whole but often moving

Ambitious, Great staging, Great singing, Intelligent, Clever

See it if for an interesting approach using classical music, art and word depicting a painter's mind

Don't see it if you're expecting more of the status quo in theater; it leans more to the music

Clever, Absorbing

See it if You want to see a unique approach to telling Van Gogh's story, including art appreciation, music appreciation with some fine talent.

Don't see it if You do not appreciate creative sets and good musicians. You need to see cast interaction. Need playbill assistance to comprehend

Entertaining, Intelligent, Quirky, Slow

See it if you want to get a feel for Van Gogh's tortured life and to see of his works. Projections are great.

Don't see it if you expect more in the way of a play and are satisfied with some classical music. The 2nd Act tends to slow down too much.

Ambitious, Great staging, Edgy, Thought-provoking

See it if likethe triple threat of play, opera and classical music staged in an interesting manner

Don't see it if You expect to see a traditional play and may not be crazy about opera

Great projections, Wonderful chamber music, Disappointing, Slow

See it if if chamber music, operatic arias, & vivid projections of Van Gogh's works are enough to compensate for a shallow portrayal of a complex man

Don't see it if You love Vincent Van Gogh. The actor was excellent but the lines were just depressing.

Also I know it was researched but there are so many of his letters that con... Read more Read less

Slow, Great singing, Great staging, Ambitious, Entertaining

See it if You want to see something very different.

Don't see it if you don't like slow moving plays.

Slow, Thought-provoking, Resonant, Intelligent, Great singing

See it if You like multimedia performances that incorporate projections, singing and acting.

Don't see it if You get bored easily.

Disappointing, Slow, Slow slow slow

See it if you enjoy chamber music and opera singing.

Don't see it if you want to delve into the character of van gogh....This show is more about staging, background pictures and music.

Ambitious, Great staging, Intelligent, Indulgent, Slow

See it if you enjoy wonderful, artistic visuals along with classical music. But the story get lost amidst the music as it recount the artist anguish.

Don't see it if you are not an art lover who enjoys classical music interspersed with operatic arias. Or you get easily bored.

Beautiful music, Beautiful staging, Odd writing

See it if You want to go to a classical music concert and see Van Gogh's paintings.

Don't see it if You want to see a play.

'interesting, but too slowly paced.', Well acted, but it needed to be paced much differently., I truly wanted to enjoy this experimental theater/music hybred more than i did.

See it if You want to see more of Van Gogh's struggles. Great projections interest you. Classical and 'German?' music is your thing.

Don't see it if you need faster paced staging and acting.

Disappointing, Overrated, Slow, Ambitious, Banal

See it if See this show if you like slow paced semi musical performance. And, if screen projected art is more important to you than the acting.

Don't see it if Don't see this show if you don't like very slow semi musical performances with classical music that does not enhance the plot.

Entertaining, Confusing, Indulgent

See it if You like musicals. You like Van Gogh which I adore. edgy but not the most thought provoking. Mildly entertaining but be prepared to work.

Don't see it if You don't want to do work as this piece is hard to follow. It needs work and better writing. Wish I didn't have to work that hard.

Cast & Creatives (10)