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New York | 1h 30m | Already closed

The Twentieth-Century Way

From 16 critic and 2 member reviews
Members say: Great acting, Edgy, Intelligent, Slow, Great singing

About the show

In the summer of 1914, Long Beach Police Department enlisted two actors to go into public restrooms to entice gay men toward sexual acts in order to arrest them. More…

Based on a little-known incident in LA history, this theatrical ride at Rattlestick Theatre explores the collision of reality and fantasy as two actors juggle various roles to entrap homosexuals for “social vagrancy” in public restrooms. But are they actually entrapping each other? Who they are and what they need is a mystery that deepens with every twist and turn.

1h 30m | Already closed | Rattlestick Theatre (West Village)


"The script is clever and self-aware, not as a means to be cute or wink at the audience, but always in service to the story...'The Twentieth-Century Way' matches its formal rigor with thought-provoking content...The 'Twentieth-Century Way' raises all of these issues without beating you over the head with them, wrapping it all in an immensely enjoyable package." Full Review

The New York Times

"These meta-theatrical tangles and the self-conscious musing are the least interesting parts of this frequently involving play. Mr. Jacobson has a habit of stating his themes too baldly and the ending is a blunder...Better than this writerly game-playing are the opportunities the script affords the fine actors to switch from one role to the next. The performances are precise, if exaggerated. And sometimes even moving." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"'The Twentieth-Century Way' is a potentially engrossing but somewhat pretentious work...The story’s focus gets diffused in the pyrotechnics of its performance... Straight or gay, it’s hard to follow an ambiguous discussion when the speakers’ private parts are publicly staring you in the face." Full Review

New York Magazine / Vulture

"I found most of the meta-shenanigans annoying and, oddly, overliteral. Because the 1914 betrayals and seductions were, on the other hand, quite touching, I just kept wishing Jacobsen had stuck with that, and left his Stoppard pretentions at the stage door. But apparently the 21st-century way is self-gratification." Full Review

Theatre Reviews by John Clum

"There are just too many theatrical metaphors embedded in this piece of metatheatre. The two fine actors work hard to bring the play to life, but the only real characters they play that elicit any feeling are the victims of entrapment. The two actors they play throughout are devices, not characters...A disappointment, I'm afraid. " Full Review

The Huffington Post

"Truth to tell, I found the drama rough going as one test followed another followed another. The action seems increasingly pretentious as the 90 minutes unfold. That's especially so when, for reasons I can't explain, Brown and Warren get to stripping not only their period outfits but also get to stripping their identities." Full Review

Stage Buzz

for a previous production "An intriguing play within a play within a play that incorporates Warren and Brown's story, then transcends it... Although much of the play is humorous, director Michael Michetti keeps the production charged with a certain amount of menace and eroticism...A fascinating play, excellent cast and superior production values." Full Review


for a previous production "Director and first-rate actors take us on an illuminating theatrical adventure not likely to be forgotten...The actors give virtuoso performances, mastering an astonishing range of characters apiece. Their intelligent interpretation of Jacobson's text expertly serves the complexity of the piece, eliciting laugher, shocks, chills, and endless food for thought." Full Review

Frontiers Media

for a previous production "The play moves relentlessly forward, barely stopping for a breath until the moving final moment. Tom Jacobson’s script is supremely well written and consistently engaging even if you aren’t always sure where it’s headed...The final moments of the play are certainly unexpected, which will ultimately make you want to look back over what you’ve just watched to interpret its meaning...It’s nice to finally be challenged for once while still being thoroughly entertained." Full Review

Los Angeles Times

for a previous production "Employing nudity and frank descriptions of taboo practices at the dawn of the previous century, the piece, under Michael Michetti's precise staging, takes a physical and metaphysical plunge into sexuality, the nature of identity, and moral compromises made in the pursuit of ambition." Full Review

Indie Theater Now

for a previous production "The whole play is framed as an 'improvisation exercise'...It's the perfect device...The play takes an unexpected metaphysical turn at the very end, but since Jacobson's work has been playing with the question of 'acting versus reality' all along, it's a twist that makes perfect, and thought-provoking, sense." Full Review


for a previous production "At times the format seems forced, yielding old thesp/young hotshot guff. But hang in there, for the approach yields richer dividends than would a straightforward semidocumentary. As the men fall in and out of character, Jacobson explores deeper questions inspired by these sad events, including the lengths to which a thesp will go to get cast, and the blurring of identity between actor and role." Full Review

Theatre is Easy

for a previous production "The many layers of 'The Twentieth-Century Way' become so complex and intricate that I can see how some might lose track, and then lose interest. That said, I applaud the ambition of this piece. This is serious drama that provides a thoughtful meditation on how, as Warren says, 'everyone's acting all the time. Every job is a role. Every relationship a masquerade.'" Full Review

Pasadena Weekly

for a previous production "As they slip in and out of various characters, accents and situations, working at an increasingly dizzying pace toward the 'emotional climax,' the two perform with split-second timing and assurance. The ending is perhaps a little protracted, but the wait is worth it, primarily because this play raises some disturbing questions that are still being asked today — nearly 100 years after those arrests in Long Beach." Full Review


for a previous production "The acting was very good but I do find some fault with the writing, especially at the end when the actors disrobe as themselves to test how far an actor would go to get a job. This multilayered text gets a bit muddled along the way especially when the actors address each other using real names." Full Review

Village Voice

for a previous production "They improvise their way through the case's history, playing all the roles. This makes for erratic storytelling and stretches credibility long past endurance. It also ensures that no character will become more than a hasty sketch. Jacobson hits on many percipient points about entrapment's troubling ambiguities, but they only emerge abstractly; he envisions history as a factual pegboard into which people can be fitted." Full Review

Edgy, Great acting, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Great writing

See it if you're looking for a smart, entertaining, engaging play performed by two astonishing actors. A fascinating piece of history told brilliantly

Don't see it if you like your theater simple and undemanding, or if you're offended by strong sexual situations or nudity.

Absorbing, Intense, Profound, Slow, Great singing

See it if you enjoy the long build up.

Don't see it if you are looking to dive into a play from the beginning and not after the break.

Cast & Creatives

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