New York | 2h 15m | Already closed

X: Or, Betty Shabazz v. The Nation

From 10 critic and 182 member reviews
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. More…

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.

2h 15m | Already closed | Theatre at St. Clement's (Midtown W)

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


"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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clever, Great acting, Great staging, Great writing, Must see

See it if If your memory is fuzzy about Malcolm X and you want to know the facts

Don't see it if you're not interested in an all black show

Great acting, Ambitious, Absorbing

See it if You don't want to miss the greatest ensemble acting in New York! What a pleasure to watch these immensely talented actors under some great

Don't see it if The story of Malcom X is not your cup of tea. The play is long, wordy and highly intelligent. A serious play.

Also direction, in an exciting if polemic play, perform. It was a privilege... Read more Read less

Intelligent, Masterful, Must see, Profound, Resonant

See it if you think you know the story of Malcolm X's life and death because you probably don't.

Don't see it if you can't appreciate outstanding acting, writing and staging. There is no other reason you shouldn't see this show.

Also I have never felt such an incredible energy from a stage. The actors w... Read more Read less

Thought-provoking, Clever, Great acting, Intense, Relevant

See it if Like history, are interested in Black History, are familiar with Malcolm X, if you're a believer on true love, and loyalty.

Don't see it if Aren't interested in The Nation of Islam and it's influence on the life of MalcolmX, not into Black History.

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

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.

Riveting, Thought-provoking, Must see, Great writing, Great acting

See it if You want to see outstanding acting and writing and/or are interested in the life of Malcolm X.

Don't see it if You want a lavish production and/or you are not interested in Malcolm X. Also don't see if you can't climb steps. Not handicap accessible.

Absorbing, Great acting, Clever, Entertaining

See it if You like shows that put controversial and historical characters/events into a courtroom scenario creatively invented by the playwright.

Don't see it if You're not interested in the life,history and impact of Malcolm X.

Absorbing, Entertaining, Great acting, Great staging, Profound

See it if Want to know what really happened, with the assassination, of Malcolm X,as told by his wife, and what cause the deceit behind his death.

Don't see it if Dont like knowing the truth, as to what really happened, with the collaboration, of Malcolm X, and Dr. Martin Luther King.

Great writing, Great acting, Must see, Profound, Relevant

See it if you appreciate Greek tragedy & alternative perspectives on personality, motives, humanity, relationships, and assassination of Malcolm X.

Don't see it if you lack courage or intellectual energy to reconsider mainstream attitude about Malcolm X, or prefer primarily white cast, comedy, musical.

Absorbing, Intelligent, Riveting, Thought-provoking, Educational

See it if you want to see a very smart play about Malcolm X, some incredible acting, and awesome set and lighting design.

Don't see it if you don't like intelligent theatre with a great cast and the opportunity to learn something new.

Also I loved this play! My friend brought be along, and we sat on the stage... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Ambitious, Great staging, Great writing, Resonant

See it if You enjoy great theater! This was an excellently written, staged and performed political drama. This is theater at its best.

Don't see it if You don't enjoy engrossing, well executed thought provoking theater (so be that way).

Riveting, Great acting, Great writing, Intelligent, Must see

See it if you'd enjoy a play that presents different sides of Malcolm X with great acting, multi-dimensional characters, and intelligent dialogue.

Don't see it if you do not want to reflect on an important yet complex character in history, or you want light-hearted entertainment.

Also Great transitions between scenes and was very moving at the end. Go se... Read more Read less

Great acting, Great staging, Intelligent, Profound, Relevant

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

Entertaining, Funny, Great acting, Great writing, Must see

See it if You want to see a great play, actors and storyline of an alternate side of the Malcolm X story. Well written and executed, a must see.

Don't see it if You’re not familiar with the Malcom X story to some extent, you might find yourself confused/lost in certain parts.

Superb staging, direction & writing, Visually striking, Great ensemble acting, Timely and resonant, Must see

See it if You want to see a sharp and compelling piece of theatre. Outstanding ensemble and production with memorable use of music, rhythm and voices.

Don't see it if You neither know nor care about racial issues, past or present. Or, of course, if you're racist. A timely show, more relevant now than ever.

Also A stunning look at the death of Malcom X, Marcus Gardley's inventive, ... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Ambitious, Intelligent in both writing and presentation, Great acting, Relevant

See it if you want to see two extraordinarily nuanced performances from Roslyn Ruff and Jimonn Cole. Harriet D. Foy is quite the scene stealer!

Don't see it if you don't like intelligent, thoughtful theatre. Also, if you are not a fan of historical plays.

Also Marcus Gardley has written a play that shows the complexities of Malco... Read more Read less

Entertaining, Great acting, Edgy, Intelligent, Must see

See it if even you don't have any interest in Malcolm X. Stellar cast. NY Times Critics Choice for a reason. Intelligent theater and a great story.

Don't see it if two hours of concentration are something you are not capable of or interested in doing.

Also Mr. Houseman is smiling in his grave since this is being performed by ... Read more Read less

Thought-provoking, Intense, Great acting, Absorbing

See it if strong Black woman fighting the patriarchy while we learn the complex evolution of Malcolm X's beliefs and social justice work

Don't see it if guns and #MeToo are triggering

Ambitious, Clever, Great acting, Great writing, Great staging

See it if You want to see a phenomenal cast, technical work, and writing, and you like theatre based in history.

Don't see it if You don't like historical drama, you don't like plays with song, you want something colorful and splashy.

Also The theatre itself is also awesome, and I'm very glad to have seen thi... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Great acting, Great staging

See it if see and support work of a fine contemporary playwright with outstanding actors. An original consideration about the final days of Malcolm X.

Don't see it if a political subject is not of interest or a fantasy but not of the Black Panther movie sort.

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

See it if You’re interetested in potential backstories for real events, like strong, committed performances

Don't see it if You need linear stories, are not interested in plays with historical context, need actors to play a single role

Absorbing, Great acting, Profound

See it if its so moving- excellent acting--

Don't see it if can not think of a reason-

Also everyone should see this

Clever, Great acting, Great writing, Masterful, Thought-provoking

See it if Defense vs. prosecution dynamic that was wildly imaginative, rich, poignant and powerful with clever use of flashbacks to build arguments

Don't see it if Supporting cast pleasantly overshadowed Malcom X in acting. The play is heavy on who’s guilty and light on the rise and influences of Malcom

Also Sometimes autobiographical play can feel a little unapproachable and t... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Great acting, Great writing, Intelligent, Relevant

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, Thought-provoking, Resonant, Great staging, Great acting

See it if You want to see an important historical story told in a clever way. The acting was terrific and there is great use of staging.

Don't see it if Just see it.

Also I would see this again and again.

Cast & Creatives (13)