Yen NYC Reviews and Tickets

75%
(148 Reviews)
Positive
78%
Mixed
13%
Negative
9%
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.

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Member Reviews (148)

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90
Edgy, Funny, Intense, Bleak, 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. Read more

85
Absorbing, Great acting, Intense, Thought-provoking

See it if you like heart breaking tales. The UK seems to be enamored of teengae angst. Great acting by all 4 stars

Don't see it if you need a happy go lucky tale of lost teens. Read more

Critic Reviews (31)

The New York Times
January 31st, 2017

“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.”
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Time Out New York
January 31st, 2017

“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."
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New York Magazine / Vulture
January 31st, 2017

"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."
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The Hollywood Reporter
January 31st, 2017

“The play doesn’t offer so much a slice of life as a barely digestible bite…The play’s descent into turgid, contrived melodrama at least rescues it from the tediousness that had preceded it...Director Trip Cullman tries to energize the slow-paced proceedings with jarring sound effects and video projections...But these embellishments mainly smack of theatrical desperation, since the playwright never makes clear what she’s actually trying to say. The younger performers are excellent.”
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Variety
January 31st, 2017

“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.”
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Deadline
January 31st, 2017

"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."
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New York Daily News
January 31st, 2017

“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.”
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NY1
January 31st, 2017

"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."
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Theatermania
January 31st, 2017

“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."
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BroadwayWorld
February 3rd, 2017

"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."
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Lighting & Sound America
February 6th, 2017

"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."
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Talkin' Broadway
January 31st, 2017

“Hedges is arrestingly real. He's the only thing that is...Jordan does not succeed at eliciting much humanity from her other characters...Each part of the scenario is unbelievable on its face…Worse, Jordan telegraphs everything, and leaves nothing to the imagination. None of the huge plot twists, and there are several, come as a surprise…Cullman's staging is all broad strokes and shouting, creating a quartet of colorless caged zoo animals and doing the parched script no favors.”
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TheaterScene.net
February 3rd, 2017

"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."
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Theater Pizzazz
February 3rd, 2017

"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."
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CurtainUp
February 1st, 2017

"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."
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Front Row Center
February 10th, 2017

"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."
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Front Mezz Junkies
January 31st, 2017

“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.”
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T
February 12th, 2017

"'Yen' dives headlong into the miasma of dysfunctional families without abandon and lands in a matrix of enduring questions that Jordan decides not to answer...The second act, more violent and shocking, still leaves the audience wondering why Jordan wrote 'Yen.' Cullman’s staging depends heavily on loud and violent projections to add to the mood of the play. It would seem giving more attention to Jordan’s script and trusting its strength would have given the piece more purpose."
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Broadway Blog
February 1st, 2017

“Trip Cullman directs the play to the best of his ability but it is a Herculean task given the unenlightened material he’s been handed. From the beginning of civilization, most teenagers have had bouts of rage, angst, defiance, and sadness. Jordan explores all these emotions in her deeply flawed characters...In ‘Yen,’ we feel as lost and bored as the characters on stage…Jordan also fails in her attempts to be shocking. There is a line between being provocative and trying to be provocative."
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DC Theatre Scene
January 31st, 2017

“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."
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Times Square Chronicles
February 18th, 2017

“As Hench, Mr. Hedges is so believable as an adolescent on the edge of sanity…Trip Cullman has directed this piece with physical agility…Ms. Jordan’s play lacks in so many ways. First of all it is predictable. Second she never answers the questions the audience longs to know…Most importantly why make us watch something this horrible? There is a piece of my soul I will never get back and for what? This play taught me nothing except that these actors are all skilled and extremely gifted.”
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B
January 31st, 2017

“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.”
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Cultural Weekly
February 1st, 2017

"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."
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Newsday
January 31st, 2017

"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."
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NorthJersey.com
February 1st, 2017

"The evening does have several moving scenes. Mostly, the drama feels contrived, which sets up a barrier to getting involved with the characters…The moment in which Hench tells Jennifer that he doesn’t know how to touch her is enormously affecting, the most powerful expression of the terrible cost of the boys’ abandonment..We’re left, despite an ill-fitting conciliatory ending, with the ultimate message that desperate lives can be influenced by acts of kindness but are hard to truly change."
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Financial Times (UK)
February 1st, 2017

"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."
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WNBC
January 31st, 2017

"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.”
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Village Voice
February 1st, 2017

"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."
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W
February 4th, 2017

"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."
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BSonArts
February 13th, 2017

"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."
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The Modernist Beat
February 20th, 2017

"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."
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