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Lonely Planet (Keen Company)

From 22 critic and 101 member reviews
Members say: Great acting, Absorbing, Thought-provoking, Resonant, Intelligent

About the show

Keen Company revives Steven Dietz's acclaimed 1993 drama, an intimate portrait of two friends at the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. More…

Small map store owner Jody becomes increasingly fearful of the world outside and the dangers it poses, refusing to leave his shop. Meanwhile Carl, his spirited friend, begins filling the store with a variety of mysterious chairs. Funny, moving, and deeply human, Steven Dietz’s landmark play examines how we all navigate troubled times.

Times Square Chronicles

“The revival reminds us of how deep the loss still is from those who have died...Arnie Burton and Matt McGrath will have you falling in love with these men...They are touching and heartwarming, leaving an audience full of sniffling humans, who still remember how many were lost...The play is so simple, yet so profound...This powerful play with these marvelous actors has a one, two, punch reminding us that this is a lonely planet and it is only by connection that we live on.” Full Review

Front Row Center

“What touched me so deeply about their relationship and what I think Steven Dietz captures so well, is their complete and utter acceptance of each other without judgement...The performances by both Arnie Burton as Jody and Matt McGrath as Carl were stellar...I think what makes ‘Lonely Planet’ so relatable now, is the sense of danger looming for the characters that makes them feel vulnerable in ways they’re not used to.” Full Review

Theatre is Easy

"The performances and high standards set forth by Keen Company's production of 'Lonely Planet' exemplify all that Off Broadway can offer...The company puts forward a challenge to think on, connect with, and truly hear the confusion of a tumultuous time...'Lonely Planet' shows us the 'Greenland Problem' of it all: which messes do we accept as a part of the world that we live in, and which distortions do we ignore, or else find the strength to face?" Full Review

Time Out New York

"Its depiction of the plague years still hits hard. And it’s hard to imagine a better cast than the stars of this revival, directed by Jonathan Silverstein for Keen Company. As the two characters spar with each other, mostly through inspired put-downs and bon mots, McGrath expertly parries Burton’s superlative sardonic takes. They duel as though their lives depended on it—which they ultimately might." Full Review


“Dietz’s play unfolds on a modest scale, offering an intimate look at how men grappled with the everydayness of suddenly living at death’s door and the fear that they might be next...As directed by Silverstein, Dietz’s play remains quietly captivating in its simplicity, and the easy intimacy between Burton and McGrath is remarkably moving...The play’s conceit can feel a bit overdetermined. But its portraits of individual response to trauma could hardly be more relevant." Full Review

Off Off Online

“An emotionally resonant play about two men’s changing perceptions of the messy, all-too-real world they’re navigating...Burton and McGrath take advantage of all the humor and heart in Dietz’s script...Their impeccably credible performances, thoroughly in tune with each other, outshine everything else about the otherwise fair-to-middling Keen Company production. 'Lonely Planet,' in their hands, is the kind of compelling evening that invites a second visit.” Full Review

Stage Buddy

“An intimate portrait of two friends at the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic...The lights come up on a single chair onstage, and the quiet, reserved Jody appears. Played by Burton...he is instantly likable...The character of Carl, played by McGrath, captures hearts...The final scene is the most heartfelt of all...The contrast in the men's characters is still there, but it has done a complete 180...Leaving questions hanging and not a dry eye in the house.” Full Review

Front Mezz Junkies

“This play felt like a period piece and a play set in the near future. There is a timelessness in how we deal with grief, loss, and fear...This absurdist and tragic farce is heavy with metaphors, stacked up as high as the chairs in the store, so high that it’s hard at moments to see the tragedy and sadness that lies within this story...The beauty of ‘Lonely Planet’ is that the more one ponders the events, dreams, lies, and numerous metaphors, the deeper and more hopeful the play feels.” Full Review

The New York Times

"Mr. Dietz has something besides humor in mind and that something — the weight of grief, the paralyzing fear of illness — emerges over the course of the show...In the plain, affectless staging by Mr. Silverstein, Mr. Burton and Mr. McGrath expertly underplay the characters...You may wish, at times, for a dash of immoderation, but the show’s deceptively gentle approach is also what makes it stand apart in our angry times." Full Review


“Keen Company’s trenchant and splendidly acted revival will eventually tug at your heartstrings...The script may well strike you as entertaining but unfocused...The interplay between Burton and McGrath and their deeply felt portrayals do more than justice to the wit and pathos in Dietz’s script. The sensitive, unforced direction of Silverstein further allows them to play the script’s most telling moments to their fullest...Despite its clever meanderings, it does make its point.” Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"Silverstein has found an ideal cast and he has guided them faultlessly through the script's hairpin turns...Seeing 'Lonely Planet' was an almost combative experience; even as I resisted Dietz's setup, I fell under the spell of his writing and the performances...Dietz gets at something hard to shake off about the way gay men had to deal, daily, with death...Keen Company was right to revive this troubled, troubling play just now." Full Review

Village Voice

"The writing in the first act is cogent and judicious, or so it seems as played by Burton and McGrath, both of whom give the kind of detailed performances that can only come from extensive preparation and concentration...'Planet' could still use some cutting, but it is slightly better in some ways than its first reviews might indicate, and that’s what can happen to a play when it is given a superior production with deeply felt performances." Full Review


"It's easy to see why this particular text is rarely regarded in the same breath as its seminal contemporaries...'Lonely Planet' has a hard time figuring out what it wants to be: Is it a poignant tearjerker or an absurdist fantasia (on national themes)? Dietz can't make up his mind...Fortunately, when the loquacity of the play becomes soporific, the performances more than make up for it...Silverstein stages the play with sensitivity." Full Review

Manhattan Digest

“There is surprisingly little emotional resonance. One of the problems may be the lengthy monologues, most of which are expository and come across rather sterile and matter of fact. As a result, there isn’t much left to feel. Nonetheless, Burton and McGrath are marvelously paired. Each of their performances is well worth the price of a ticket...'Lonely Planet' is a show that could well be described as 'enjoyable enough.’" Full Review

Exeunt Magazine

"At times maddeningly elliptical, it uses symbolism, irony, and a sprinkling of absurdism to communicate the anguish felt by its protagonists...Jonathan Silverstein’s compact production builds in tension...It reflects a world overtaken by something strange yet familiar, terrifying but unavoidable...For Dietz’s play to achieve maximum power, the turn of events should sneak up on the audience; here, it’s largely telegraphed.” Full Review

Show Showdown

"In some ways it is dated--many people are living long lives with HIV--and in some ways it is not--friendship, denial, and grief will never go out of style. 'Lonely Planet's' main strength is its elliptical approach to death and grieving, along with the ability to represent an epidemic through two characters...This production is mostly solid, but not totally...Despite its faults, its strengths ultimately outweigh its weaknesses." Full Review

Broadway Blog

“The potency of its theatrical topicality has faded somewhat amid over three decades of AIDS-related plays…If Dietz's combination of gentle sentiment and whimsical humor is to reach us deeply, it needs a far more compelling production than this one…; here, it comes off as a mildly dated, minor handling of a subject treated with far greater serio-comic power by other playwrights…Dietz's plotting, like this production's pace, creeps along, with very few moments of stinging dramatic substance.“ Full Review


“Under Silverstein's placid direction, Jody and Carl never really get angry with each other or show much emotion. The entire play remains basically on one level. Anshuman Bhatia's setting is very realistic, but on the other hand something more surreal might have been in order. Paul Hudson's lighting usually telegraphs the time of day, but not always. How much time goes by is never made clear.” Full Review

Theatre Reviews Limited

"Despite the outstanding performances of Burton and McGrath, the revival fails to deliver...That failure appears to be in the script itself and in choices made by the director...The plot is too predictable to support a two-act play...There are too many tropes in the script for any one of them to have the impact it should and to allow the bones of the play an opportunity to be properly enfleshed by the competent cast...One wishes they had a more compelling play to exercise their craft.” Full Review


“This revival seems a bit toothless and the flaws hit you harder than the pain...It’s an interesting meditation on the way fear paralyzes and the way grief activates. But the power is undercut by far too obvious references and inappropriate whimsy...Much is moving, and McGrath and especially Burton, in his isolating terror, leave an impression. But my overall response was to wish I could have seen it back in 1994, when the punch it packs might not have been so muffled." Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

“The play's premise is straightforward, and the plot is relatively uneventful...The explicit and implicit intertextual connections sometimes detract from the effectiveness of the play as these come off as inorganic and self-consciously writerly...The absurdist elements and the burdensome weight of symbolism often occur at the expense of character development and relationships...Burton and McGrath are wonderful, and their performances compensate for perceived frustrations in the script.” Full Review

Theater Time

This current production left me cold. While Dietz does aim for something meaningful, the two characters never feel like friends...Also, neither really is all that likable a character...Jody and Carl, while friends, never have any real connection throughout the play...You never feel any real real grief...Not every show needs to pack the centrifugal force of other plays dealing with AIDS like ‘As Is’ or ‘The Normal Heart,’ but real emotion is lost in this one which, sadly, becomes tedious.” Full Review

Absorbing, Intelligent, Two extraordinary performances, Great staging, Profound

See it if you want to experience a hidden gem of a play. The two actors give wonderful performances. Jonathan Silverstein directed beautifully.

Don't see it if you don't like nuanced plays. This is a fine, intelligent drama.

Also Let's hope that Steven Dietz's other plays are revived by companies li... Read more Read less

Poignant, Funny, Great acting, Subtle, Understated

See it if want to see wonderfully subtle, quiet acting. in an intimate theater, simply told. and you want to laugh. Two perfectly matched performances

Don't see it if You have no interest in stories about the early HIV crisis.

Also I really cant say how much I enjoyed this performance. It was funny ye... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Great acting, Resonant

See it if you enjoy a well-acted show with a small but talented cast of two. It delves with an issue without manipulation.

Don't see it if you don't like small casts or nonmusicals, or are offended or bored with gay issues.

Also Living through that period i related deeply to this piece. Very symbol... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Exquisite, Great staging, Great acting, Riveting

See it if Such an emotionally rich, gripping play! Swept into poignant story of two friends w/ boundless, shared affection, patience, & sublime pathos

Don't see it if you're averse to intimacy of a two-hander, wrenching topic of loss & the grief & fear it engenders, rendered with humor & exquisite pacing.

Also A must-see. From the first notes of the mostly '80s "soundtrack," I wa... Read more Read less

Resonant / relevant, Great set / lighting, Absorbing / well-written, Deeply moving yet comforting, Excellent performances

See it if you can handle caring, sympathetic AND empathetic (for many) riveting story-telling/acting. Very funny, sometimes intense & very vulnerable.

Don't see it if you're numb. Solid dialogue (w/numerous monologues) that frees sighs of warm introspection. Welcome escape & short respite from the norm.

Also So much loneliness; so much love. DO. NOT. MISS.... Read more Read less

Thought-provoking, Quirky, Resonant, Intelligent, Ambitious

See it if If you like small (2 person) plays that explore the earlier years of the AIDS epidemic, but never manipulative, and always interesting

Don't see it if You prefer linear, predictable tearjerkers that manipulate your emotions. Or if you are not interested in revivals of a "period" (90s) piece

Great acting, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Profound

See it if You have an interest in a smart, well acted, original two man play about the rise of AIDS. It's a unique metaphor for the times

Don't see it if You prefer large scale productions or don't want a sometimes heavy subject matter. You prefer lighthearted. It's funny, but not a comedy.

Absorbing, Great acting, Great staging, Great writing, Masterful

See it if you enjoy a great piece of theater. The acting, writing and staging are all excellent. This is a very moving and intelligent play.

Don't see it if you do not like shows about gays and /or the AIDS crisis.

Also Everything about this show is absorbing including the stage change whi... Read more Read less

Great acting, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Resonant, Relevant

See it if You like relationship stories and don’t require a large cast to enjoy a show. You’re interested in issues that are relevant and fact-based

Don't see it if Discomfort with homosexual characters or the impact of the HIV/AIDS crisis from the standpoint of a group initially affected the most

Also The acting was wonderful. I believed in the friendship of the characte... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Relevant, Thought-provoking

See it if You want to see thoughtful, well acted theater that gives you something to think about and chew on.

Don't see it if You're looking for something light and fluffy. This one requires some thought and caring.

Absorbing, Funny, Great acting, Entertaining, Intelligent

See it if you enjoy well-acted contemporary period pieces that still have resonance.

Don't see it if plays with AIDS-related stories upset you or do not interest you, or you don't enjoy 2-person plays.

Absorbing, Entertaining, Great acting

See it if You can sit through an okay first act to get to an amazing second.

Don't see it if The set up nearly lost me. But when I locked into the characters I didn't want the play to end.

Great acting, Moving, Great writing, Clever

See it if You want to see a compelling play about the early years of the AIDS epidemic.

Don't see it if Prefer more direct writing or don't care to see work about LGBT history.

Great acting, Thought-provoking, Slow, Resonant, Profound

See it if While of it's time w/o seeming dated, Keen Co revival is heartfelt & poignant Superbly acted and carefully staged, Dietz's elegy shines

Don't see it if Slowly paced for effect, it can seem a bit lethargic Knowlege of the era & devastation enhances effect but not needed Quietly haunting

Great acting, Sweet, Moving, Thought-provoking, Exquisite

See it if You love Arnie Burton and Matt McGrath - both are terrific. Or if you aren't familiar with them, go and fall in love.

Don't see it if You aren't interested in a play about AIDS, aging, loneliness and friendship. But you would be missing out.

Funny, Entertaining, Great acting, Great staging, Dated

See it if You want to see 2 amazing actors that are better than the material

Don't see it if You expect something ground breaking

Absorbing, Clever, Great acting, Dated, Intelligent

See it if you like really good acting and writing

Don't see it if you think plays about aids are dated and unimportant

Great acting, Great writing, Relevant, Resonant, Intense

See it if You want to see excellent acting in a very touching, well written play

Don't see it if You want a light, fluffy show

Clever, Great acting, Funny, Absorbing, Relevant

See it if you want to see a moving story that is as much about friendship as it is about losing friends during the early days of AIDS.

Don't see it if you want to see something fast-paced; or prefer plays with more than two actors.

Also I liked the humor and sometimes fast-paced discussion between two frie... Read more Read less

Clever, Great acting, Intelligent, Quirky

See it if You want to see a couple of excellent actors in a clever touching play

Don't see it if You don't like 2 person shows

Great acting, Intense, Slow, Quirky, Thought-provoking

See it if You enjoy a small 2 person play that deals with the pain of the AIDS crisis in a unique way.Quirky characters & strong performances by both.

Don't see it if The subject matter might feel dated to you or prefer more realistic/linear storylines.

Also A small play - has impact in a more quiet way. Not a must see but wort... Read more Read less

Entertaining, Great acting, Resonant

See it if you enjoy small, intimate but well acted plays

Don't see it if you don't like works about the AIDS epidemic

Thought-provoking, Slow

See it if You want to see a story about a friendship during the aids crisis. You are willing to watch a show paced show.

Don't see it if You want a face passed show. You want humor.

Dated, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Absorbing, Quirky humor

See it if you are willing to take the time to lock into this heart-felt and poignant play.

Don't see it if you have no interest in seeing a (another) AIDS related play

Great staging, Great acting, Dated, Thought-provoking

See it if you want to see two wonderful actors, working together, creating, playing, grieving listening.

Don't see it if you have seen many plays about AIDS and can't bear seeing another sad story.

Cast & Creatives (9)