New York | 1h 20m | Already closed

Phalaris's Bull: Solving the Riddle of the Great Big World

From 7 critic and 5 member reviews
Members say: Entertaining, Must see, Absorbing, Delightful, Enchanting

About the show

Great Big World LLC presents a one-of-a kind theatrical event – neither play nor lecture – staged to reflect Steven Friedman’s prismatic and eclectic vision of the world. More…

Harvard-educated, molecular biologist, visual artist, and provocative underground philosopher, Steven Friedman has the answers to life’s big questions. This play uses personal narrative, poetry, art and science to tell the story of a contemporary philosopher's quest to fulfill Einstein's ambition 'to solve the riddle of the great, big world.' Friedman offers a solution to the world’s pain – a philosophy based on Kierkegaard’s story in which an ancient torture device, Phalaris’s Bull, turned the terrible sounds of pain into music. To create is to enter Phalaris’s Bull, and our pain becomes beauty.

Talkin' Broadway

"The 80-minute evening is as close as you're likely to ever come to receiving an exclusive tour of something that could be considered a great mind...Director David Schweizer has done nothing to tone down the evening's pretensions and elicit Friedman's underlying humanity. If anything, Friedman's listless, directionless movement across, behind, through, and even up the asymmetrical mindscape set makes it more difficult, not less, to follow him (figuratively and literally)." Full Review


"'Phalaris’s Bull' claims to be 'solving the riddle of the great big world.' In the process of trying to understand what he’s saying, that may, or may not happen. And you may, or may not, stay awake through the 80 nonstop minutes of his dazzling tour de talk...Not everybody’s cup of tea, that kind of thinky-thinky talk. If you don’t want to stretch your mind, then 'Phalaris’s Bull' is not for you. If you do, it can be deeply rewarding, provoking lots of thought." " Full Review

Village Voice

"There are more answers than questions in Steven Friedman's one-man show...The most personal moments come when he talks about the dissolution of his marriage, but even then it feels like he's figured it out, and we never see the struggle that's at the heart of good theater...he never makes himself sufficiently vulnerable to let us witness that transformation. Instead we get hollow aphorisms." Full Review

The New York Times

"Friedman seeks to mix philosophical musings and autobiographical vignettes into a brainy, insightful theater. He succeeds only intermittently...It’s annoying, and the other details that he shares are pretty generic, so latching onto him as a sympathetic character is difficult. Also not helping Mr. Friedman’s likability is that he’s a wooden performer, awkward in the style of bad community theater...Mr. Friedman ultimately does have something to say, even if it’s said awkwardly." Full Review


"This solo show is as alien to the universe of professional theater as Chewbacca would be in Scranton. That stage set, with its array of windows, nooks, compartments, and sliding panels, is far and away the most memorable thing about 'Phalaris's Bull'…From the moment the play begins, the design team is on overdrive, doing its best to distract attention from all that's dull and vainglorious about the script." Full Review

Times Square Chronicles

"'Phalaris’s Bull' Worst Play of 2015...This one-man show is written and performed by the narcissistic Friedman who can neither act, nor mime the direction he has been given. I actually pity this director who must have been pulling his hair out. With grandiose gestures and condescending vocals, this is a vanity piece about this ignoramus’s life." Full Review

Performance so egotistical it borders on self-satire

See it if you enjoy an interesting set and hearing an interesting life story narrated by a single person

Don't see it if you don't like narrator spouting mindless aphorisms wrapped up in philosophical language or self-promoting story that is actually sad

Cliched, Dated, Insipid, Excruciating, Slow

See it if you don't value your own time

Don't see it if you want to avoid another trite, condescending and contrived self-important white guy who thinks his little world reflects the rest us.

Cast & Creatives (4)