Paul Swan is Dead and Gone
Chelsea
85

Paul Swan is Dead and Gone NYC Reviews and Tickets

85%
(6 Reviews)
Positive
100%
Mixed
0%
Negative
0%
Members say
Great acting, Great writing, Enchanting, Ambitious, Resonant

About the Show

This world premiere from The Civilians offers a small audience an intimate, immersive experience, recreating the salons of Paul Swan, a bisexual/gay, multi-disciplinary artist.

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Member Reviews (6)

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78
Great acting, Ambitious, Entertaining

See it if you like your camp served up with a healthy dose of avant garde pretentions. You like great acting. You like shows in unusual spaces.

Don't see it if if you want pure camp or a show with a lot of pathos. It is smart and often very funny but it doesn't quite add up to much. Read more

83
Quirky, Edgy, Enchanting, Ambitious

See it if if you are interested in the early 20Th Century avant garde culture

Don't see it if if you are a homophobe or easily bored

Critic Reviews (12)

May 1st, 2019

“It’s certainly not a conventional drama, any more than the real Paul Swan was a conventional artist...And though the fearless actor Torn doesn’t stint on the theatrics, his incarnation of Swan never quite comes to life...Though the monologues Kiechel has given him feel believable enough, there is a weird superstructure around them, as if to assert the play’s avant-garde bona fides. In a work about fustiness, such distancing effects seem like holding one’s nose.”
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May 3rd, 2019

“Kiechel’s script tries to move us from seeing Swan as an absurdity to considering him a great man...But the play doesn’t quite make the intended turn...Torn excels at seeming defenseless...Were the whole production played at this nerve-quivering pitch, the wryness might have resolved into something deeper. Instead...Cosson has the other actors perform with vaudevillian flair, which keeps the show’s affect flat and shiny just when it needs to let us past the surface."
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May 3rd, 2019

“In her charmingly eccentric but frustratingly slack play, Claire Kiechel summons her real-life great-granduncle, Paul Swan...Reality and memory are slippery for the aging diva. Likewise, the play, directed by Steve Cosson for the Civilians, never gets a sure grip on what it’s trying to do—although Johanson and Avi A. Amon’s music for various pieces of Swan’s writings results in some lovely Michael Friedman-esque songs.”
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May 13th, 2019

“A fairly chaotic affair, an evening of alarms and excursions that doesn't do nearly enough to get inside the head of this professional eccentric. The script tries, rather uncertainly, to play him for laughs, aiming for camp hilarity but lacking the grasp of comic detail that would make Swan amusing, compelling, pitiable, or all three...Torn, a gifted character actor, certainly throws himself into the persona of Swan...As written, however, he is an attitude rather than a character."
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May 3rd, 2019

“An offbeat new bio-drama...Written and performed in an unconventional manner...Neither the writing nor the performances fulfill the work’s promise...It is obvious that the playwright aspires to present a sympathetic portrait of an aging artist...Unfortunately, Kiechel’s terribly sketchy play fails to make a case for this presumably gifted...tiresome old poseur...This ambitious biographical study does not nearly measure up to the exotic individual it tries to represent.”
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May 4th, 2019

"Johanson, Cespedes, and Scott all have some fine moments in the show. However, this is really Tony Torn's triumph. His recent turn as a Trump-like figure in Jean-Claude Van Italie's 'The Fat Lady Sings' (at La Mama) was impressive, but here he pulls out all the stops. He takes Paul Swan beyond the realms of camp and pathos. He endows him with a self-awareness that, if it ever before existed, has long been buried under decades' worth of caked-on makeup and pretentiousness."
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May 3rd, 2019

"Rarely is that experience as magical as The Civilians' mostly verbatim theatrical approach to the lesser-known camp goddess Paul Swan...Camp is having a resurgence...Done properly, with a deep mystery of beautiful tragedy, it is the work of Paul Swan, a man played in Kiechel’s play by a perfectly gentle Tony Torn...While there is much to be confused about, director Steve Cosson makes the most impact in the latter half of 'Paul Swan is Dead and Gone.'"
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May 2nd, 2019

"Across a quick 75 minutes, this performance piece proves to be not only sexually fluid, but also camp-tolerant and mortality-curious. Every family has its share of unusual relatives, but playwright Claire Kiechel struck gold with Swan, who is her great grand-uncle. Fortunately, she has no interest in creating a straightforward biography...Both actors amuse throughout with satirically flourished poetry and dance routines. And Johanson charms while showing off a fine singing voice."
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May 5th, 2019

"As the star gives us the best show he can, the intimacy is also helped by Steve Cosson’s simple staging. The choreography is basic, at times even a little amateurish...The only reason 'Paul Swan is Dead and Gone' works at all, of course, is Tony Torn...Torn had my audience firmly in the palm of his hand and carries Claire Kiechel’s script through an occasional lapse into the saccharine. That lapse mainly comes at the end, and that’s where the show loses a bit of its edge."
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May 6th, 2019

"Kiechel’s meandering script includes monologues and dramatic vignettes that incorporate fragments of Swan’s writing, music, dance, and stylized movement. In the course of 80 minutes, four good actors portray a variety of figures...No matter how painful to view, it’s impossible to look away from the accelerating emotion of Torn’s intriguing performance and the fragments of the past dancing in the mind’s eye of the old artist."
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T
May 1st, 2019

“This play does nothing badly unintentionally...Performances are strong throughout...Claire Kiechel has taken her uncle’s work—his correspondence, his writing, Warhol’s films—and used that to tell a more universal story, that of finding one’s place in the world and fighting to be heard, to be remembered. It’s a beautiful evening of theatre that should not be missed.”
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May 3rd, 2019

"Invites us into Swan’s salon for a scintillating evening of dance, poetry and visual art. It’s appropriately staged...Torn’s performance is touching and beautiful. In less capable hands, Swan’s fey movements and pompous pronouncements could come across as silly, even ridiculous...The show is a quiet sort of musical...Funny as hell, and queer as Fire Island in July...Yet it’s not a sheer camp extravaganza. The play deals seriously with aging, loss and loneliness.”
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