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The Gravedigger's Lullaby

From 12 critic and 58 member reviews
Members say: Great acting, Absorbing, Intense, Thought-provoking, Relevant

About the show

TACT presents a new drama about the life of an honest, hard-working gravedigger who sweats and bleeds to support his small family. More…

Baylen is a gravedigger, a working-class man trying to keep food on the table in a world in which other people make the rules. There’s a baby who can’t sleep at home, and plenty of holes to be dug. But a chance encounter with a rich young man brings the hope of a different life. What will Baylen do? 'The Gravedigger's Lullaby' is a bold contemporary drama about a time that has passed...and how little things have changed.

Woman Around Town

"Playwright Jeff Talbot’s character portraits are terrific...'The Gravedigger’s Lullaby' features pain, sacrifice, determination and commitment under grim, untenable circumstances, yet its overriding message is one of the persistence of human spirit...Anguish, resolution, and a single moment of joy, all seem authentic. We empathize rather than sympathize...Director Jenn Thompson does a marvelous job of defining her characters, right down to the way they carry themselves." Full Review


"With both script and production design sidestepping temporal specificity, the play has a sense of universality that works quite well...Thompson's exquisite collaboration with her actors ensures that what's in the interstices of the dialogue and the silent sequences of the production is poetic, theatrical, and powerful...The well-calibrated pace of what the actors do when they're not talking brings a sense of real life, with its ups and downs, yet keeps things from becoming wearisome." Full Review

DC Metro Theater Arts

“The Gravedigger’s Lullaby’ will assure Talbott’s place in the current list of important writers for our theatre…Talbott builds it slowly from a simmer to a boil, finishing with a coda that is honest and satisfying, and gives resonance to the play’s title. A remarkable cast of four brings it all vividly to life...Ted Koch is playing the title role, and his performance is so grounded that from his opening moments alone onstage, he commands our attention…It’s a winner.” Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"There are believable, deep, layered human stories revealed by playwright and four stalwart performers, honed with subtlety and deliberate pacing under Jenn Thompson’s firm directorial hand...The world, in this production of this splendid play, is specific, charming, fearsome, intimate and haunting...Class divisions are tested by human tragedy but rigidly reassert themselves. Sex and physical risk and fear and redemption all combust and resolve, in under two hours. A marvelous creation." Full Review

Times Square Chronicles

"Mr. Koch makes you feel for Baylen....Mr. Lawson brings the pain of never having escaped loss, combined with humor. I have long loved Mr. Beck’s work and, here again, he allows you to see a human side of someone who has more than everyone else...Jenn Thompson’s direction holds this piece together. She allows the pacing and the character study is fleshed out...Talbott’s script has some elements that need a little more subtlety, but there are easy ways to fix that." Full Review


"A thoughtful and articulate depiction of those subsisting on the bottom rungs of society. Brought to life in an appreciative production...Director Jenn Thompson has staged Talbott’s work with both theatrical savvy and an open heart, guiding her four actors into beautifully drawn portrayals...The plotting may seem at times to rely too heavily on happenstance. However...his play vibrates with an up-to-the-minute resonance that overcomes any dramaturgical nitpicking." Full Review

New York Theatre Guide

"A timeless tale…Two parts ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ and one part Tennessee Williams…Koch inhabits this character with a gruffly sad gravitas that is part teddy bear, part dangerous, and quite honest. His scenes with coworker and fellow gravedigger Gizzer are perhaps the most captivating…These moments felt effortless…If you have an opportunity to see ‘The Gravedigger’s Lullaby,’ I highly recommend you do. It has highly relatable moments, some of joy and deep desperation.” Full Review

Theatre's Leiter Side

"The conflict between the barely surviving gravediggers and the privileged Charles...reminds us of that between what we now call the 1% and the 99%. This, though, doesn't seem Talbott's purpose, which appears to be the revelation of how, even in the direst circumstances, love...can survive and even flourish...'The Gravedigger's Lullaby' is a minor genre piece that generally achieves what it sets out to do. If only that red herring didn't swim into view toward the end." Full Review


"Emotionally involving due to its engaging performances, but ultimately unsatisfying because of its oddly, strategic lack of specificity, 'The Gravedigger’s Lullaby' is a grim, kitchen-sink drama...Playwright Jeff Talbott offers an overall well-written and plotted social drama that detours into a strident political battle over capitalism...The flawed script is energized by the impeccable production elements...Director Jenn Thompson’s staging is accomplished." Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"The bones of great drama are there, but the execution is stolid and sluggish, a problem sometimes exacerbated by Thompson's direction...The playwright has avoided any details that would ground the action in a specific reality. Similarly, the characters are lacking in shading...Whenever the actors get an opportunity, they seize it with gusto...Gripping scene-by-scene yet a little dull in its overall effect, an unsatisfying, yet startlingly different, work from a still-developing playwright." Full Review

The New York Times

“There’s a core of honest emotion at the center of Jeff Talbott’s ‘The Gravedigger’s Lullaby.’ That isn’t enough to redeem this new play’s problems, but it fuels a few poignant scenes in this fablelike story…The cast members handle the script with deftness…That script could stand to trim some self-conscious poeticism and to smooth a few uneven plot points…Some parts of ‘The Gravedigger’s Lullaby’ are often skewed. But its heart is always in the right place.” Full Review

Off Off Online

"Despite good intentions and passages of real lyrical humanism, the play ends up making the same mistakes as the Left...Jenn Thompson’s direction is energetic and precise, and the acting is strong almost across the board, but in the end the play reinforces the very cultural narratives it purports to dismantle...'The Gravedigger’s Lullaby' deserves praise for trying to shine a light from Theatre Row into the homes of the dispossessed, but it’s ultimately too patronizing and solipsistic." Full Review

Absorbing, Great acting, Great staging, Intense, Thought-provoking

See it if You like serious tough thoughtful plays. A gravedigger stuck in his life. Sad, touching, powerful. Super set. The lead actor is terrific.

Don't see it if You want laughs humor or light play. This is not that. There is a sex scene that goes on too long.

Also Only a week left before it closes!! Go.

Great acting, Great staging, Intelligent, Resonant

See it if great acting esp by Ted Koch.Lighting and Sound match to perfection. 90 minutes. Be ready for some woe"Not now, before" as the author says

Don't see it if You want a fun musical It is as somber as it can get. Some lives are tough to see. 90 minutes Tense action re: relationships among pals kin

Absorbing, Great acting, Great writing, Great staging, Intense

See it if you love old-fashioned dramas with resonant themes and terrific performances

Don't see it if you don't like intense acting

Absorbing, Great acting, Great writing, Intense, Relevant

See it if You like plays that are powerful and show how characters struggling, barely making it in this world hold on. Great ending.

Don't see it if You like cheerful musicals and don't really care for intense drama

Grave, gritty and grim

See it if Plot free first half is acceptable. Scenes effortlessly held interest.

Don't see it if Playwright creates misdirection in final minutes, playing audience for cheap emotional impact. Wife cast against type. Too upscale for role.

Also Great elevated set. After 24 years, co decided to produce original wor... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Great acting, Great writing, Intelligent, Relevant

See it if You want to see a brilliant contemporary drama that will keep you riveted from first word to last ! Realism is on stage.

Don't see it if You can't tolerate physical fighting and raw language and dialogue sometimes incredibly loud. No intermission in intensity in this drama !

Absorbing, Great acting, Great writing, Intense, Thought-provoking

See it if you like great acting in an interesting piece

Don't see it if you are looking for a light hearted evening in the theatre

Great acting, Masterful, Must see

See it if today because there are only two more shows left both on april 1st

Don't see it if you are in the mood to see something light

Also I was very excited to see this and was not disappointed. Everything ab... Read more Read less

Great acting, Relevant, Thought-provoking, Emotionally powerful, Absorbing

See it if plays about class/financial struggles engage you and you can handle gut wrenching situations.

Don't see it if you want to leave the theater with a song on your lips and a smile on your face.

Absorbing, Great writing, Resonant, Great staging, Thought-provoking

See it if you like Pinter and dark edgy plays with beautiful scenery and great staging

Don't see it if You are looking for a fast pace comedy or musical.

Great acting, Great writing, Intense, Relevant

See it if You'd like to see a well-written premier about hard working people just barely ekeing out a living.

Don't see it if You can't understand someone who gets so angry at the boss and his situation that he lashes out at a co-worker.

Great acting, Relevant, Resonant, Intelligent, Intense

See it if You want a smart drama about the have and have nots. A family drama of trying to make it in life. Like gut wrenching peformances.

Don't see it if You don't want to acknowledge the real poverty that exists. That real people work the best they can & still don't have enough to live on.

Great acting, Resonant, Relevant, Slow, Intense

See it if Talbott's blue collar drama wears its heart on its dirty sleeve but Koch's excellent Baylen has us in grip from his first sigh of exhaustion

Don't see it if Drama takes too long to reach its points about economic injustice & strives for a questionable mythic quality; good direction helps focus

Absorbing, Great staging, Great writing, Thought-provoking, Relevant

See it if you are open to all kinds of story telling & like seeing the world from another's point of view.

Don't see it if you're looking for a happy, upbeat, warm & fuzzy kind of show- although there are some very tender moments.

Intense, Absorbing, Intelligent

See it if You like emotional plays showing the have and have nots.

Don't see it if You don!t want to see simulated sex, and some physical fighting.

Ambitious, Great acting, Profound, Slow, Depressing

See it if interested in watching a tough, hard piece

Don't see it if you don't like plays that are depressing

Absorbing, Great acting

See it if you like good acting about the subject of the haves and the have nots in this world. Great thesis on poverty and what it does to the people

Don't see it if You don't like depressive story lines about the wealth gap in this country.

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

See it if You are looking for serious acting and a serious play

Don't see it if Masterfully done, but serious plays exploring human psyche and emotions aren't too your liking

Absorbing, Great acting, Slow

See it if you enjoy wonderfully-acted and staged plays. The cast is stellar, the staging is clever, and the writing avoids falling into cliché.

Don't see it if you don't enjoy slow-paced shows about "the poor, working man." The script doesn't surpass previous ones in the genre, but holds its own.

Great acting, Gritty, Dark, Relevant, Absorbing

See it if You like dark dramas exploring themes of class & struggling to make ends meet. Performances are excellent.

Don't see it if You prefer lighter fare or a comedy.

Absorbing, Great acting, Intense, Slow, A bit slight

See it if you like intense scene work and fine acting and can handle a fairly bleak narrative

Don't see it if you're bothered by author contrivances and some over-reaching poetic passages

Great acting, Great staging, Thought-provoking

See it if You like dramas that are melancholy and give a perspective on the class divide.

Don't see it if You want a drama that is uplifting and resolves happily.

Great staging, Great acting, Profound

See it if you could use a good cry.

Don't see it if you enjoy larger productions and lots of action, or are looking for something uplifting.

Touching, Moody, Somber, Bleak

See it if stories of struggle and redemption,

Don't see it if somber and depressing

Cliched, Dated, Disappointing, Great acting, Intense

See it if you love exploring the common man and the idea of blue collar workers getting profound

Don't see it if you have already seen Fences, Streetcar, Glass Menagerie, or any other well known play about working class patriarchy, this is nothing new

Also This is a well written play, but unfortunately nothing feels original,... Read more Read less

Cast & Creatives (12)