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X: Or, Betty Shabazz v. The Nation

Members say: Great acting, Absorbing, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Relevant

About the show

The Acting Company brings back this play dramatizing Malcolm X’s life and death.

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The assassination of Malcolm X—both the story we think we know and illuminating details that have seldom been shared—is brought to vivid life in Marcus Gardley’s new play. Shakespeare’s 'Julius Caesar' provides a framework for Gardley to deepen our understanding of one of America’s most complex and compelling historical figures, and explore the tumultuous landscape of ideology and activism in the 1960s.

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See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews


"If you missed it the first time around, don't let it slip away again. This is an opportunity to better understand a man who not only reflects America's pain, but its possibilities...Gardley packs a lot of information into two hours and 15 minutes with a script that is simultaneously hearty and efficient...Cole is commanding and magnetic...Everyone in the cast savors Gardley's richly poetic yet undeniably snappy language...'X' gives Malcolm the robust reconsideration he deserves." Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"Malcolm isn't enough of a presence, and the script never comes close to suggesting the dynamic, polarizing figure that he was...The play also suffers from a surfeit of theatrical devices...Still, the play does an effective job of conveying the intrigue that swirled around Malcolm, and the entire cast, under the generally incisive direction of Ian Belknap, makes the most of their opportunities...A gripping investigation into the life of a man whose legacy remains urgently important today." Full Review

Time Out New York

"'X' offers a compelling trip back in time, and we never forget how high the stakes are...Ian Belknap directs an excellent ensemble...But ultimately Gardley expends a lot of effort to convince us of something that most people who have been paying attention already assumed was the case. As an evocation of a not-so-distant past when even Martin Luther King Jr. was considered radical, the play is gripping and effective. But 'X' is not the shocking exposé it seems to want to be." Full Review

Theatre is Easy

"Watching the dangerous games played by people in power leaves you with feelings of horror that you can’t shake off, even long after the show...For the most part, the cast shines brightly in vibrant performances...'X' is probably the darkest show I have seen lately, both visually and emotionally...Historically accurate yet heartfelt, 'X' tells the universal story of the opposition between a single man and the forces that created him." Full Review

Show Showdown

"Gardley is a powerful and poetic writer, and 'X' is well worth a visit. However, the play is also overwritten, with much repetition and a framing device and songs that are wonderful in themselves but also slow down the play. 'X' is full of strengths but ultimately uneven; I suspect that, with judicious cutting, it would be brilliant. Director Ian Belknap maximizes X's strengths through dynamic, imaginative, and beautifully paced direction. The cast is excellent." Full Review

Plays to See

"There aren't enough words to properly convey the magnitude of this show. The acting, the directing, and the writing each on their own are worthy of a five-star review. Part noir-murder-mystery, part courtroom drama, part Shakespearean tragedy, mixed with the haunting cries of a sort-of Greek chorus, 'X: or, Betty Shabazz v. The Nation' is a masterful tribute to and reincarnation of the legacy of Malcolm X. There's nothing left to say except to go see it before it closes." Full Review

Off Off Online

"Gardley’s play shifts the focus from Malcolm X as a powerful civil rights leader to a vulnerable man trying to hold injustice up to the light. Glimpses of this are beautifully revealed in moments between Malcolm and Betty, who knows how to make him laugh, but also senses how tired and even a little afraid he may feel. In 1966, several men from the Nation of Islam were convicted of assassinating Malcolm X, but Gardley’s play suggests that everyone, in the end, had a hand in killing him." Full Review

Yes Broadway

"A superb piece of theater, achieving the rare trifecta of A+ writing, A+ direction, and, of course, A+ acting...It is hilarious, but also quite serious...a dangerous tightrope act that can usually only be pulled off by shows with that trifecta...Belknap ensures that this show remains wildly engaging...drawing you in quickly to the fast-paced action as the 10 actors get to work...Literally every single one of them knocks it out of the park." Full Review

America Magazine

"The flow among music, speech, documentary and drama is expertly handled by the 10-member cast and director Belknap. At its best, the play comes off like a sort of spoken-word oratorio. While the portrait of Malcolm himself is at times disappointingly wooden-it is understandably hard to humanize an icon...It is even tougher to fill a play with sermons, speeches and testimonies and still maintain nuance, suspense, surprise. Gardley is up to the task." Full Review

The New York Times

for a previous production “Mr. Gardley and the director, Ian Belknap, bring the feuds that roiled the radical black-liberation movement of the 1960s to vivid life. Although he clearly did his research, Mr. Gardley is not interested in naturalistic docudrama…The best scenes pit the ramrod-straight Shabazz, convinced that the Nation of Islam fomented her husband’s 1965 assassination, against the silver-tongued Louis X, who defends the organization...This double bill rewards alert teens and jaded adults alike.” Full Review

Broadway & Me

for a previous production “A compelling requiem for a complex man…The play clearly means to indict the larger society for allowing the assassination to happen. Still, Gardley investigates all the options, leaving the final verdict up to each viewer. At heart, though, Gardley is a poet and the play is filled with gorgeous soliloquies…The acting, under Ian Belknap's robust direction, is across-the-board superb...This production, like Malcolm, deserves a longer life." Full Review

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews

Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Resonant

See it if Want to see good performances and important story and history of Malcolm x and his murder

Don't see it if Somewhat too long

Absorbing, Great acting, Masterful, Entertaining, Great staging

See it if You want to learn some more about Malcolm X and enjoy great acting.

Don't see it if You want to see a musical

Ambitious, Dizzying, Edgy, Banal, Disappointing

See it if it does not live up to the history of Malcolm X . It never finds it's footing as a raw, edgy play that it wants to be. good directing and

Don't see it if cast. If you want a truly thought provoking play, this one falls short of what it wanted to be.

Rousing combo of carnival, court room drama, black church revival meeting and sharp scenes vividly bring to life the story of malcolm x and the conspiracies that killed him

See it if you are thrust into the middle of the teeming civil rights struggles of the 1960s; dynamic performances of entire cast

Don't see it if too reverential towards X; X remains a polarizing and inspiring figure to this day, play not wholly successful in showing why

Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Relevant, Great writing

See it if An important theme very well acted and beautifully directed! So relevant to our time and important.

Don't see it if You are not interested in the political or racial history of the United States and are more interested in light fare.

Absorbing, Intelligent, Profound

See it if I saw this at The New Victory theater and i thought it was a brilliant rendition of part o Malcolm X's life.I believe if you want,go see it.

Don't see it if If you don't want to really know about one of the most controversial figures in our lifetime.If you just accept the rhetoric.This is not 4U.

Also It tells you things that you probably don't know and it was well stage... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Resonant

See it if The acting from all is fantastic. A tad slow but compelling and insightful. Really enjoyed the experience.

Don't see it if A play about Malcolm X doesn’t interest you. But try it... you will be surprised an might learn something too!

Great acting, Engaging, Informative, Great direction

See it if I was very impressed with the production, direction and performances. Enjoyed how the story was framed & told - really engages the audience.

Don't see it if Even if you don't have an interest in the story of Malcolm X there is no denying this is a solid production with commanding performance.

Disappointing, Excruciating, Overrated, Slow, Dated

See it if You’re not tired and didn’t just finish a big dinner If you’re very interested in the subject matter

Don't see it if You’re tired had a big dinner or fall asleep easily

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

See it if Great writing & acting paired with exciting storytelling style. Fast-paced and riveting. Very moving.

Don't see it if You don't care about issues of race struggle.

Also This was surprisingly good. I was expecting a dry documentary and inst... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Ambitious, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Riveting

See it if you are interested in history, particularly history of the 1960s &/or civil rights movement; if you like shows that are set up like a trial.

Don't see it if You want a "plot," you aren't interested in Malcolm X, you don't like direct address to the audience, you want an elaborate set.

Great acting, Intelligent, Relevant, Great staging, A little too long

See it if You want to see a Shakespearean style courtroom drama discuss truths and myths about Malcolm X and The Brotherhood. Well done. Believable.

Don't see it if You’re racist or believe even half of what our present commander in Chief is trying to scare us with about Muslims. You’ll feel surrounded.

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

See it if You want to see a well acted and inventive exploration of Malcolm X.

Don't see it if You are not interested in history or do not like talky plays. I was mesmerized by the tight and well directed production.

Great acting, Riveting, Great writing, Entertaining, Educational

See it if You enjoy historical drama and are interested in civil rights history from an intimate perspective.

Don't see it if You are looking for light fluffy entertainment.

Also I was totally mesmerized by this production. The actors are an incredi... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Clever, Great acting, Intelligent, Thought-provoking

See it if An historically based drama set during the mid-60's about Malcolm X and his relationship to his family & the Nation of Islam

Don't see it if you want something light, want happy endings or definite answers; don't want to see the humanity in historical figures

Also The added row AA seats were not the cushioned ones but I was so absorb... Read more Read less

Great acting, Intelligent, Profound, Relevant, Great staging

See it if Strong cast members in a masterful production. To see history presented in various views, thought provoking, and profound piece. Wonderful

Don't see it if You are stuck in history, are not interested in history or subject matter or if you can't open your mind to alt possibilities.

Also I thought I was going to see a diluted version of the TV movie, boy, w... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Ambitious, Great acting, Masterful, Must see

See it if You want to get a diverse picture of the controversial figure who is either praised or maligned but completely misunderstood.

Don't see it if Racial issues is not your idea of entertainment or you are completely closed minded.

Also When Betty sums up the whole issue of the fight for equality at the en... Read more Read less

Great acting, Relevant, Confusing, Slow

See it if You are interested in the topic or would like to see a well-acted historical play

Don't see it if you have a short attention span

Funny, Absorbing, Great acting, Great writing, Great staging

See it if This is a MUST-SEE show for EVERYONE. Important. Get there.

Don't see it if ...See it anyway. No matter what.

Absorbing, Relevant, Emotional

See it if you like historically accurate dramas in an interesting form (court hearing/spiritual séance). Great performances, minimalistic design.

Don't see it if you are in the mood for something light and entertaining.

Absorbing, Clever, Great acting, Great writing, Entertaining

See it if for an innovative production and great ensemble acting regarding a historical and controversial individual

Don't see it if no reason not to see it

Important, Overlong, Good acting, Too talky, At times too slow

See it if You want more information or another perspective on Malcolm X. You are interested in history of the Civil Rights Era. Really fascinating!

Don't see it if You don't want over 2 hours of talk. You are not interested in internal struggles of civil rights, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King.

Clever, Great acting, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Entertaining

See it if Powerful story of a leader betrayed, an examination of leadership and power. A well-researched play on US civil rights era.

Don't see it if You want a light show or you're unfamiliar with Malcom X, since play assumes audience has some knowledge of civil rights leaders/issues.

Absorbing, Clever, Great acting, Riveting, Great writing

See it if You enjoy a well acted story describing the life of Malcolm X. Very intelligent and very moving. Highly recommended.

Don't see it if No reason not to see this unless you are looking for a musical

Very well done. a little preachy

See it if Like Black History plays.

Don't see it if If you don't like Black history plays.

Cast & Creatives (13)