What Did You Expect?: Election Year in the Life of One Family, Play Two
Closed 1h 45m
What Did You Expect?: Election Year in the Life of One Family, Play Two
84

What Did You Expect?: Election Year in the Life of One Family, Play Two NYC Reviews and Tickets

84%
(82 Reviews)
Positive
93%
Mixed
7%
Negative
0%
Members say
Great acting, Absorbing, Intelligent, Relevant, Resonant

About the Show

Tony Award-winning playwright and director Richard Nelson returns to The Public Theater with part two of his new three-play cycle about a year in the life of the Gabriels of Rhinebeck, New York.

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Member Reviews (82)

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80
Resonant, Thought-provoking, Realistic, Funny, Engaging

See it if you enjoy small-focus theater. Through one family, we see much of America. The gap between rich and poor, city and country, young and old.

Don't see it if you want to escape real life problems. Many of the issues resonated deeply. I liked the quiet exchanges, but others may prefer more drama. Read more

90
Delicate, Absorbing, Entertaining, Resonant, Thought-provoking

See it if you have a heart. This play occupies that quiet place inside all of us where our mother (hopefully) knew just how & when to hold & love us.

Don't see it if you need action or fast paced anything. This is like a recipe. It takes time to prepare and bake before it's ready to be consumed.

Critic Reviews (26)

The New York Times
September 18th, 2016

"'What Did You Expect?' wears its topicality with modest stealth...It is a testament to Nelson’s well-honed craft, and that of his cast, that these topics are seldom addressed directly yet are embedded in the play’s every fragment. His family cycles inhabit the here and now with an unobtrusive thoroughness I’ve never encountered elsewhere in the theater...Every performance here glows with a compelling, specifically embodied mixture of trepidation and hope."
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Time Out New York
September 20th, 2016

"The show blends into the world around it; likewise, the plays themselves blur into one another…But while it's warmly familiar and gorgeously performed, ‘What Did You Expect?’ sometimes misses its step. Writing at top speed (three plays in a year!), Nelson takes insufficient care over his textures: overfull with cultural trivia and self-referential winking, ‘Expect's’ less strong than the first Gabriel play ‘Hungry,’ itself hastier than the whole crop of Apples. Still, there's nourishment here."
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New York Magazine / Vulture
September 17th, 2016

"By exploring the underwater part of the iceberg whose visible tip is politics, Nelson is challenging the idea of what political theater can be...The extreme naturalism of the writing is made delightful by the intelligence and humor of the characters...To keep material that deliberately abjures extremes of expression from turning merely mild, an extreme form of naturalistic acting must take up the slack…The Public’s cast is heartbreaking in its fierce, ordinary, believability."
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The Hollywood Reporter
September 17th, 2016

"While the play is undeniably static, such timeliness and the talented ensemble's fully lived-in performances ensure that you're utterly drawn into the family's world. The effect is akin to eavesdropping on a private family conversation, so intimate that when a bottle of wine is opened you feel mildly insulted not to be offered a glass...This edition particularly benefits from Maxwell's increased presence."
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Variety
September 19th, 2016

"'What Did You Expect?' bears a strong if superficial resemblance to the playwright-director’s beloved series of plays about the Apple family. Both families live in Rhinebeck, N.Y. , struggle with the loss of a patriarch, and are deeply unsettled by the state of the nation. But the sensitive, literate Gabriels are an intellectual and economic notch below the Apples, which makes this quintessential American family more vulnerable — and more precious."
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Deadline
September 20th, 2016

"Plunkett, a Tony winner, has anchored both the Apple and Gabriel family stories, giving life to the under-the-skin anxieties of the times while embodying the quiet but ineffable force of Nelson’s subtle dramaturgy. The playwright’s evanescent staging compels us to listen, and the storytelling thrums with power that, like the upright Bechstein that’s soon to disappear, is felt profoundly in its absence."
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New York Daily News
September 17th, 2016

"The play serves up a slice of humanity. It takes an intimate view of one family to look more universally at all people...Talk is peppered with direct and indirect allusions to the candidates and the chaos. All that anxiety doesn’t make the Gabriels’ intimate challenges easier — or make for the calmest dining experience. There’s no heeding the age-old rule not to discuss politics at mealtime. The stakes are too high...So pass the casserole — and the antacid."
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AM New York
September 22nd, 2016

"These kinds of plays are often called 'portraits' because they emphasize subdued, ultra-realistic acting and quiet interactions over climactic storytelling or overt movement. There is much to admire about the scope of Nelson’s project, his empathy for middle-class, aging individuals struggling to get by and the superb work by the six-member cast, but it can be difficult to remain interested in this for 100 slow, uneventful minutes."
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Theatermania
September 19th, 2016

"There's a specific acting company for each series, too, six performers who essay the same roles in each work. The result is the creation of an actual, believable family, the kind you can expect to be stung by the immensity of losing a brother or a spouse, and one that is, despite the goings-on, immensely enjoyable to spend time with...Director Nelson and the six-member company convey their bleak emotions with great finesse."
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Lighting & Sound America
October 4th, 2016

"The fate of the Gabriels is rendered without hysteria or speechmaking. But if you listen closely to them, you'll feel the pressure they're under, their sense that shadows are gathering nearer, ready to engulf them...Under Nelson's direction, his company has perfected a low-key, highly naturalistic acting style that perfectly suits the novelistic detail of his writing. The Gabriels can be enjoyed simply for an ensemble so seamless that you often feel like you are eavesdropping on old friends."
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Talkin' Broadway
September 17th, 2016

"Nelson is virtuosic in his ability to tackle these issues...The acting, again by a peerless ensemble, bestows unheard-of life on this painfully naturalistic rendering of a people and a country in crisis. Plunkett remains absolutely stunning as Mary...She provides the riveting core for the evening—and, to this point, this trilogy...The problem with 'What Did You Expect?' is that, like its predecessor, it feels more like a proof-of-concept exercise than a play."
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TheaterScene.net
September 21st, 2016

“‘The Gabriels’ cycle define a moment in time, as well as being chamber plays, small cast plays set in one place. Not much happens but much gets said and discussed. Described as ‘Chekhovian’, ‘What Did You Expect?’ is less so as there really is no dramatic event as in such Chekhov plays as ‘The Cherry Orchard’ or ‘The Seagull’. ‘What Did You Expect?’ offers its own rewards but may not be for all theatergoers.”
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Theater Pizzazz
September 18th, 2016

"Resounds with up-to-the minute politics...The real meat of the play is referencing societal injustices and keeping a political agenda, expected in a theatrical environment–a liberalism that sometimes needs to answer many questions...The conversations are simply stated, the realities hit home and one doesn’t need to look up words or do research to find that all human beings desire the same basics and that they want to know there is still hope."
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CurtainUp
September 26th, 2016

"While the focus remains on the personal, world events and the tempestuous current election campaign are very much reflected in the Gabriels' lives...As this surreal and seemingly endless campaign has reached a point where it's hard to stay fully engaged, the same is true for this middle play which was 'frozen' before the upcoming debates and could benefit from a little less talk."
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Front Row Center
September 27th, 2016

"They do such a good job of not talking about what is going on that the conversation sinks to a mild pot of gruel...Like the unremarkable evening it chronicles, this play is also unremarkable–in every way. The actors carry on as best they can, pulling the shroud of conversation close about them and picking through it for scraps of life. The conversation is so lugubrious that one gets the feeling that they are simply waiting for their cue to speak. The one exception to this is Roberta Maxwell."
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Front Mezz Junkies
October 9th, 2016

"These actors, all working seamlessly together, are giving us the purest and most straight forward depiction of a family that I have seen in a long time...It’s an intense and lovely piece of storytelling, meandering at moments, but engaging over all. The cast are pros throughout, and their difficulties are easily felt by us all. What Nelson is doing with this family and this three part 'Election Year' saga is impressive."
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DC Theatre Scene
September 18th, 2016

"The main strength of 'What Did You Expect?' is not in the sparse dose of explicitly political discussion, nor in the factual tidbits, but in the way that the six actors credibly inhabit their characters. There is little conventionally dramatic in the play; rather, we witness the believable rhythms of real time as it unfolds. Theatergoers must abandon traditional notions of what constitutes a drama in order to appreciate Nelson’s approach, but the acting makes this much easier to do so."
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Times Square Chronicles
September 18th, 2016

"Like watching paint dry, with no drama, no secrets, no nothing...I keep hoping for these plays to get better, to do something, say something and, alas, they do not. It takes every ounce of my being to stay awake and care. Even the actors don’t change. Granted they are all extremely good actors, so natural, too natural...If plays by Richard Nelson were what was considered great American drama when I was growing up, I don’t think I would have fallen in love with theatre."
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The Clyde Fitch Report
September 19th, 2016

"'The Apple Family Plays' were a remarkable achievement in American theater and 'The Gabriel Family Plays,' though familiar in construction, are no less remarkable for their astonishing naturalism and for much, much more...Given the high quality of Nelson’s writing and the playwright’s direction of the cast, any cavil about not enough Trump denigration taking place and not enough misgiving about Clinton being expressed is just that: a cavil."
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B
September 18th, 2016

"As usual, Nelson brings things right up to date with a reference to Hillary’s pneumonia and Jimmy Fallon’s messing up Donald Trump’s hair on TV. The political elements seemed less important and less integral this time, almost as if they were grafted onto the play. The varied conversations also seemed less part of a coherent whole this time. Anyone who has not seen the previous play may not get a lot out of this one. Nevertheless, the ensemble cast is once again superb."
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The Huffington Post
September 17th, 2016

"The central player in ‘What Did You Expect?’ is Ms. Plunkett as the widow. It’s impossible to say whether this is the writing, or simply the power of the actor; presumably both…Plunkett and her husband Sanders, both of whom are astonishingly good, were also mainstays of Nelson’s four Apple Family plays…While the six plays written thus far have all been masterful, the Gabriel plays might have an edge thanks to the lessons Nelson learned from the Apples...The entire cast remains excellent."
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Wolf Entertainment Guide
September 25th, 2016

"The cast members, with perfect ensemble acting, are more impressive than the dialogue the author has provided them...This is an intellectual lot, and one might expect conversation to sparkle more than it does, save for some laugh-eliciting outbursts...Backs are frequently turned to the audience, which leaves some straining to hear quiet talk at such moments."
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Newsday
September 18th, 2016

"Quietly dazzling...Our uncanny, intimate relationship with the Gabriel family of Rhinebeck, New York, has burrowed to an even deeper level of closeness...The style is just as leisurely and conversational, again creating an eerie verisimilitude from exquisitely understated acting, the complex psychology of honesty and characters with far-ranging interests and plenty to say...Whatever happens on Election night, it’s oddly comforting to know the Gabriels will be in it with us."
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NorthJersey.com
September 23rd, 2016

"The genius is in the way their story is told. The masterful actors, their small playing space surrounded on three sides by the audience, speak in normal, conversational tones, creating a feeling of incredible closeness. You have a sense of eavesdropping on their intimate conversations...Oddly, however, in a hyper-partisan national atmosphere, the actual campaign is seldom mentioned...It’s hard to believe these aware people wouldn’t have more to say."
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Financial Times (UK)
September 19th, 2016

"There’s no real plot and nothing much happens. The Gabriels’ chatter, which takes in Herman Melville and Edith Wharton, is unusually cultivated, but they never embark on any great flights of eloquence. The results are as close to a perfect illusion as theatre can get, an effect heightened by the fact that each installment is set in real time on opening night...Some might say this is a bit like watching paint dry. If so, the painting is by Vermeer."
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E
September 25th, 2016

"Playwright and director, Richard Nelson, delivers such a flavorful and natural script that you feel like you are almost intruding on this family, but you can’t look away!...Mary Ann Plunkett really drives the show. She brings up stories and old work and delivers each line with such ease. She was hauntingly beautiful...This show will sweep you off your feet. It’s witty, relevant to what’s going on in our world without forcing it down your throats, and overall heartwarming."
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