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New York | 2h 15m | Already closed

Yen

From 31 critic and 148 member reviews
Members say: Great acting, Intense, Edgy, Absorbing, Thought-provoking

About the show

MCC Theater presents Anna Jordan's play about two teenage brothers living alone with no adult supervision. Directed by indie theater vet Trip Cullman. More…

Bobbie and Hench are home alone. Days are filled by streaming porn, playing video games, and watching the world go by. Their mom rarely visits these days, and it’s chaos when she does. But when animal-loving neighbor Jenny takes an interest in Bobbie and Hench's dog, Taliban, the boys discover a world far beyond what they know. 'Yen' explores a childhood lived without boundaries.

2h 15m | Already closed | Lucille Lortel Theatre (West Village)


90
New York Magazine / Vulture

"Were 'Yen' content to explore this one situation, it might be a successful-enough lost-boy social drama…But it is much more ambitious and open-ended than that, reaching toward the bigger and bleaker greatness of poetic dramas like 'Of Mice and Men'…The play and production never make a false step onstage. The roles are immensely actable and, in MCC’s production, immensely acted." Full Review

90
Variety

“A powerfully acted and impressively staged production…The effects of abandonment and isolation mixed with a longing for human connection are brought to stark, vivid life under Trip Cullman’s unsparing direction…Hedges once again shows heartbreaking depth in his sense of stillness, shame and repressed feelings as the brother who aches for the human touch. The young actor evokes a world of hurt in his hopeless gaze and strangled speech.” Full Review

85
Deadline

"If you’ve seen 'Manchester By The Sea' you already know that Lucas Hedges has the seething sullen-teen thing down. This gifted young actor raises the stakes to James Dean-ian heights in his smashing stage debut…’Yen is a not entirely controlled drama, and it’s predictable in some aspects. But the writing, and this superb production, bristle with youthful talent — the kind that makes you remember names." Full Review

85
Cultural Weekly

"A searing, sordid portrait of alienated youth in a ripping production...Predictably a misunderstanding leads to tragedy, but the writing is so realistic and the acting and direction so sharp, this familiar story still has a walloping impact...Hedges and Owen feelingly convey Hench and Jenny’s tentative attractions and damaged psyches. Ari Graynor is brilliantly brittle as the out-of-control Maggie. The uniquely named Justice Smith gives a stand-out performance as the feral Bobbie." Full Review

85
Newsday

"Hedges turns out to be far more than just a Hollywood lure in ‘Yen,’ a tough, moving, deeply unpredictable drama…And he is hardly the only young discovery. Right there with him is Justice Smith...Jordan writes tough — verbally and physically. And director Cullman stages the American premiere as controlled emotional chaos, each scene separated by music of punk desperation and splatters of war videos. The end is a bit inconclusive but, then again, so are these fierce and fragile lives." Full Review

85
WNYC

"A remarkable production that does the extraordinary: It creates empathy for people that we otherwise would likely have no empathy for...It's witty and energetic and the action moves swiftly. But Cullman's true genius shows in the desolate vulnerability he evokes from all four actors...And then there's Hedges...His character says very little, and yet when Hench struggles to speak, the emotions that range across his face tell the entire story of his short, wrecked life." Full Review

85
CurtainUp

"The cast here, and Cullman's direction, is exceptional. Hedges leads the ensemble with a performance that delicately balances intense emotionality and equally strong denial of those emotions. He clearly illustrates the inner turmoil of his character in a way that never seems overwrought…Jenny's character skirts dangerously around the territory occupied by the stereotypical Manic Pixie Dream Girl…But the actress plays the role with an unrelenting honesty that rings sincere." Full Review

85
BSonArts

"This is not a play for everyone’s taste, but I found it fascinating and, in the end, moving...The two lead actors are truly remarkable...Justice Smith as the hyper-active Bobbie gives a 'how does he do that' type of performance without sacrificing the audience’s empathy with his circumstances. Lucas Hedges gives an equally dimensioned and entirely engaging performance as Hench, the older and more internalized brother." Full Review

85
The Modernist Beat

"What sets it apart is a that it is just a socio-economic investigation but a moral indictment as well...Yes, conditions in council housing, or projects, is bad. That is easily agreed. Here is where she pierces the heart. It is already too late, she seems to be saying...The acting is exceptional...For American audiences used to closure and the conclusion of their dramas, 'Yen' is not always easy, but ultimately that is what makes it such a rewarding and necessary evening of theatre." Full Review

80
Theater Pizzazz

"Enhanced by the emotionally riveting work of Smith and his three fellow actors, this production of 'Yen,' despite the play's flaws, is one of the most gripping of the Off-Broadway season...Jordan's drama ekes out its themes in bits and pieces, focusing on mood, atmosphere, and character, so that when something traumatic happens it stands out that much more sharply. The events in Act Two, though, dramatic as they may be, take the play in a slightly different, more plot-oriented direction." Full Review

80
Time Out New York

“Writing with vigor and sympathy, Jordan evokes the boys’ volatile combination of poverty, misogyny and piss-poor communication skills, and Trip Cullman once again adeptly charts a modern teenage wasteland. Although ‘Yen’ peters off after its climax, the intense and soulful Hedges and the astoundingly energetic Smith give a pair of extraordinary performances. It’s impossible to shift your eyes from them as they bounce off or hit their walls." Full Review

80
NY1

"MCC Theater is delivering a powerful production bristling with high energy and bravura performances...Playwright Anna Jordan is unflinching in her portrayal of a wretched British family drowning in a pit of despair. But Jordan and her ace director Trip Cullman somehow manage to inject enough humanity to make us care about these deplorables...Hard to love certainly, but given such a gutsy production, it’s equally hard to turn away." Full Review

80
Financial Times (UK)

"What begins as a hyperbolic, even pornographic vision of social breakdown thus evolves in a more melodramatic direction, with clear Dickensian overtones...A pulsating soundtrack and Lucy Mackinnon’s frenetic video projections heighten the sense that 'Yen' is less about the reality of poverty than its exploitative portrayals in popular culture. Anchoring that critique is Hedges who exudes quiet intensity and torment in a performance that defies clichés about troubled youth." Full Review

80
Front Row Center

"It is an endless bombardment of sound and fury–showing us, telling us, who these boys are...but it’s too much...It is the arrival of Jenny that turns the play into something more than the yelling and gnashing of teeth. Here is where poetry begins and here is where we start to care, to listen–leaning forward, drinking in the words and emotions played so beautifully by this flawless cast...It is the quiet, painful moments of longing where the writer, actors and director all shine." Full Review

80
Village Voice

"The play's heartbreaking success comes from watching Jenny crack the taciturn Hench open...Considering the complex layers of the script, director Cullman makes the proceedings too slick at certain moments...but he nonetheless coaxes a grueling must-see performance from Hedges...Happily, Jenny is more than a transformational plot device, with her own woes and wants, but Owen at times struggles to make congruent the character's simultaneous naïveté and self-possession." Full Review

80
WNBC

"Hedges is excellent here as a boy who copes with life by being prickly and snappish, but who is essentially introspective and caring underneath…Smith is a gifted actor, who makes us believe his storms of devotion and resentment are coming from the gut…Graynor’s Maggie shows her bottomless neediness, without turning us against her.” Full Review

78
Front Mezz Junkies

“Exhausting to take in, I wonder if Smith’s frantic energy, similar to that of a naughty jack russell, is just too much. Smith has definitely made a choice, and one consistently presented, but a calmer less annoying temperament might have caused us to engage more in this lost young man…It’s a tremendously challenging and difficult play that the young Anna Jordan has written. She shows great skill in storytelling and a wonderful ear for interaction.” Full Review

75
Lighting & Sound America

"Even when the script, fairly early on, begins to take less plausible turns, it's the work of the actors that keeps one's eyes riveted...Hedges and Smith are new to the stage; based on their work here, they have astonishing stage careers ahead...'Yen' remains an often staggeringly powerful piece...And it provides a golden opportunity to make the acquaintance of some superb young actors. Even when the script goes a little soft, they remain diamond hard." Full Review

75
BroadwayWorld

"As soon as you enter the Lortel for Cullman's tight and tense production of Jordan's unsettling, hard-edged drama, the intention to catch audience members a little off-balance is evident...Both actors are excellent as Hedges gradually reveals the layers of fear and innocence under Hench's tough exterior and Smith hits the right degree of realism in Bobbie's hyperactivity...The major strength of Jordan's drama is that it offers audiences a glimpse of how Hench's world can change for the better." Full Review

75
New York Daily News

“Hedges impresses in his stage debut…He nails a roller coaster of emotions as Hench, a haunted 16-year-old bed-wetter with a future as grim as the dreary flat he shares with his half-brother…Broken people falling through the cracks is familiar territory. But the play’s dark shadows and surprising flickers of tenderness get under your skin in director Cullman's staging. Which isn't to say there aren't issues. Characters and plotting could use more heft, while the dialogue is too much.” Full Review

70
The New York Times

“These feral creatures, who live on their own in a rancid apartment in a suburban London housing project, are portrayed with equal sensitivity and fierceness by Lucas Hedges and Justice Smith…’Yen’ is a thoughtful play, for sure, but too often you’re aware of the wheels churning behind it...You may feel that the characters are being pushed into climactic positions by authorial hands...Despite the resulting sensory overload, ‘Yen’ never quite packs the wallop it so obviously intends to.” Full Review

70
DC Theatre Scene

“What leavens 'Yen’s' sensationalism is the playwright’s precise observations of the moment-to-moment interactions…What makes these moments work above all are the performances by the four cast members…’Yen’ takes a turn towards violence that, in retrospect, feels inevitable – less for sound psychological or sociological reasons than because that’s the standard ending for these kinds of dramas...Director Trip Cullman can take credit for a production that is always watchable." Full Review

65
Theatermania

“Director Trip Cullman presents this story with clarity and sensitivity, aided by some truly remarkable acting...Smith gives one of the most electric performances of the season…It all seems calibrated to disturb and we can see the calculation coming, making ‘Yen’ something of a disappointment...Jordan proves herself to have a firm grip on both contemporary language and timeless human behavior…Unfortunately, she cannot resist the siren call of sensationalism." Full Review

65
TheaterScene.net

"There are many questions that the author leaves unanswered. Although the boys have not attended school in years and Bobbie has been diagnosed as ADHD and should be in the British equivalent of special education, no social worker seems to have visited to check up. Who is paying the rent or the electricity? Is the mother on welfare and are these items paid automatically? There is no explanation of how the boys are eating and how Taliban stays alive if they have not been feeding it for days." Full Review

65
Bob's Theater Blog

“The plot has a few contrivances that make no sense…There is too little context for the characters. We never learn what demons bedevil Hench…Cullman commits one of the cardinal sins of directing: shining bright lights in the audience’s eyes...When it was all over, I had to ask myself what was the play’s point. Is it just a slice of life about the British lower classes? A screed about the evils of porn and video games? Judge for yourself if you are so inclined.” Full Review


100
Absorbing, Edgy, Great acting, Intense, Entertaining

See it if You love Lucas Hedges

Don't see it if You are above the age of 55 .. just my opinion.. these are young Ten age kids struggling, not sure you would get into if you are older .imo

100
Absorbing, Exquisite, Great acting, Masterful, Great writing

See it if You like to see real theater for intelligent people You liked Bug or Red Light Winter

Don't see it if Are afraid of humanity Have something against the best show to play off broadway in years.

Also This show was amazing from soup to nuts. Truly felt lucky to have seen... Read more Read less

100
Absorbing, Ambitious, Epic, Great acting, Intense

See it if You like theatre that makes you think and keeps you on the edge of your seat.

Don't see it if You don't like strong language and violence

98
Absorbing, Edgy, Great acting, Intense, Thought-provoking

See it if you are open to seeing are hard hitting play that may be difficult to watch but equally rewarding. After the show I was in total awe!

Don't see it if You can't handle hard subjects, or you don't enjoy plays that break boundaries.

98
Absorbing, Ambitious, Great acting, Masterful, Raunchy

See it if Incredible performances, great writing, great staging...could not recommend this phenomenon more!

Don't see it if There is serious subject matter regarding child neglect, mental disorders, and trauma.

97
Absorbing, Great acting, Refreshing, Resonant, Riveting

See it if You're looking for a passionate, heart-wrenching, flawless piece of theatre.

Don't see it if You hate young people.

95
Absorbing, Ambitious, Edgy, Great acting, Must see

See it if you want to experience the full drama of dystopian relationships, wild character portrayals, emotional violence and masterful storytelling.

Don't see it if you're a prude, closed-minded or afraid to engage in authentic tragedy, loss, or humor. This play is keenly aware of its own power. SEE IT.

95
Great acting, Must see, Relevant

See it if You want to see some incredible young performers take on an engaging, dramatic story. This piece engages both the heart and mind - a rarity.

Don't see it if You prefer avant-garde forms of theatre to naturalism. You prefer subtle to dramatic stories. Very heavy subject matter.

Also My favourite kind of theatre is when no one is a hero and no one is a ... Read more Read less

94
Clever, Edgy, Great acting, Intense, Great staging

See it if you want to see an edgy new drama; with a great cast.

Don't see it if if you like plays that are more main stream.

93
Absorbing, Great acting, Intense, Great writing, Great staging

See it if you liked Look Back in Anger or enjoy plays about dysfunctional families.

Don't see it if you have trouble relating to lower income people or those with substance abuse problems (audience was commenting)

92
Absorbing, Intense, Resonant, Riveting, Great writing

See it if you want grit, dynamic relationships, great character development, and fantastic connection between the actors and the story.

Don't see it if you are sensitive to controversial topics and circumstances.

92
Ambitious, Edgy, Intense, Must see, Riveting

See it if you are interested in contemporary English drama, exploring the recesses of society, and the effects of negligence and hostility on kids.

Don't see it if you enjoy a pleasant and un-challenging evening at the theatre.

Also The light and projection work is nothing short of stunning and, despit... Read more Read less

91
Great acting, Relevant, Riveting, Great writing, Great staging

See it if you enjoy remarkable acting and gritty urban dramas. Hedges and Smith tear up the stage as feral brothers in UK wasteland. Great direction.

Don't see it if you don't like references to viiolent porn, profanity, drugs and booze. Also at times British accents hard to understand.

90
Great acting, Must see, Riveting, Great writing

See it if for the courageous acting of this ensemble. There are some truly dark moments and the actors threw themselves into it.

Don't see it if You are easily disturbed.

90
Great acting, Intense, Thought-provoking

See it if You enjoy a good acting and aren't turned off by an unusual story or script

Don't see it if You want a more traditional show. This show has a lot of references to and implied sex and violence.

90
Great acting, Resonant, Great writing, Disturbing, truthful

See it if you want 2 see a drama that is raw, disturbing, but truthful about 2 brothers living alone & how a girl awakens them 2 the realities of life

Don't see it if you don't like dysfunctional family plays that are upsetting and show us how regular people live and survive.

90
Funny, Bleak, Edgy, Intense, Raw

See it if Neglected teens and other suffering characters reach out to each other for support and relief. Emotional, raw, surprising, inspiring.

Don't see it if You are looking for lighter fare.

Also Vibrant set, sound, video and lighting. These reinforce the sexual ene... Read more Read less

90
Edgy, Great acting, Intense, Raunchy, Riveting

See it if you enjoy gritty shows. This one is about two feral teenagers living without supervision in an abandoned apartment in a housing project.

Don't see it if your favorite cable channel is the Hallmark Channel.

Also If this were a movie it would be rated R. There's a lot of very crude ... Read more Read less

90
Absorbing, Edgy, Great acting, Intelligent, Slow

See it if you love contemporary lower class family dramas. The acting is fantastic.

Don't see it if British accents or references annoy you. Don't see it if you are look for a big "action" play, it is thoughtfully slow.

89
Funny, Clever, Edgy, Great acting, Resonant

See it if you enjoy naturalistic plays, stories with subtle yet powerful moments and statements, heartbreaking plays that are also funny.

Don't see it if you don't want your heart to break for people you should hate, you want a story full of visual action, you don't like naturalistic sets.

Also Yen escalated thick in a world of created naturalism, but with bursts ... Read more Read less

89
Great acting, Intense, Riveting, Excruciating, Heartwrenching

See it if you like physically intense, emotionally upsetting contemporary plays and don't mind bloody theatricality.

Don't see it if This is a raw, intense, unhappy play. Consider skipping if you have triggers (child & animal abuse, sexual violence, language).

Also An absolutely stunning first half is followed by act two that expands ... Read more Read less

89
Absorbing, Great acting, Intense, Thought-provoking, Difficult to watch at times because what is happening on stage is so strange and/or upsetting

See it if You want to see a very raw, intensely acted play. The actors were all incredible.

Don't see it if You do not like seeing upsetting intense drama. Not a "fun" show. It is engrossing and serious but also strange and sad.

88
Absorbing, Great acting, Relevant

See it if You have the courage.

Don't see it if disfunction breaks your heart

88
Absorbing, Dizzying, Great acting, Must see, Riveting

See it if A really great example of a modern British play. Dark, pessimistic, full of dread, yet somehow at the end a glimmer of hope.

Don't see it if You're looking for a play that doesn't leave you feeling unsettled and disturbed. Not a brighter side of life story.

Also Loved the minimal set. Loved the actors. Thought the production design... Read more Read less

88
Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Intense, Riveting

See it if You enjoy drama that kicks you in the gut

Don't see it if You're not interested in shows based on character interaction more than plot


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Cast & Creatives (11)