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From 101 member  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." More…

Traveling from her home in southern Africa for what she hoped would be a better life, Saartjie Baartman became an unfortunate star on the 19th-century London freak show circuit. This Obie Award-winning play gives vibrant life to Baartman’s journey to London, her rise to fame as the “Hottentot Venus,” and her eventual relationship with a French scientist. Inspired by her true story, 'Venus' is a tragic-carnival, a devastating tale honoring the life of Baartman and examining the way we live and love today.

Member Reviews (101)


Great acting, Thought-provoking, Ambitious, Relevant, Intelligent
Avg Score

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.

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

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.

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

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.

Also The design of this show is colorful, vibrant, and quirky. I really enj... Read more Read less

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.

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.

Also The play's story and statements are clear. Unfortunately, there is too... Read more Read less

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.

Ambitious, Disappointing, Edgy, Slow, Clever

See it if You enjoy Suza-Lori Parks' work and/or interesting biographical productions. Great cast and set, production value was top notch

Don't see it if The story is important to you. The production surrounded the story with so much fluffy weirdness as to be exhausting.

Absorbing, Intelligent, Relevant, Ambitious, Edgy

See it if you are open to non-linear play with many different theatrical styles, depicting a horrifying instance of racism and slavery; unique.

Don't see it if you are expecting a linear, happy show with little to say, a mere entertainment. This is not it. Depictions of cruel treatment throughout

Also I found the historical plot to be captivating and horrifying at the sa... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Ambitious, Entertaining, Relevant

See it if you want to explore a provocative true story of exploitation.

Don't see it if you feel uncomfortable thinking about body issues and how people exploit others in the name of science.

Absorbing, Exquisite, Great acting, Riveting, Profound

See it if Suzan-Lori Parks beautifully written,socially conscious,historically based play about a woman brought to London to appear in a freak show.

Don't see it if If you are interested in light subjects.

Absorbing, Great acting, Great staging, Profound, Thought-provoking

See it if you are OPEN for a theatrical experience like never before.

Don't see it if you are not up for seeing RAW EMOTION displayed so vividly on a stage.

Also From the moment the actress Zainab Jah becomes The Venus Hottenot righ... Read more Read less

Ambitious, Thought-provoking, Historical, Wait for 2nd act, Great acting

See it if Are a Park fan. Care about the history of racism and appropriations. Appreciate fine acting and creative design. Can't endure a slow Act 1.

Don't see it if You need clear, linear storytelling. Are disturbed by the mistreatment of women or are sensitive to sexual themes.

Great staging, Slow, Ambitious, Clever, Confusing

See it if tragedy, colonialism, and historical racism staged as a nonlinear circus sideshow sounds interesting.

Don't see it if you don't like experimental, non-linear, fourth-wall busting theatre. You want something naturalistic.

Also I had read about Sarah Baartman in the past, and I was very excited fo... Read more Read less

Resonant, Thought-provoking, Ambitious

See it if You'd like a little history, a well crafted powerful story, & yet another instance of how the "cultured" treat the "other."

Don't see it if You can't tolerate a slow developing plot, with a play within a play which is not immediately clear, or don't want cultural comment.

Great acting, Great staging, Great writing, Intelligent, Resonant

See it if Beautifully staged retelling of Hottentot Venus focusing on strength, resilience, complicity filtered through a stylized theatrical lens

Don't see it if U want straight line narrative and don't want difficult themes of colonialism, racism, body shaming/beauty ideals and abuse of black bodies

Absorbing, Clever, Ambitious, Edgy, Must see

See it if You like Suzan-Lori Sparks and if you do, you know what time her pieces take. Very dark vaudevillian, exaggerated, eccentric, sad--- at once

Don't see it if Your anti historical pieces, which can make you feel uncomfortable. Racial topics. Cussing. It can be slow, but, picked up. Dark humor

Entertaining, Absorbing, Great acting, Resonant

See it if You want a heartfelt and sometimes humorous portrayal of a sad story.

Don't see it if You can't handle "simulated nudity".

Absorbing, Edgy, Thought-provoking, Interesting, Discomforting

See it if you're intrigued by a true story of a 19th century African woman exploited by a white society for her physicality.

Don't see it if you don't want to be made uncomfortable.

Great acting, Great staging, Great writing, Epic

See it if you like a provocative staging of Brechtian epic theater with a contemporary material

Don't see it if I really dont see why.. unless you prefer a happy-go-lucky musical

Thought-provoking, Great acting

See it if you want to see a Suzan-Lori Parks play with a great cast.

Don't see it if you need to be told everything at every moment. Or want a more coherant production.

Absorbing, Great acting, Entertaining, Intelligent, Profound

See it if you want to understand the long relationship between Europeans and Africans and how they viewed them. It can be unsettling.

Don't see it if you still hold out-of-date views of what is right an what is wrong. Or for that matter you want a show with a nice ending.

Absorbing, Edgy, Great writing, Relevant, Thought-provoking

See it if you're a curious theatergoer (I am) or a fan of Parks' work (recently, I've become one) though you still may leave shaken but mystified.

Don't see it if you're looking for light entertainment.

Intelligent, Quirky, Stupefying

See it if you're aching to see one of Suzan-Lori Parks' masterworks onstage in any form

Don't see it if you desire a production with bite and a sense of purpose

Also While the leads deliver wonderful performances, and elements of the de... Read more Read less

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 neve...
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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....
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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...
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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 ...
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