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

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

(82 Reviews)
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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965 Reviews | 339 Followers
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

945 Reviews | 386 Followers
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.

677 Reviews | 187 Followers
Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Overrated, Lacking

See it if you saw Part 1 and/or plan to see Part 3 of the Gabriels trilogy; you want to see some of the most realistic, believable acting anywhere.

Don't see it if you're hungry. (Another complete meal is prepared on stage.) Or if you've invested in this family expecting profundities on current events.

602 Reviews | 224 Followers
Disappointing, Overrated, Slow, Great acting, Excruciating

See it if You love Richard Nelson’s naturalistic, kitchen-table drama plays.

Don't see it if You’d be bored by listening to a regular family sit around a table having a boring conversation about literature and mortgages.

481 Reviews | 316 Followers
Great acting, Great staging, Entertaining, Absorbing, Resonant

See it if See it!! Very impressive acting. So naturalistic. Wonderful writing. Very engaging throughout

Don't see it if You don't want to see a play where all the action takes place around the kitchen table. It is interesting (and funny!), but also intense

510 Reviews | 129 Followers
Absorbing, Great acting, Great writing, Intelligent, Resonant

See it if you believe good theater depends on its actors and writers. Great ensemble cast with lots of chemistry. Not one line feels insincere.

Don't see it if you don't like hanging out with your relatives or you prefer high octane action.

469 Reviews | 257 Followers
Seamless ensemble work, Great staging, Great writing, Intelligent, Masterful

See it if you enjoyed part 1 of this trilogy, or you are a fan of the Apple family plays. Superb ensemble work. Requires attentive listening.

Don't see it if you have trouble focusing on people sitting around a kitchen table and talking. If you need action or moving scenery, skip it.

449 Reviews | 116 Followers
Great acting, Great staging, Intelligent, Relevant, Unfocused

See it if you liked the first play in the Gabriel series or if you enjoy listening to intelligent conversation even when it is unfocused.

Don't see it if like a strong narrative arc with more action and less talk.

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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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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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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