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The Peculiar Patriot

From 10 critic and 25 member reviews
Members say: Absorbing, Great acting, Relevant, Thought-provoking, Great writing

About the show

National Black Theatre and Hi-ARTS present a remounting of Liza Jessie Peterson's solo piece about the prison industrial complex and the racial disparities that feed the draconian system. More…

With more than 2.5 million people behind bars, America is the world’s leading prison superpower. 'The Peculiar Patriot' follows Betsy LaQuanda Ross as she makes regular visits to penitentiaries to boost the morale of her incarcerated friends and family, navigating love between barbed wire. As she shares neighborhood updates, gossip, and reminisces about family, Betsy delivers a shrewd indictment of the criminal justice system, with a heavy dose of humor to boot. 'The Peculiar Patriot' examines the human impact and inhuman machinery of mass incarceration.

Time Out New York

"The best way to truly care about a nation is to heal it, and Peterson’s solo play about black love, female friendship, and the perversions of state power is a gorgeous part of that work. It also happens to be a visual marvel and a masterful example of character creation...In this rich, sweet, hilarious production, Peterson illuminates what life in the U.S. is like now that mass incarceration has so handily disenfranchised some and enriched others...The takeaway is her astonishing warmth." Full Review

Theater Life

“Peterson is so absorbing in her portrayal...All of the people mentioned come to life in our imagination, or by character changes as Peterson, helped by sound effects and projections also portrays Pablo and Curtis...Intense and deeply moving, Peterson keeps the tale from becoming depressing by including a lot of humor. The story rings true, not only because of the exceptional writing, acting, and directing, but because Peterson brings real-life experience to the tale.” Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"The monologue seems most like a personal share...All together, it is some of the best multi-media combined with performance seen this year...She shifts effortlessly, playing Betsy, Pablo, and Curtis. Though there are moments of humor, the actress often finds a desperation beyond comprehension...Director Talvin Wilks guides the audience carefully through each moment...It’s too warm to be chilling, too poetic to be bleak, and too honest to be forgotten." Full Review

Infinite Body

“Peterson goes full-on Anna Deavere Smith in adopted body language, facial expressions, vocal intonations, emotional range, and expert timing. Not easy to do and sustain but, she's brilliantly on point at every turn...Peterson holds your attention...Alone, the living, breathing, ebulliently colorful person at the center of this machine. That's as it should be...Many unfortunate, outrageous things ’The Peculiar Patriot’ informs us about as it entertains us." Full Review

Amsterdam News

"Sitting in the audience and listening to Peterson, it suddenly felt like a light went on somewhere. A bright light revealing all the capitalism and dirty deeds that go on behind making sure that prisons are filled with Black inmates...This play teaches you to never judge someone...Peterson’s portrayal of the various characters is mesmerizing...This play has superb, spot-on direction by Talvin Wilks...Peterson isn’t just talking the talk—this lady has walked the walk!" Full Review

Polite on Society

“A play about the human toll of mass incarceration on the communities that it inordinately affects...From the vantage point of a one woman show, Peterson captures the difficulty in staying connected to those who are encouraged to be forgotten...’The Peculiar Patriot’ is a searing indictment of the state of over-incarceration. It adds to the necessary discussion about how this needs to change.” Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

“The Peculiar Patriot doesn't have much in the way of dramatic action, and it turns a little preachy in its later passages. Then again, Peterson makes many penetrating points about a legal system in which prisons are for-profit enterprises often set up in struggling white communities...Even at its most dismaying, there's something joyful about Peterson's intensively detailed, deeply nuanced performance...She is a lively writer and an extraordinary performer with a vital story to tell." Full Review

The New York Times

"'The Peculiar Patriot' excels at visceral moments...even as it builds a strong case against the mass incarceration of African Americans...This is a comedy about a tragedy, and a patriotic call for reform...As both a writer and a performer, Ms. Peterson knows how to wield tenderness to leaven despair...The show is less successful when it is pointedly conveying political arguments or facts about incarceration." Full Review

Theatre is Easy

“A timely, moving solo show…Despite the dark subject matter, LaQuanda is an appealing character to spend two hours with, and Peterson has a commanding presence…The show tackles a lot of big issues…All are certainly extremely important topics, but it felt like too much to tackle in less than two hours, especially with only one main character. Still, I admire Peterson’s voice and think ‘The Peculiar Patriot’ is an important piece, particularly now.” Full Review


"Peterson is a wonderful storyteller...Her delivery smooths over some of the rougher edges of her play, which vacillates between personal or second-hand stories and didactic monologues about the injustices of the system in which she lives...Theatrically speaking, 'The Peculiar Patriot' is aching for a stronger through line to drive home the emotional impact of the statistics and faceless stories Peterson puts forward as proof of a racially biased incarceration system." Full Review

Absorbing, Great acting, Edgy



Great writing, Great acting, Exquisite, Must see

See it if You want to see a tour de force from Liza Jessie Peterson. The writing is brilliant, her acting is amazing, and the topic is relevant.

Don't see it if don't want to confront the reality of mass incarceration and human effects of the prison-industrial complex.

Great acting, Must see, Intelligent, Relevant, Riveting

See it if you want to see an honest play about the prison industrial complex and how it has affected people of color!

Don't see it if your head and mind is closed off to the hardships of people of color.

Absorbing, Great writing, Intense, Must see

See it if If you want to know the real story of the African American experience in the US prison system. Excellent solo performance.

Don't see it if If you have no interest in African American culture and/or the prison system

Absorbing, Great acting, Masterful, Must see

See it if you want to gain unique insights about the criminal justice universe, you enjoy black culture vernacular ,you've never been to Harlem.

Don't see it if you're a social conservative, like traditional theatre interiors, can't accept criticisms of the criminal justice systems.

Transfixing, Eye opening, Brilliant performer

See it if This one woman show fills the entire theater. My attention never drifted from her flow of jokes. news, affection, gut wrenching information

Don't see it if You bury your head in the sand about human suffering in our country, and the government regulations that permit or encourage it to happen.

Great acting, Great writing, Masterful, Relevant, Thought-provoking

See it if You want to see an amazing one woman performance. You want to be thoroughly entertained. You want to be enlightened and hear some truths.

Don't see it if You want to be left in the dark about a lot of things. You want to miss out on an amazing performance. You don't want to hear some truths.

Also Ms. Liza was amazing and a beautiful being. This was so believable, sh... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Political, Deep, Informative, Masterful

See it if you skipped 13TH because you're not into docs but you're willing to get informed while being thoroughly entertained by Liza Jessie Peterson

Don't see it if you insist on pretending that racism isn't institutionalized in our country via its prisons. (In which case, I hope a friend brings you.)

Thought-provoking, Intense, Relevant, Great acting, Must see

See it if You want to experience the stories of a somewhat forgotten sector of our society

Don't see it if You don't like one woman shows or are uncomfortable with stories about prison and crime

Also There is an opportunity for a talkback with the creative team after ea... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Entertaining

See it if you want to become enlightened about the deeply unfair, dehumanizing, damaging treatment of individuals who are trapped in our penal system.

Don't see it if are in denial about social injustice, or don't want to be part of a dialog — because to its credit NBT encourages audience discourse.

Also Liza Jessie Peterson's smart, funny, pointed and poetic dialog is the ... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Great acting, Relevant, Thought-provoking

See it if You like drama; current issues; a cold dose of reality

Don't see it if You don't like heavy subject matter; don't like urban dialogue

Absorbing, Disturbing powerful engrossing

See it if you appreciate insights into the lives of those impacted by incarceration of a loved one.

Don't see it if you want a light comedy.

Also The show presents many problems and issues. I hope there will be a seq... Read more Read less

Thought-provoking, Relevant, Great acting, Absorbing

See it if you are interested in jail overcrowding and issues of minority populations.

Don't see it if if you do not like one-woman shows or prefer happy more traditional plays.

Absorbing, Great acting, Ambitious, Edgy, Thought-provoking

See it if interested in contemporary issues that have a negative impact on American society or the African American experience in prison system.

Don't see it if You don't like non-linear plays - you don't like one actor plays - not interested in African American experience in U.S. - vulgarity offends

Also One can't see this and then not mention the mesmerizing performance by... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Thought-provoking, Ambitious, Relevant, Resonant

See it if you want to see something that will simultaneously make you think and make you laugh. You have an interest in socio-political topics.

Don't see it if going to Harlem is not realistic for you, logistically. You do not like one-woman shows. Or you want a light, escapist night of theatre.

Clever, Funny, Entertaining, Raunchy, Educational

See it if You like to learn new perspectives on mass incarceration and how it is monetized

Don't see it if You want to see dialogue among two or more characters

Resonant, Relevant

See it if After some breathless reviews, I was expecting to be blown away by this. It was fine: some strong moments, though didactic & often too slow

Don't see it if I appreciated the talkback afterwards, which was thoughtful, though wish the crowd had been given a choice on whether to stick around for it

Funny, Thought-provoking, Resonant, Great writing, Relevant

See it if you like a well written show about the trials and tribulations of the criminal justice system with compelling acting and awesome set design.

Don't see it if you don't like to laugh or cry and you have no compassion for humanity.

Ambitious, Funny, Masterful, Profound, Relevant

See it if you are socially conscious, passionate, family-oriented, humanitarian, kind hearted, thoughtful, strong, and a fighter.

Don't see it if honestly? if you're a jerk.

Thought-provoking, Great writing, Absorbing, Profound, Refreshing

See it if You like pieces that make you think.

Don't see it if You're looking for something to take your mind off of life. This show digs you deeper into the world, yourself and society.

Absorbing, Intense, Relevant, Resonant, Thought-provoking

See it if You are interested in intelligent, relevant theater exploring pressing social/political issues.

Don't see it if You don't like modern or relevant theater dealing with current themes.

During previews
Absorbing, Entertaining, Great writing, Relevant

See it if Although the preview we saw had technical difficulties and ended early, this is a tour de force show that we will go back and see again.

Don't see it if Don't like to hear that the USA is not entirely a 'shining city on a hill'

During previews
Intelligent, Relevant, Ambitious, Powerful

See it if One-woman show, several appealing characters, good writing/acting. Political (happily, not about Trump), important, insightful, even funny.

Don't see it if Heavy issues are not your "thing," even if made entertaining.

During previews
Great acting, Great staging, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Too long

See it if you want to see an excellent actress bring prison visitation procedures to life while adding humor to her indictment of the "justice"system.

Don't see it if you don't have any interest in the criminal "justice" system or don't like one-person shows that last almost 2 hours without intermission.

Also I have very limited experience in visiting incarcerated acquaintances ... Read more Read less

During previews
Absorbing, Edgy, Great acting, Confusing, Clever

See it if you are are interested in the US booming economy in the penal system and the slavery racket it has become for the disenfranchised.

Don't see it if you are off to jail soon or don't like one person shows, or if you dont like bad dramaturgy that is confusing.

Cast & Creatives (8)