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Ugly Lies The Bone

From 17 critic and 33 member reviews
Members say: Absorbing, Great acting, Relevant, Intense, Thought-provoking

About the show

Roundabout Underground, dedicated to producing new works by emerging playwrights, presents a drama about a traumatized US veteran home from Afghanistan who uses video game therapy to heal. More…

Newly discharged soldier Jess has finally returned to her Florida hometown. She brings with her not only vivid memories of her three tours in Afghanistan, but painful burns that have left her physically and emotionally scarred. Jess soon realizes that things at home have changed even more than she has. Through the use of virtual reality video game therapy, she builds a breathtaking new world where she can escape her pain. As Jess advances farther in the game, she begins to restore her relationships, her life and, slowly, herself. 'Ugly Lies the Bone' explores the idea that no matter how much life may ask us to endure, what truly matters is finding the strength to survive—and to heal.

As Her World Turns

"It’s general seating so I’d recommend getting there early to snag a chair near the front — I sat first row center, which is my favorite place to experience theater, mostly free from the distraction of audience members...The supporting characters are well-drawn and engaging as played by a trio of great actors...I loved this play and can’t recommend it enough." Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

"Beautiful, richly textured new play...The final product is an uncommonly compelling depiction of not merely recovery, but also repentance and renewal, with an emphasis on how difficult it is — all without either cloying or exaggerating." Full Review

The New York Times

"The play confirms that Lindsey Ferrentino is a writer of dauntless conviction. This bracing drama, starring a superb Mamie Gummer, confronts an achingly topical issue with hardheaded honesty and admirable compassion...Despite the forthright depictions of Jess’s suffering and frustration, 'Ugly Lies the Bone,' directed by Patricia McGregor with careful attention to subtle changes in texture, retains a certain buoyancy." Full Review

Urban Excavations

"'Ugly Lies the Bone' is a wonder of simple craft and a bare bones production in a special basement performance space...This play provides wonder in language, in pacing, revelations." Full Review

Bob's Theater Blog

"The cast is mostly strong, especially Gummer...Patricia McGregor’s direction has a few bumpy spots. I would call the play a diamond in the rough." Full Review

Reviewing The Drama

"Promising playwright Ferrentino, director Patricia McGregor and Gummer present yet another portrait of a veteran returning from war. What's different about 'Ugly Lies the Bone' is that this is one of the few veteran-comes-home stories I've seen that focuses on a female veteran...Kudos to Ferrentino for shining a spotlight on a different side of a familiar story." Full Review

Center on the Aisle

"An interesting look at how much trauma can change family and friends, and how deeply it can affect one’s life. A wonderful take on all that one must do in order to overcome the obstacles in their path. It also provides a fascinating look at the use of virtual reality technology...The story is realistic, and touches upon many different emotions...The entire cast plays off of one another so well, and their connections and relationships on the stage are moving, and quite solid." Full Review

Steve On Broadway (SOB)

"The entire cast plays off of one another so well, and their connections and relationships on the stage are moving, and quite solid. They have created a strong bond, and it’s incredible to see how well they interact and respond to each other. They really react and listen to what’s going on. The sets, props, and costumes compliment the characters in relation to their needs, and in furthering the story. There is an intent behind each change, and in how the lighting and sound effects are used." Full Review

DC Theatre Scene

"A familiar but important story...As fascinating as the virtual reality treatment is, what’s at the heart of Ferrentino’s play – and what works best — is Jess’s interaction with the other characters, and the way both she and they are adjusting to the inexorable passage of time and the changes it brings...The uniformly spot-on cast makes the characters credible and moving." Full Review


"Ferrentino is economical with her dialogue, packing both humor and sincere emotion — but Gummer offers an energetically charged and emotionally raw performance that brings the text to even greater heights...Ferrentino is at her best when writing through the tip of a laser: the insular world of pain, the claustrophobic routine of Middle America — this is the durable skeleton of 'Ugly Lies the Bone.'" Full Review


"'Ugly Lies The Bone' is clearly the work of a young talent with plenty ahead of her. It’s timely, compelling and as current as you could want. It’s also self-consciously bleak and overwrought. Jess’ return from the war doesn’t need the underlining it sometimes gets in Patricia McGregor’s alternately brisk and heavy-handed production." Full Review

Broadway & Me

"Working with what seems to have been an extremely limited budget, Patricia McGregor's directorial options are limited but Ferrentino has created nuanced characters and McGregor has gotten fine work out of her five-member cast...simultaneously overstuffed and slightly undercooked, but it's clear that the author has a curiosity about lives outside the theatrical mainstream and talent that should be nurtured." Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"If 'Ugly Lies the Bone' sounds like the most depressing drama of 2015, I hasten to add that it isn't, partly because of Gummer's almost brutally unsentimental performance and because of the glints of spiky humor buried in Lindsey Ferrentino's script...The author is much better at suggesting the agony of Jess' life than in providing any hope...In the brief running time of 'Ugly Lies the Bone,' a bright young talent becomes a major force to be reckoned with." Full Review

Time Out New York

"'Ugly Lies the Bone' is worthy but schematic...Patricia McGregor directs the strong ensemble with honesty and attention to detail...While 'Ugly Lies the Bone' addresses genuine contemporary issues, its reality is too streamlined and foursquare, too virtual." Full Review

New York Magazine / Vulture

"Everything that happens in the social scenes is banal compared to the therapy...The play drops so many levels it can hardly recover. That it keeps recovering anyway is mostly the result of the extraordinary performance of Mamie Gummer as Jess." Full Review

The Hollywood Reporter

"Ferrentino's writing is deeply felt and often touching. But the play, running a brief 75 minutes, feels underdeveloped and strangely thin...The drama also suffers from the skimpy production values of the developmental theater...But the work does have truly affecting moments." Full Review

Entertainment Weekly

"Playwright Lindsey Ferrentino has given us a unique heroine, a female war veteran, and a fascinating real-life-based premise. Virtual reality? Show us more! Yet just as we start to fully visualize Jess’ simulated world, Ferrentino pulls back the curtain. And that’s it. " Full Review

Absorbing, Great acting, Profound, Relevant, Riveting

See it if You are touched by veterans with disabilities, human compassion in times of crises and the family dynamic. Love brilliant acting.

Don't see it if You are squeamish about disfigurement, or you are subject to post traumatic stress disorder.

Absorbing, Superb, Brilliant, Captivating, Emotional

See it if you like intense, brilliant shows with a great twist on modern technology and modern issues

Don't see it if you want to see classic theatre

Absorbing, Great acting, Great staging, Great writing, Must see

See it if you like nuanced characters

Don't see it if you only like musicals

Great acting, Intelligent, Moving, Riveting

See it if you enjoy dramas about interpersonal relationships.

Don't see it if you prefer theater with lighter themes.

Absorbing, Intelligent, Must see, Riveting, Thought-provoking

See it if you enjoy seeing the works of up-and-coming writers.

Don't see it if you do not like being emotionally involved in a play.

Original, Relevant, Resonant, Clever, Entertaining

See it if you want to see a play about current issues and something that shows a play in a whole new way.

Don't see it if You don't like intimate plays, since it is in a black box.

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

See it if You enjoy powerful performances with a great story that moves at a great pace.

Don't see it if You don't like small theaters

Absorbing, Great writing, Relevant, Intelligent, Funny

See it if a play about harrowing injury, but keenly tuned in to gentle irony and human comedy as it examines how we heal together

Don't see it if you think war plays must be grim

Intense, Riveting, Thought-provoking, Absorbing, Moving

See it if you love theatre and want to see an intense and emotional performance from Mamie Gummer and the cast.

Don't see it if you'd rather not think or be moved and would rather see a "la la" piece.


See it if you want to see a compelling drama with a great set and strong, naturalistic acting.

Don't see it if you don't like intimate spaces. It's a very small black box theater.

Absorbing, Great acting, Great writing, Relevant

See it if you look for a very complex character, well acted with enormous depth. Smart writing.

Don't see it if you are expecting an easy resolution to life's problems.

Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Resonant, Intense

See it if You are interested in seeing a raw performance in a small setting.

Don't see it if You're afraid of seeing someone in emotional and physical pain.

Absorbing, Outstanding acting, Profound, Refreshing, Intense

See it if you want to see great acting. It's an absorbing story with profound themes. Emotional depiction of a wounded vet dealing with life back home

Don't see it if you don't like naturalistic acting, you don't like seeing someone in great physical pain. Realistic burn makeup makes you uncomfortable.

Great acting, Timely, Realistic, Good dialogue, New work, needs work

See it if You enjoy supporting new work. The playwright has a good ear for dialogue and fresh take on topics (disabled returning Vet). Great cast.

Don't see it if You dislike naturalistic themes, are unsympathetic to disabled/veteran themes, prefer more finished or "lofty" works

Ambitious, Great acting, Original

See it if You like shows about characters rarely seen on stage.

Don't see it if You're looking for a blockbuster.

Funny, Intense, Original, Relevant, Thought-provoking

See it if you are passionate about veterans' issues, love dysfunctional families, love Meryl Streep's offspring.

Don't see it if you are defensive about Florida or are squeamish about burns.

Relevant, Thought-provoking

See it if Watching Miss Gummer masterfully work through each scene as an injured war veteran is worth the penny in this thoughtful & touching new play

Don't see it if ULTB isn't the quickest moving play in New York- so if you're expecting rapid, witty, pace you'll be let down.

Ambitious, Intense, Relevant, Thought-provoking

See it if You like dramas about real-world issues.

Don't see it if You don't like war stories or being reminded of the issues that Afghan and Iraq War vets face when they come home.

Great acting, Intense, Original, Resonant, Romantic

See it if You love tour-de-force performances in intense roles

Don't see it if You are in the mood for a light show

Ambitious, Banal, Great acting, Disappointing, Edgy

See it if An unsentimental exploration of a soldier's chronic pain therapy will keep you enthralled through all the banal situations. Gummer delivers.

Don't see it if If an 80 minute play skimming a vast and complicated subject will leave you thinking less isn't more. Play needs to be properly visualized.

Relevant, Thought-provoking, Good acting, Not quite enough, Respectable

See it if You'd enjoy a fine acting performance by Amy Gummer in a challenging role; you're interested in our female wounded warriors.

Don't see it if You want a fully seasoned story, rather than some very strong observations and good characters from a playwright with promise.

Ambitious, Thought-provoking, Intense, Absorbing, Uneven

See it if you want to see a strong performance by Mamie Gummer. The script is lacking, but the premise (helping vets reacclimate) is compelling.

Don't see it if you want a fully polished, convincing play. ULTB needs work, but it has potential...especially if it retains its leading woman.

Ambitious, Indulgent, Relevant, Slow, Original

See it if you're looking for an original story, enjoy heavier topics (ie veterans & identity), & like intimate theater settings.

Don't see it if you want light themes, likable characters, & fast paced story telling. The themes are a bit heavy handed as well.

Absorbing, Great acting, Original

See it if Brilliant drama with outstanding actress (Mamie Gummer) in an intimate setting.

Don't see it if You're looking for a Broadway musical.

Absorbing, Clever, Edgy, Intense, Thought-provoking

See it if You like straight plays dealing with real issues

Don't see it if you're looking for a flashy musical.

Cast & Creatives (13)