Already closed | 1h 30m | Midtown W

Behind the Sheet

From 78 member  reviews
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.  More…

In 1840s Alabama, Philomena assists a doctor - her owner - as he performs experimental surgeries on her fellow slave women, trying to find a treatment for the painful post-childbirth complications known as fistulas. Reframing the origin story of modern gynecology, "Behind the Sheet" tells how these women supported each other, and questions who, and what, history remembers.

1h 30m | Already closed | Ensemble Studio Theatre (Midtown W)

Member Reviews (78)


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

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.

Also It was well presented on an all purpose stage. ... Read more Read less

Does the end justify the means?

See it if You understand we can’t wish the past away. You accept the collective guilt of slavery and medical experiments on enslaved women.

Don't see it if The screams of women undergoing painful operations without the benefit of anesthesia. You can’t climb one steep flight of stairs. You mind

Also sitting very close to actors in a very small theatre-in-the-square-typ... Read more Read less

Slow, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Intense, Great staging

See it if You want to learn about a sadly-undertold part of medical history

Don't see it if You are turned off by historical works or graphic medical work on stage

During previews
Intelligent, Slow, Resonant

See it if you would enjoy a play where the history of medicine and the history of slavery intersect in America c. 1850.

Don't see it if you object to history plays that take significant liberties with the history they’re presenting.

Also The play has some fine acting, characterizations, and ensemble writing... Read more Read less

During previews
Slow, Thought-provoking, Intense, Disappointing, Absorbing

See it if you are interested in historical drama and medicine

Don't see it if you’re looking for a musical

During previews
Slow, anachronistic, inventive, weirdly contemporary

See it if You like contemporary takes on historical horrors, with strong black female cast

Don't see it if You like character development, plot and fidelity to historical fact

Also I found this play painfully interminable but my friend and seemingly t... Read more Read less

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 scient...
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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 th...
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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 ...
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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 sayin...
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