Already closed | 1h 45m | East Village

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

From 81 member  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. More…

'What Did You Expect?' brings us back to the Gabriels' kitchen, with the country now in the midst of the general election for president. Over the course of one evening in the house they grew up in, history (both theirs and our country's), money, politics, family, art, and culture are chopped up and mixed together while a meal is made.

Member Reviews (81)


Great acting, Absorbing, Intelligent, Relevant, Resonant
Avg Score

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.

Also It was fun to see more of Roberta Maxwell in this installment. Her ant... Read more Read less

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

Great acting, Great writing, Slow, Relevant, Thought-provoking

See it if You enjoy Richard Nelson's work: slow, thought provoking theater vs "entertainment!", and "real world" plays.

Don't see it if You're tired of reality and aren't looking to have it punch you in the gut. Don't see this if you are looking to escape.

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.

Absorbing, Entertaining, Great acting, Great writing, Intelligent

See it if you saw and enjoyed "The Apple Family" series at the Public last season, and have enjoyed the first show of "The Gabriels " this season.

Don't see it if you dislike shows which are all talk and little action; you are totally disinterested in "normal" family life portrayed on stage.

Absorbing, Great acting, Great staging, Great writing, Relevant

See it if Enjoy poignant pieces about society today and topical issues.

Don't see it if If slow moving pointed dialogue is not your thing

Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Relevant, Intimate

See it if You like great acting and thoughtful writing. You care about the problems of real people.

Don't see it if You prefer action and easy to digest entertainment.

Great acting, Intelligent, Relevant, Absorbing, Great staging

See it if you liked the previous play about the Gabriels, you like a story and characters that develop slowly, a lovely family drama with great acting

Don't see it if you want a fast-paced story or if you want nothing at all to do with the political climate no matter how subtle the references are

Also a warning outside the play notes that the voices are deliberately not ... Read more Read less

Great acting, Slightly disjointed, Warm-hearted, Honest, Relevant

See it if You want to catch up with the Gabriels who are slightly tetchier with each other. Play is sketchier in format and the audience pushed away.

Don't see it if You crave big drama. This is intimate, personal, the "real life" we all live writ small on the stage. Yet, we're reminded, it's a play.

Thought-provoking, Resonant, Relevant, Masterful, Stellar ensemble

See it if you saw the 1st play, Hungry. While prior knowledge isn't necessary, it's helpful to understand where the characters are coming from.

Don't see it if you enjoy action-packed, large-scale plays. This is a family drama that while more conversational, is incredibly relevant.

Also I went to the Gabriels marathon and saw all three plays in a row. I fe... Read more Read less

Quietly profound, The acting is amazing, must be seen, You might need to lean forward to hear everything, Get yourself there if you can find a ticket

See it if You like a meaty drama that doesn't hit you over the head. Even people who aren't political animals will enjoy.

Don't see it if You wouldn't enjoy a play that encourages you to think about it afterward and interpret what you saw.

Absorbing, Great acting, Resonant

See it if We sit in the dark watching a family in their kitchen preparing a meal. It is so natural you cannot believe they are acting.

Don't see it if You do not appreciate small, intimate, natural, shows. Surely, a performer who appears not to be acting is doing the most superb job.

Absorbing, Delightful, Thought-provoking, Riveting, Profound

See it if You care about the contemporary American experience during this election year. Love amazing acting.

Don't see it if Need action on stage.

Absorbing, Great acting, Great writing, Intense, Timely

See it if You liked the first installment. You enjoy straight plays full of dialogue. You're curious about the "most important literary picnic ever".

Don't see it if You're hard of hearing or feel like you need to hear every single line. You don't like food baking. You want something adventurous.

Also For 105 minutes without intermission, the time flew by. I was rapt whi... Read more Read less

Great acting, Great writing, Intelligent, Original, Resonant

See it if You want to see the next episode of the Gabriel family saga, or if you want to see a play that explores the 2016 election year angst.

Don't see it if You don't like Chekhovian style character plays.

Great acting, Great writing, Mesmerizing, Great direction, Relevant

See it if you enjoy quiet shows that portray ordinary people living ordinary lives -- this show is somewhat similar to The Humans in that regard.

Don't see it if you want a lot of action or perhaps a crisis that the characters need to resolve -- this isn't that kind of show.

Also The actors do not speak very loudly. If you are sitting in the 4th row... Read more Read less

Great acting, Great staging, Intelligent, Relevant, Thought-provoking

See it if you are capable of appreciating really fine acting that doesn't involve catastrophic circumstances but just the challenges of daily living.

Don't see it if you always want adventure, action, and high drama.

Absorbing, Great acting, Great singing, Masterful, Relevant

See it if engaging, beautifully drawn characters; slice of life drama with a pulse on issues of the day that both destroy and strengthen family bonds

Don't see it if you want light fluff or heavy comedy

Disappointing, Relevant, Slow, Overrated, Indulgent

See it if you have liked the other Nelson plays [Apple or Gabriel]. Or enjoy super-realism [meals cooked onstage, a running theme for him].

Don't see it if you seek development or consequence; it's all talk, mixing the trite with the unrealistically profound. But: Roberta Maxwell is amazing.

Great acting, Great writing, Exquisite, Intelligent, Resonant

See it if you've liked Nelson's Apple plays and want to see a great acting ensemble.

Don't see it if you take little pleasure in intimate, character and dialogue driven drama without a strong or propulsive plot.

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 th...
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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 texture...
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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 e...
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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 m...
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