Ends Apr 02

Chess Match No. 5

Members say: Slow, Great acting, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Confusing
8 reviews
39 reviews

SITI Company and Abingdon Theatre Company present the world premiere of an avant-garde work inspired by American composer, writer, artist, and philosopher John Cage. ... Read more

SITI actors Will Bond and Ellen Lauren create a unique live art performance, part chess game and part music happening, which explores the words and ideas of a visionary artist. Come experience the wide-open mind-bending brilliance of Cage’s insights about the world, art, music, philosophy, and the adventures that life presents. Conceived and directed by veteran theater maker Anne Bogart.

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Reviews (47)

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews
Avg Score


"Clarke's finished product onstage is—in the most objective sense of the word—boring. And yet, it's so Cage-like in spirit, you almost can't fault Clarke or director Anne Bogart for crafting 'Chess Match No. 5' in just this meandering way...Nevertheless, this sensory stimulation can't bear all the weight of keeping us engaged for the entirety of the plotless conversation between He and She...And yet, you leave the theater seriously questioning whether boredom is a fair basis of criticism." Full Review

Time Out New York

"Even as it quotes Cage, 'Match' resists him, and the resulting performance is respectful, warm-hearted, lovely…and inert...There should be an interesting tension between Bogart and Cage—there's so much that's different, they should come together in a crash. But the SITI method sands and polishes and burnishes 'til there's no salient edge left. Though the piece is about Cage, it doesn't use Cage: aside from the chess games, all of Bogart's structures are rigid." Full Review

Theatre's Leiter Side

"Rarely dramatic and primarily intellectual, the dialogue covers Cage's thoughts on his work process, aesthetics, music, art, and life; it can now and then be stimulating, even funny. Because of its patchwork structure, the conversations jump around in subject and manner. But since everything spoken exists in a theatrical vacuum where the speakers, regardless of how well acted, are essentially intellectual abstractions, their words frequently become like the sounds that Cage considered music." Full Review

Times Square Chronicles

"All I could think of was I am trapped in hell with an adult Mr. Rogers in a nightmare for 90 minutes...Loud noises interspersed with vapid conversation, all while playing chess, and I need aspirin, because I now have a headache...Bond and Lauren are obviously talented, though I seriously find Bond highly annoying...As for the direction and conception by Bogart, I hope to never see anything like this again. It was the most tortuous 90 minutes of theatre I have ever spent as a critic." Full Review

Theatre Reviews Limited

"There is nothing like watching theatre directed by SITI Company’s Anne Bogart. Her attention to detail is unparalleled and her signature staging that includes crisp and precise movement is transformative...A remarkable production...With smiles and precise gestures here, a few dances there, and with scintillating words everywhere, the remarkable talents of Bond and Lauren open the door to the possibility for members of the audience to rehearse their own conversations." Full Review

Front Row Center

“It gets dense and there is no real story, yet I was thoroughly entertained...This is a show that must be grasped with an open hand. If you try to make too much of it, hold on to any one moment too long, or ‘figure it all out,’ you won’t like it. If you can let it just flow over you and just notice how some of the mind bending makes you feel, you will definitely enjoy yourself...The sound design in this show is a complex masterpiece…By the end of the show, I had tears in my eyes.” Full Review


“While both Bond and Lauren are visibly talented actors, they were definitely challenged by their material…Ms. Bogart knows what she’s doing when it comes to directing, despite the less-than-amusing subject matter…Bogart succeeds in giving Cage's work a voice in a proper stage presentation…On the whole, ‘Chess Match No. 5’ may suffer from its source material being directed to such a specialized target audience, whereby the overall impact may be lost on many." Full Review

This Week in New York Blog

“Through cleverly choreographed staging, the dialogue, so much of which is dry and didactic (as well as often being revelatory and very funny), never bogs things down; in fact, it all becomes rather playful…West’s superb sound design is like a character unto itself…If you’re looking to make sense of it all, you’re out of luck...If you submerse yourself in the concepts and ideas being espoused by the man and woman (as well as the outstanding sound and lighting), you’re likely to enjoy 'Chess.' Full Review

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews
Avg Score

Ambitious, Edgy, Confusing, Slow

See it if You're a big fan of Cage and avant-garde theater and enjoy wondering what the he and she are up to. Some use of sound and light fun.

Don't see it if You can't handle 90 slow moving min with philosophical talk. I wanted to like it but the chess moves were like watching paint dry.

Great acting, Intelligent, Riveting, Confusing, Slow

See it if You have some familiarity w/John Cage. You want a play about big, philosophical ideas. You like abstract & non-linear plays.

Don't see it if You're expecting a plot. You have no familiarity w/John Cage. You don't want philosophy and big ideas.

Also I didn't get everything in this play. I lost them a few times. However... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Ambitious, Clever, Quirky, Slow

See it if You are a great fun of John Cage; you want to see some experimental theater works which discuss time, sound and space.

Don't see it if You like plot-driven or traditional plays. Nothing really happened during the play and the dialogues can be incomprehensible.

Ambitious, Indulgent, Disappointing, Excruciating, Slow

See it if You are willing to spend 90 minutes watching two actors play chess while pretending to talk about philosophical and obscure concepts.

Don't see it if You don't like pretentious theater that tries ( and fails ) to be " avant-garde " and challenging. This is a boring and inert production.

Funny, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Confusing, Slow

See it if you like John Cage, interesting plays about avant garde music/musicians, and thought-provoking, quiet, good acting.

Don't see it if you don't like slow pieces, meta, and unconventional pieces that lack a traditional story. I liked it, but it was weird and not for everyone

Edgy, Great acting, Quirky, Confusing, Challenging

See it if You like Endgame, Sandbox, Exit The King, The Chairs. . . and outstanding actors

Don't see it if Like comprehensible stories with linear plots

Banal, Disappointing, Excruciating, Cliched

See it if you are a fan of John Cage and his seemingly "esoteric" philosophical musing about art and life, maybe.

Don't see it if are looking for a show with any semblance of plot or want to have the ideas of John Caged doled out to you . . . tediously.

Absorbing, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Must see, Experimental

See it if you are a fan of experimental theater, a fan of John Cage or of Anne Bogart/SITI Company. Enjoy spectacular sound design and unique lighting

Don't see it if you only like musicals, narrative plays, hate experimental theater or require plot and characters to enjoy a performance; You hate John Cage

Also Find Anne Bogarts essays and lectures on theater deeply inspiring, but... Read more Read less

Great acting, Intelligent, Indulgent, Slow, Dated

See it if you enjoy John Cage and don't care much about plot

Don't see it if you're looking for a linear (or any) story

Also It was uncanny how much that guy looked like John Cage! Good casting, ... Read more Read less

Great acting, Banal, Overwritten, Brainy

See it if you love Will Bond and Ellen Lauren so much you wouldn't miss anything they are in.

Don't see it if you have no patience for brainy plays with a lot of text and not much of action.

Also I really wanted to love a SITI Company show about John Cage but walked... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Clever, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Quirky

See it if don't mind something avant-guard, philosophical and imaginatively presented

Don't see it if need a conventional plot and have short attention spans

Absorbing, Clever, Great acting, Intelligent, And super original.

See it if your are a little tired of kitchen dramas and plays with a linear story and you are open to a different type of show, super well done.

Don't see it if you like regular plays and are not open to enjoying something out of the box. People are going to hate it or love it, and that's good.

Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Profound, Confusing, Weird, but interesting.

See it if You want to know more about a modern, provocative composer who was a brilliant philosopher.

Don't see it if You want constant action and just want to relax, without having to think.

Also I kind of liked it.

Ambitious, Great acting

See it if You like think-pieces, with terrific performances. Two-character one-set play that will expand your mind.

Don't see it if You want to check your mind at the door.

Great acting, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Resonant

See it if You enjoy a production that makes you think

Don't see it if You're looking for a simple story

Great acting, Intelligent, Profound, Great staging, Abstract

See it if You enjoy experimental theater done by masters of their craft

Don't see it if You have a short attention span or get lost in big ideas

Indulgent, Confusing, Disappointing, Excruciating, Slow

See it if you enjoy pretentious "avant garde" performances which are thought provoking for some.

Don't see it if you are a fan of John Cage. Do not like pretentious plays that seem like they go on and on and on for ever. This play was a long 2 hours.

Also A fellow member of the audience told me that see thought the play was ... Read more Read less

During previews
Thought-provoking, Quirky, Refreshing, Slow, Zen

See it if You are interested in being in the moment, want to be immersed in John Cage's thought (not his music), like quirky stuff, do yoga

Don't see it if You are an impatient philistine and proud of it

Also A memorable play to share with an attentive audience.... Read more Read less

During previews
Disappointing, Slow, Repetitive, Weird

See it if you want to be re-introduced to sounds and like very quirky plays

Don't see it if you can't sit still and watch nothing happen

Also The separation and exaggeration of sounds and lights was somewhat enga... Read more Read less

During previews
Quirky, avant-garde, absurdist pleasure., Intelligent and thought-provoking., You will suddenly hear the world around you., It's a bit long, but entertaining throughout., This is very slow by design - best if you you like the sensibility of john cage.

See it if You like absurd theater, existentialism, a play that makes you lean in. It's a conversational meditation with unexpected production detail.

Don't see it if You're inclined to find stuff like this pretentious/not worth it. It's two people on a sparsely set stage, playing chess, talking, w coffee.

Also Well, obviously with scores that range from 7 to 98, this show's not f... Read more Read less

During previews
Intelligent, Indulgent, Disappointing, Slow, Dated

See it if You're interested in the words of John Cage and like avant-garde theater of his bygone era then this is for you. If not, don't go.

Don't see it if You are looking for traditional theater. You will be totally bored.

Also Luckily his music is not played.

During previews
Edgy, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Quirky, Slow

See it if You are a fan of avant-garde composer John Cage. You are a composer. You really enjoy highly unusual theatre. Different is your thing !

Don't see it if You are looking for a traditional style play. This could not be more untraditional ! You want mindless entertainment with lots of laughs.

Also This is an event based on the sometimes very strange conversations com... Read more Read less

During previews
Disappointing, Overrated, Slow

See it if YOU LIKE CRAP!!!!

Don't see it if U DON"T LIKE CRAP!!!!

During previews
Absorbing, Ambitious, Edgy, Great acting, Great writing

See it if You are curious about John Cage, the Father of Indeterminism.

Don't see it if Avante- garde subject matter is not your thing.

Also I still can't determine if I really liked this or fully understood it ... Read more Read less

During previews
Great acting, Thought-provoking, Indulgent, Disappointing, Slow

See it if You don't mind being spoon fed an intellectual premise as opposed to discovering it woven inside an interesting narrative interestingly told

Don't see it if You're looking for a well put together performance piece that's filled with fully flushed out ideas.