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New York | Ends Nov 04

Emma & Max

From 13 critic and 15 member reviews
Members say: Great acting, Indulgent, Disappointing, Intense, Edgy

About the show

Todd Solondz ("Welcome to the Dollhouse," "Wiener-Dog"), known for his style of dark, thought-provoking, socially conscious satire, makes his theatrical debut at The Flea. More…

In "Emma and Max," Solondz turns his critical eye on New Yorkers, exploring the illusions and delusions, hopes and despair of the city’s well-off and worn down. Parenting and marriage, kids and vacation, devastation and survival – the quotidian stuff of life. In his typical fashion, Solondz spares no one and skewers everyone in a play about privilege, race, and the intersection of black and white.


"Making an impressive stage debut with 'Emma and Max,' satirist Todd Solondz proves that he is a very astute man of the theater. As acted by its shrewd quartet of players, 'Emma and Max' is a devastating portrait of entitled urban white liberals who have never actually looked in the mirror to see how deep their prejudices go. 'Emma and Max' may not be an easy play to watch but its rewards are great." Full Review

Melinda's Malarky

"The play is a black comedy and social satire blazing with wit aimed at reckless self-indulgent white privilege...Brooke and Jay's preposterous behaviors are hilarious, cringeworthy uncovering the detritus of their insular daily lives. The set changes are plodding and all manned by Brittany. The clever scenic design adds depth and fluidity. The final act takes a drastic and deeply disturbing turn...The acting by the cast is first rate especially by Ms. Love." Full Review

Yes Broadway

“Expect very Todd Solondz-y vibes during this show, where one of the themes is the audience being asked to linger uncomfortably with the thickness of the dark situation on the stage. There is no shortage of these moments, but they are countered nicely by lots of dark humor that will often cause you to literally LOL...Special shout out to the hilarious Ilana Becker, who you will want to now see in everything she’ll ever be in after you see her in this perfectly ridiculous role.” Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

“’Emma and Max’ is a trap set to deceive us all...Hyper-relevant dissection of our fears, favoritism, shortcomings...The audience will relentlessly laugh at a character until a tragic detail of their past is casually revealed...All of this is made possible from accomplished and skillful performances...The brilliance lying within ‘Emma and Max’ is that no matter how villainous some characters may appear or how irrational we are to forgive their trespasses, we can’t stop rooting for them.” Full Review

Front Mezz Junkies

"It’s a powerful and downright awkward exploration of hopes and despair, devastation and survival in typical Solondz fashion...An insightful and dangerous collision of concepts, weaving a thesis on race with almost more clarity and skill then Solondz’s film work, pushing hard on the humor while holding our head under water until we laugh or scream for air...The waves hit hard, even while making some of us laugh with shock, horror, and frustration." Full Review

New York Theater

"Dryly funny and uncomfortably dark. Its unsparing and unrealistic depiction of unlikeable characters seems almost purposefully designed to offend. I found it off-putting, sure, but also provocative and compelling, helped by the grounded acting of an excellent four-member cast...With the help of an inventive design team, Solondz creates a stagecraft that you might have called cinematic even if you didn’t know his background." Full Review

Stage and Cinema

“All are guilty in ‘Emma and Max’ yet no one is evil. They’re all people trapped in their bodies, in their histories, in their circumstances...Solondz has tremendous empathy for his characters. In his world evil is not born of a desire to do bad or to hurt. It’s born of wanting to love and be loved, of desperation, of compulsion, of exhaustion, of the need for justice, of wanting to defend oneself and protect one’s loved ones.” Full Review

The New York Times

"In physical terms, Mr. Solondz has translated his cinematic-eye view into a specifically theatrical vision with admirable success. There’s not a misstep in the staging...'Emma and Max' is always fascinating to look at, even if it’s in a masochistic way...Listening to what it has to say is another matter...From the moment we meet the whiny, needy, terminally solipsistic Brooke and Jay, it’s clear that they’re fish in a barrel, just waiting to be speared and gutted." Full Review

Off Off Online

“Solondz’s playwriting debut lacks the gut punch of his film work. For Solondz, race and class can only be understood in concert with each other...The children are the battlefield on which the main characters act out their grievances. This thematic ground has been done to death, by Solondz and any number of artists. Yet while it’s admittedly low-hanging fruit, the play dissects its tropes with wicked glee." Full Review

Theater Life

"It's a well-acted, intermittently interesting, but overly garrulous, tortoise-slow, oddly shaped play satirizing…the racial attitudes of white…liberals, as well as the nasty effects…of white privilege… Each actor makes a distinct impression, and Solondz's attractive physical production…achieves its goals. Still, 'Emma and Max''s overly broad characters lack the humanity needed for audience empathy, its dramatic structure…is distractingly lumpy, and its satire's point is too quickly blunted." Full Review

New York Stage Review

"Solondz appears to have spotted the dangers upper-middle-class liberals can face in their supposedly insulated lives...Perhaps because Solondz eventually noticed that as written Brooke and Jay are more suited to comedy sketch than legit drama, he shifts the action to Brittany about three-quarters through...Solondz, better at this point as stage director than playwright, needs a more solid way to make his points in the current political climate of vague liberal inclinations." Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

“’There is next to no dramatic action in ‘Emma and Max’...Inertia is the play's default state as it lurches from one long aria of bad faith to the next, delivered by characters so repellent that the only sensible reaction is to tune out...The action move at a snail's pace...Becker and Servitto wring every last drop of bile from the roles...The play is less about race than Solondz's distaste for his fellow humans.” Full Review

The Hollywood Reporter

“Much of the play is composed of long, rambling monologues that feel stilted and overwritten, designed to make thematic points. And the final scene...seems mainly designed for cheap laughs...Solondz overly indulges his writing, resulting in an evening that feels static and talky. It's no fault of the actors, who do credible work despite their schematic characters. Still, ‘Emma and Max’ ultimately feels more exploitative than illuminating of the tragic event that inspired it.” Full Review

Great acting, Quirky, Refreshing

See it if Enjoy quirky dialogue with characters that one loves to hate and others we feel sympathetic towards. Great use of space and staging.

Don't see it if Need a full story with an arc versus separate scenes that tie together.

Ambitious, Intense, Indulgent, Disappointing, Slow

See it if you are a big fan of Todd Solondz, I suppose. Or if you want to see four actors try valiantly to make the show work. The set is attractive.

Don't see it if you like dialogue. This show is basically three long monologues with some lines between them. The pace is really slow due to scene changes.

Dark, Confusing

See it if you want to see stereotypes of all 4 characters onstage and a bad treatment of a terrible tragedy.

Don't see it if you don't want to see stereotypes of characters. The topic is very dark and the play is essentially three monologues.

Great acting, Intense, Disappointing, Funny turns excruciating

See it if you're a Todd Solondz fan and want to see what he does in another medium

Don't see it if you're expecting a heartfelt and affecting comedy. This thing gets uncomfortably dark in the final segment.

Also The actors were excellent -- great to see Matt Servitto on stage -- he... Read more Read less


See it if You’re a fan of The Flea.

Don't see it if You don’t like two-dimensional treatment of race relations.

Also I like Mr. Solondz films. This play is not likable. It lacks smarts an... Read more Read less

Indulgent, Banal, Disappointing, Excruciating, Insipid

See it if you think that Todd Solondz can do no wrong, just to prove that he very much can.

Don't see it if you want to keep liking the Flea Theatre, which almost always has compelling and meaningful productions.

Also I've loved Solondz's films, and I was excited to see what he'd do on s... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Clever, Great acting, Intelligent, Masterful

See it if You want to see something memorable. Incredible play. Must see.

Don't see it if You don’t want to be moved

Absorbing, Ambitious, Great acting, Intense, Great staging

See it if You’re interested in compelling and powerful ideas about identity and race. Smart staging.

Don't see it if You’re looking for tired ideas about race and identity.

During previews
Funny, Edgy, Intelligent, Profound

See it if you like dark, dark, dark satire about race and are fine with political correctness being thrown out the window (where it belongs).

Don't see it if if you are looking for explosive drama or laugh out loud comedy. This show is very quiet and introspective, but smart and funny.

During previews
Edgy, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Resonant, Great writing

See it if You want to see some truly TRULY fine acting, like comedic dramas and enjoy shows that take on current issues.

Don't see it if It’s mostly monologues (with interjections from other actors,) quiet but intense and about race. If that doesn’t interest you, stay home.

During previews
Ambitious, Cliched, Beautifully acted, Muddled, Hi concept indie in real space

See it if you are interested in seeing contemporary depictions of race relations in the US.

Don't see it if you want what is being said about race relations to be consistently powerful or insightful.

Also Anyone interested in theatrical depictions of current race relations i... Read more Read less

During previews
Indulgent, Cliched, Horrible, insensitive, stupid

See it if You are clinically insane

Don't see it if You have a heart and a brain

Also This is a terrible monetizarion on a real tragedy that happened in our... Read more Read less

During previews
Edgy, Intense, Thought-provoking

See it if You are a fan of filmmaker Todd Solondz's dark brand of satire.

Don't see it if You like fast-paced plays with lots of action.

During previews
Indulgent, Disappointing, Cliched, Insipid, Great staging

See it if you want a play to annoy you. Not the production. The play itself. Staging was great. Acting varied.

Don't see it if you want raw/honest piece about race. Too late...all the white people who showed up to the white man’s play about race should’ve seen Scraps

Also The portrayal of the black character felt so wrong. Why do white peopl... Read more Read less

During previews
Banal, Dated, Trite, Problematic

See it if the set design was nice.

Don't see it if a problematic, self-satisfying think piece on white guilt that hinged almost entirely upon clichés and misogynistic and racist tropes.

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Cast & Creatives (6)