Venus NYC Reviews and Tickets

(101 Reviews)
Members say
Great acting, Thought-provoking, Ambitious, Relevant, Intelligent

About the Show

Signature Theatre revives Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks' exploration of the life of Saartjie Baartman, aka the "Hottentot Venus."

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Member Reviews (101)

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716 Reviews | 219 Followers
Edgy, Intense, Profound, Dizzying, Disturbing

See it if Shocking racism and misogyny in 1810. Tragic love affair. Audience put into awkward roles. Stunning imagery. Immersive and challenging.

Don't see it if You are not prepared for heavy, confrontational, uncomfortable material. You don't like a complex script with shifting tones and layers.

650 Reviews | 284 Followers
Recent suzan-lori parks is wonderful; venus is not recent parks

See it if the best reason to see is the dignified and humanizing performance of the amazing Zainab Jah as the exploited Hottentot Venus

Don't see it if many hyper-stylized scenes cartoonish; weak vs. Elephant Man as insightful indictment of response to "freaks"; EM moved me, this didn't

688 Reviews | 116 Followers
Ambitious, Edgy, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Intense

See it if Parks' drama perhaps more timely today then when written. deBessonet's stylized production both frightens & alienates Jab's Venus poignant

Don't see it if Brechtian production disallows much sympathy & Parks' narrative structure confusing at times but Jab's complex performance pulls us along

506 Reviews | 1000 Followers
Great staging, Raunchy, Indulgent

See it if like seeing the abasement and abuse of women, a bit of racism and freaks. The sets are nice.& bit of history re the Brits & Africa tribes.

Don't see it if are easily upset.

635 Reviews | 237 Followers
Intelligent, Relevant, Resonant, Slow, Ambitious

See it if You're interested in historical dramas that use a variety of theatrical devices to tell a story.

Don't see it if You dislike plays that are based on true stories, but that get a bit loose with the truth to get a point across.

505 Reviews | 729 Followers
Great acting, Great staging, Great writing, Edgy, Quirky

See it if you like dramas that are based on true events or stories about unconventional subjects.

Don't see it if you have a difficult time sitting through stories about exploitation and disturbing themes. Read more

543 Reviews | 133 Followers
Intelligent, Sad, Great acting, Ambitious, Thought-provoking

See it if Sometimes looking for a better life isn't all it's cracked up to be. Ensemble is excellent. Zainab Jah is heartbreaking, as is the story.

Don't see it if you are not interested in the topical themes of social, racial and sexual exploitation, along with the pain and suffering this can cause. Read more

479 Reviews | 262 Followers
Stunning staging, Great ensemble, Absorbing, Intelligent, Masterful

See it if you want to see one of Suzan-Lori Parks best plays. Also, a great central performance by Zainab Jah. Innovative staging.

Don't see it if you do not like avant-garde theatre or if you need to be spoon-fed ideas.

Critic Reviews (29)

The New York Times
May 15th, 2017

"A patchy revival...This latest reincarnation has a new clarity that illuminates both the script’s prescience and its flaws. Directed by Lear deBessonet, the play reveals itself to be an unexpectedly traditional piece by the standards of Ms. Parks...Yet Ms. deBessonet’s production as a whole never achieves a compelling unity of vision...That’s partly to do with the script...And for the most part, the talented cast doesn’t yet match the stylish precision of its surroundings."
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Time Out New York
May 15th, 2017

"In the two decades since its Public Theater debut, Suzan-Lori Parks’s 'Venus' has lost none of its power to unsettle and appall. If anything, the story of Saartjie Baartman’s exploitation at the hands of early-19th-century human traffickers—some venal, some high-minded—has gained in shock value. Its current revival, directed by Lear deBessonet, is devastating...Jah brings an unaffected dignity to Baartman’s quest, even as she begs for validation."
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May 16th, 2017

“By turns moving and didactic…Parks’s Brechtian flourishes work effortfully to distance us from the tale. But Jah and deBessonet play against such archness, determined to bring us into Saartjie’s emotional world, which is one of naivete, enchantment and disillusion…deBessonet delivers some magic here, with a carnival-like production given visual resonance in Matt Saunders’ striking scene design…If this works to make Saartjie Baartman more than a symbol, well, all the better.”
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New York Daily News
May 15th, 2017

"An absorbing revival...The story is quite straightforward. The storytelling is highly theatrical. The script flows with poetry, music and moments that pop, like when the dexterous Zainab Jah slips into character as Venus. Director Lear deBessonet guides a fine ensemble and evocative staging. As 'Venus' goes from gritty carnival sideshow to fancy French domestic setting, it reminds that cruelty and objectification are at home in both places."
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AM New York
May 18th, 2017

"'Venus' is pageant-like, intellectual and reminiscent of 'The Elephant Man.' And now Lear deBessonet has staged an excellent revival of the play...Whether the play’s bold and self-aware theatricality adds to or detracts from the impact of the storytelling is up for debate. But thanks to superb production values and an absorbing and ambiguous performance from Jah, 'Venus' works over the audience like an intoxicating spell."
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May 15th, 2017

"Emotional and intellectual ambiguities make 'Venus' incredibly difficult to sit through, and yet, they are also what make it such an intriguing work...Baartman could easily be portrayed as a helpless victim, but Parks' imagined narrative—as well as Jah's complex performance—obscure anything cut-and-dried about the mythology that has come to surround her...Jah is superb at maneuvering the intricacies of such a complicated character."
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May 24th, 2017

"Balancing pathos, power, and sensuality, Zainab Jah shows us the complex woman behind the stage figure...deBessonet's perfectly cold and tense production begins with Jah making a quiet, unemotional ritual out of putting on a padded flesh-toned suit replicating Baartman's figure...‘Venus’ is aggressively unsentimental, so when Baartman continually prompts her lover to demonstrate his affection with her naïve inquiry, ‘Love me?,’ the tragedy is heartbreaking.”
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Lighting & Sound America
May 30th, 2017

"Both overelaborate and undercooked, a series of mirthless cartoons that state and restate its theme to diminishing effect…Despite some very fine work in the title role by the sly, smoky-voiced Zainab Jah -- it never becomes the gripping, revelatory indictment it means to be…None of these moments come together to create a coherent portrait,,,deBessonet's production often feels lacking in energy, despite its highly qualified cast.”
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