The Flea Theatre presents the world premiere of provocative playwright Thomas Bradshaw's new play about a man who seemingly has everything - except fulfillment. More…
Michael has a new girlfriend and has just bought the apartment of his dreams. It seems that his life should be perfect. Little does he know that his hell is just beginning. In 'Fulfillment,' playwright Thomas Bradshaw tackles the question: what makes us happy?
"What sets this production apart is the brilliant vision of director Ethan McSweeny and his wildly creative design team. Cohesive is an understatement...Being fearless and taking risks in theater nowadays sadly seems rare. But Thomas Bradshaw and Ethan McSweeny were unafraid. And thankfully, it paid off for them. 'Fulfillment' is a fulfilling production that highlights the power of a strong vision." Full Review
"Bradshaw has never been afraid to fill his plays with characters whose contradictions are as real as the ones theatergoers find in themselves and their own intimates, and with 'Fulfillment,' the playwright once again does a sensational job of refusing to reconcile or explain away these individuals’ dualities. They just are, and that’s what makes 'Fulfillment' so troubling. It feels real. The audience’s sense of the characters’ verity only becomes more palpable given the terrific performances." Full Review
"The Flea Theater’s production, directed to emphasize its undercurrents of eroticism and anger by Ethan McSweeny, is both shocking and sad...The acting throughout was outstanding, so much so that it was often difficult to watch the action without wincing and turning away." Full Review
"Bradshaw's mélange of race, power, and ambition will leave more than a few audience members feeling queasy...Ethan McSweeny's unrelenting production churns forward as Bradshaw's short, cruel scenes cut from one to the next...We're not dispassionately observing this urban jungle from a distance; we're living in it, and it is terrifying." Full Review
"If Bradshaw’s signature X-rated touches feel gratuitous in 'Fulfillment,' the play is nevertheless fulfilling in many ways– a well-acted (bravely acted!), smoothly directed, smart, at times funny, more often horrifying and ultimately thought-provoking glimpse into our pursuit of happiness." Full Review
"'Fulfillment' is one of the playwright’s most accessible and entertaining works — a pretty funny comedy, but with full frontal. What hasn’t changed is Bradshaw’s concern with race, gender and power...The show, well-directed by Ethan McSweeny, is funniest when the situations become increasingly heated while the tone remains matter-of-fact...We find ourselves in these characters’ heads — which is actually more interesting than finding ourselves almost in their beds." Full Review
"Writer Thomas Bradshaw and director Ethan McSweeny create a fun, cohesive world...It is modern New York City with high powered characters and actors who make hard work look effortless...'Fulfillment' uses a tried and true formula of sex, booze, and the corporate environment. What is interesting is how the show pushes the envelope to incorporate Bradshaw's signature shock factor. Even more eyebrow raising scenes are turned out than one might expect." Full Review
"Those who have been in any doubt about what Mr. Bradshaw has been trying to say in his earlier works are likely to have a firmer grasp on the matter after seeing 'Fulfillment.' This isn’t electrifying theater, not the kind that makes jaws drop. But it provides a sharply legible index to the mind and method of an original playwright who refuses to embrace easy or consoling answers to the puzzles called human beings." Full Review
"Bradshaw is not a careful constructor of plays, and he tends to incorporate too many tangential plot elements, but with 'Fulfillment' he is on to something significant by presenting us with both a serious theme and complicated characters whose ids and superegos are in constant battle...'Fulfillment' has a lot going for it, including its excellent ensemble of actors under Ethan McSweeny’s direction." Full Review
"Bradshaw's modern-day Job story illustrates the covert racism endemic in elite circles: Instead of outright bigotry, there are inflated benchmarks, lip service paid to diversity, and toxic microaggressions. Racism hasn't impeded Michael, exactly — but when he starts floundering, it's the straw that breaks his back. So what's ultimately being fulfilled here? America's age-old habit of destroying the black body. As Ta-Nehisi Coates put it recently, it's a tradition." Full Review
"Bradshaw’s playwriting approach is fairly well established: cheerful but wooden dialogue, characters acting on their worst impulses, schematic plots and a refusal to judge. The plays are usually bracing and funny, and Bradshaw truly has his own style. Sometimes the transgression coincides with substance. But more often, it’s a formula: human ids unleashed for cringe comedy and cheap thrills. 'Fulfillment' is basically an urban dramedy slathered in Bradshaw sauce." Full Review
"Despite the vacillations of the play itself, Ethan McSweeny’s production is sharp and witty. Inventive lighting design and sound design punctuates and emphasizes the comedy...The cast commits wholly to Bradshaw’s unusual approach...So even though the play might not land every punch and happiness is elusive for the characters, there are some pleasures to be found here." Full Review
"'Fulfillment' ends up being characterizing by a strong, affecting sense of skepticism towards the kind of radical material aspiration for which New Yorkers are infamous. But in many ways, the play possesses such power despite itself, and so it becomes a sort of case in point: just as Bradshaw's characters experience, what we're given isn't quite enough to leave us feeling fully satisfied." Full Review
"It’s everyone for themselves in Thomas Bradshaw’s unfulfilling 'Fulfillment' . . . in a production whose crisply effective staging by Ethan McSweeny isn’t enough to overcome the characters’ inconsistencies, the episodic plot’s implausibilities, and the sense that its scenes of sex and violence are there merely because that’s what one expects in a Bradshaw play." Full Review
"'Fulfillment' is directed with almost military precision by Ethan McSweeny. Set pieces move smartly into place or cruise around on wheels; the timing of movement is obviously important...The action is punctuated with graphic sex scenes which serve to dehumanize the characters. There is a calculated coldness to the proceedings which serves to render the sex rather unsexy. And the procession of events is so methodical that any notion of spontaneity is iced out." Full Review
"Bradshaw has never placed judgment on the characters he creates. Nightmarish individuals are offered unexplained to audiences, presented at face value (even – especially – when the face is monstrous). The playwright develops his matter-of-fact relationship with the audience, now allowing them the opportunity to question and interpret the motivations behind relatively ordinary character actions. And if it works out right, audiences might leave The Flea questioning their assumptions." Full Review
"What kept me from being truly engaged in 'Fulfillment' is that Michael is not blameless. He is arrogant, rude with a short temper and a raging alcoholic. He doesn’t commit and though we want to feel sorry for him his character is so manipulated we don’t...'Fulfillment' will make you think and Mr. Bradshaw is a playwright to watch, but would I want to see this again…no, it just did not fulfill." Full Review
"The playwright makes no secret of his disdain for the niceties of conventional drama, but he has little to offer in place of them. His plays are basically adult comic books. The plots are jerry-rigged, the characters are flat. There are plentiful references to hot-button topics (racism, miscarriage, pedophilia), and of course all those sexual encounters. Strikingly absent are wit, irony, or a sense of how the real world works." Full Review
"Director Ethan McSweeney's production seems to intentionally lack emotion. Perhaps the point is that the characters are so set on seeking fulfillment with possessions and recognition that they forget to relate to other people. 'Fulfillment' is certainly more interesting than Bradshaw's past work but the characters still seem undercooked." Full Review
See it if you want comments on race and happiness snuck in behind nudity, inventive staging, and subtle comedy. Was slow at times, but overall good.
Don't see it if you don't want to be confronted head on (no pun intended) with male genitalia. You want a more direct examination on racism and fulfillment.
See it if shows absurdity of working in Amazon-like fulfill ctr; movingly shows lack of "fulfillment" & hopelessness of lives of 4 American types
Don't see it if after hilarious opening scenes (how a New Yorker is a fish out of water in NMexico) the play flags and by the end has petered out entirely
See it if you appreciate a distinctive POV that evokes, via design & action, the pressures on an upwardly mobile black man. It gets under the skin.
Don't see it if showing skin and simulated sex, up close & impersonal, makes you uncomfortable. Discomfort of the senses & sensibilities is the point here.
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