Behind the Sheet
Closed 1h 30m
Behind the Sheet
84

Behind the Sheet NYC Reviews and Tickets

84%
(78 Reviews)
Positive
92%
Mixed
8%
Negative
0%
Members say
Great acting, Absorbing, Thought-provoking, Intense, Relevant

About the Show

EST's new drama confronts the history of a great medical breakthrough by telling the forgotten story of a community of enslaved black women who involuntarily enabled the discovery. 

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Member Reviews (78)

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89
Great acting, Great staging, Great writing, Thought-provoking, Intelligent

See it if you enjoy good drama based on history, presented in an intimate, well-designed space, with a good cast who make you feel the pain endured.

Don't see it if you do not like reliving times in which black people were treated as property and used in inhumane ways.

83
Absorbing, Ambitious, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Relevant

See it if you're interested in forgotten history, slavery & medical experimentation with human subjects, fan of EST's science commissions,

Don't see it if you're not a fan of historical plays, upset by depictions of pain, blood & slavery, easily confused by multiple locations in a single scenes

85
Powerful, Great staging, Great writing, Resonant, Absorbing

See it if you want to see a thoughtful play that gives voice to those who didn't get to write their own history, and is excitingly theatrical.

Don't see it if you want a happy ending.

94
Absorbing, Great acting, Intense, Thought-provoking, Great staging

See it if Very powerful play about Medical experiments on female slaves. Part Fact with some fiction.

Don't see it if You have no interest in that time of history. Read more

92
Absorbing, Ambitious, Great acting, Intelligent, Thought-provoking

See it if you enjoy plays based on science. This play explores the early days of gynecology and the exploited slave women who participated.

Don't see it if you are uncomfortable with how African American slaves were exploited.

66
Earnest, overly long production with no passion

See it if You are interested in a didactic telling of what I would expect to be a fascinating subject. Program notes made me want to learn more.

Don't see it if You want a fleshed our depiction of this subject. Read more

86
Unsettling, Great acting, Intense, Painful, Slow

See it if interested in learning of little known episode in 1840's of forced experimental surgical procedures on female slaves with postpartum pain.

Don't see it if you can't handle scenes of physical & emotional suffering. Read more

90
Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Intense, Heart-wrenching

See it if historical* subject of how black female slaves were used for multiple painful experimental surgeries - the beginning of modern gynecology

Don't see it if don't want subjects of women in pain or blacks being treated as property Read more

Critic Reviews (11)

The New York Times
January 17th, 2019

"The production takes on cumulative power in its steady, cleareyed depiction of a time when it was a given that pain would be borne uncomplainingly by human beings regarded as chattel...This is, for the most part, a straightforward, conventional work that is not above plying the clichés of scientific breakthrough dramas of yesteryear...But the context, in this case, casts shifting, unsettling light on such classic elements...'Behind the Sheet' may be a quiet play. But its echoes are thunderous."
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Time Out New York
January 17th, 2019

"With a sizable cast of nine actors, some playing multiple roles, the plot sprawls off into too many directions; the scenes about the doctor’s marital life and scientific experimentation aren’t as involving as those that center on his subjects. But it’s reassuring that, although the women fear that no one will remember them, Simpson has seen to it that they won’t be forgotten."
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Theatermania
January 17th, 2019

"Simpson is still developing her voice as a playwright...Each scene is a little too long and shaggy, there are a few too many characters, and certain plot points fall by the wayside. But Simpson must be commended for giving a voice to the voiceless and it's a brave, unflinching piece from top to bottom. The amount of thought and care that went into its development is evident...'Behind the Sheet' may not be a perfect play, but it's a story that deserves to be heard."
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New York Stage Review
January 17th, 2019

"Simpson’s hewing to the recorded facts does sometime give her play the feel of a medical-journal essay, but she has a few dramatist’s wiles up her sleeve to enliven the serious ambience. Her biggest achievement is creating three-dimensional lives for the suffering women...There’s no way of saying that 'Behind the Sheet' is an easy play to watch. It’s hardly mere entertainment. But Simpson’s drama is bold, deserving of attention and understanding."
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TheaterScene.net
January 22nd, 2019

"Obviously, this is a play for which any sort of a happy ending will be deeply compromised, but what Simpson does so beautifully is show us how these women overcome their suspicions and envy to find support...It's tempting for playwrights to work toward such an end by wallowing in sentimentality. However, it never seems that Simpson, Robert or the talented women portraying these characters are pulling frantically at our heartstrings. The plot unfolds simply and satisfyingly."
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Theatre is Easy
January 19th, 2019

“’Behind the Sheet’ is a double-punch in the gut, equally disturbing as an account of medical history and a portrait of life on antebellum Southern plantation. Robert subtly directs a production characterized by earth tones and bathed in warm light. Considering its gruesome subject, the show is surprisingly gentle on the audience’s psyche. Eschewing visual shocks and focusing on human connection, Robert does justice to Simpson’s play and leaves a lot of room for the actors to shine.”
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Front Row Center
January 19th, 2019

“’Behind the Sheet’ tells a story from the early days of gynecology...This absorbing play centers around a particularly debilitating complication arising from difficult child births...Simpson has crafted a drama without sensationalism. Given the unbelievable reality on which it is based, the restraint of both the writing and the intelligent, inventive direction by Robert is near miraculous...The only complaint I have is the pervasive haze...Nevertheless, ‘Sheet’ is not to be missed.”
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Theatre's Leiter Side
January 24th, 2019

“Persuasive in subject matter, writing, and performance…Whether Sims's subjects were willing or not, 'Behind the Sheets' honors them as unsung women whose anguish contributed to women's health…Simpson takes various liberties in altering history for dramatic effect…All of the acting is surprisingly restrained, almost more conversational than theatrical, which works-up to a point. For all its realistic ambience, the…overall tone remains so low key that…it eventually begins to drag.”
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Times Square Chronicles
January 26th, 2019

"The cast is exquisitely directed by Robert, who takes us on their journey. Simpson's work is powerful and...shines a light on the enslaved black women and a medical breakthrough that makes us question the costs of health.”
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scribicide
January 24th, 2019

"There is a historical re-enactment quality to 'Behind the Sheet,' as if Simpson did not allow her imagination enough freedom, as if she deferred too much to her research."
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I
January 22nd, 2019

“I applaud Simpson for tackling a subject matter that hasn’t been explored very much...She’s treated it with respect, skillfully and objectively laying out the facts and letting the prejudices of the times speak frankly for themselves...Although the play’s resolution seems a bit fudged, the playwright has managed to create compelling, three dimensional characterizations that mostly avoid caricature...The production has been expertly directed by Colette Robert."
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