A PLAY IS A POEM

Critics

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53 %

Reviews: 15

Audience

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Reviews: 0

World Premiere

Comedy. Tragedy. And everything in between.

From the mind of celebrated playwright and filmmaker Ethan Coen comes an evening of short plays that will take you on an eccentric journey across America. The hillbilly hollows of Appalachia, a New York tenement apartment, a magnolia scented gazebo in Natchez, Mississippi, the executive suites of Hollywood, each stop reveals a unique glimpse at Americana as only Ethan Coen can deliver.

Featuring live music composed and performed by Nellie McKay.

Reviews

Avatar

The Center Theatre Group presents a particularly cinematic treat with the World premiere of Ethan Coen’s A Play Is a Poem at Mark Taper Forum. Directed by Neil Pepe and presented in association with Atlantic Theater Company, the piece is a collection of five one-acts set in five very different locations featuring characters some audience members might find familiar if they are a fan of Coen brothers films. Scenic design by Riccardo Hernández features a large brick wall that can be transformed via doors, windows and via a bit of scenic magic into different locales and a lovely wood floor that feels overtly theatrical as if we were watching this play in an old Broadway house with its exposed back wall and little else to shape it. It is a raw space that lends itself easily to the sudden shifts of mood each section, or ‘Act’ as musical performer Nellie McKay calls them while maintaining a visual thread that holds it all together.

sweet - Christine Deitner - The Theatre Times - ...read full review


Avatar

For the most part the five short playlets come across as sketches — and not in a good way. Coen attempts to project the audiences into startlingly different situations and time periods, but each scene emerges as pastiche rather than something with a fresh point of view.

The actors are first-rate.

sweet-sour - Samuel Garza Bernstein - Stage and Cinema - ...read full review


Jordan Young

Neil Pepe capably directs a well-chosen ensemble of actors, drawing notably fine performances from Joey Slotnick (in three of the five plays), Saul Rubinek and Michaela Diamond among others. Singer Nellie McKay, who wanders about vocalizing between acts, is largely incomprehensible but offers up a delectable cabaret entertainer a la Marlene Dietrich.

sweet - Jordan Young - JordanRYoung - ...read full review


Avatar

One cannot tout A Play Is a Poem as any more than what it is—a kind of throwback to the years before television, when such small skits were still considered worthy theatrical fare. We’ve had sturdier stuff on our not-so-small TV screens since, let alone on our theatre stages. Because yes, times have changed.

As usual, the actors give it their best, and the simplicity of the settings by Riccardo Hernández, plus the focused lighting by Tyler Micoleau, counteract in their sobriety the overarching expectations of this inflated event.

sour - Sylvie Drake - Cultural Weekly - ...read full review


Rob Stevens

Except for the opener these non-poetic plays take too long in getting to their endings. Add in the non-essential scene change musical numbers...you have 100 minutes without an intermission that feels at last twice that length

sour - Rob Stevens - Haines His Way - ...read full review


Travis Michael Holder - Ticket Holders LA

Although the evening is impressively acted, smartly designed, and lovingly directed by frequent Ethan Coen collaborator Neil Pepe, there isn’t much point to any of Cohn's five unrelated short pieces, leaving me at the end with the feeling it was all playtime—albeit well-meaning and beautifully presented playtime—between film projects. I’m reminded of that old adage about Chinese food. No matter how tasty the dish, no matter how unique or well prepared it may be, an hour later you’re hungry again. In the case of this rare CTG misstep, after the performance I was ready to partake in some good solid food by the time I got to Level 6 of the parking lot.

sour - Travis Michael Holder - Ticket Holders LA - ...read full review


Avatar

By the end of the evening, this theatrical celebration of storytelling tropes is magnificent to behold. As the theatrical event of the autumn season, “A Play Is A Poem” by Ethan Coen at the Mark Taper Forum should not be missed.

sweet - Judy Shields - The Hollywood Times - ...read full review


Avatar

Clever dialogue and offbeat humor woven into thin plotting and scant thematic undertones make A Play Is a Poem a pleasant diversion, if little more.

sweet-sour - Jordan Riefe - Hollywood Reporter - ...read full review


Avatar

All in all, A PLAY IS A POEM is intriguing as a tribute to a famed cinematic artist who is currently dipping his toe into live theater. With a keen ear to the voice of his characters, Coen has created some occasionally stimulating folks to populate his five shorts. Results were variable, and Coen seemed more comfortable with the seamy side of the last 50 years than his foray into the Deep South. At the same time, differences inherent in the various media (film, television, live theater) may have had an unexpected effect on the production, which might play better on television or even film than on the stage, where the multiple scenes appeared to be choppy and disconnected.

sweet-sour - Elaine Mura - Splash Magazines - ...read full review


Avatar

Director Neil Pepe goes for a quick-blackout style to give the show pace and pizzazz, and the eleven actors in the ensemble prove be gifted at the kind of edgy comedy Coen specializes in.

sweet - Willard Manus - Total Theater - ...read full review


Avatar

Featuring a wonderful ensemble cast, clever Coen-esque dialogue, and a scene-stealing musician, some of the moments find true theatrical footing, while others meander, and stall- enraptured, but static in eloquent language that sometimes overwhelms the dramatic action, even so much as to leave us bereft of conflict or any trackable character arc.

sweet-sour - Patrick Hurley - That Awesome Theatre Blog - ...read full review


Avatar

There’s some funny writing, good actors and the wonderful presence of Nellie McKay. But having that dead spot in the middle of the show makes it difficult to sit through.

sweet-sour - Terry Morgan - Stage Raw - ...read full review


Avatar

This is where I have to acknowledge that A Play is a Poem starts out so promisingly, but doesn’t stay so, with the nadir being the third act. It does have the prettiest set, though, featuring a charming gazebo; I just wanted to rush down to the stage and bask in its beauty. But the old man next to me slept through that entire episode, as did a young guy in the row in front of me. Then I started noticing that about every six people were dozing! Brad Pitt’s bodyguard even left his post during this one. I don’t know if it was actually uber-long or just felt that way. Perhaps this scene is Ethan Coen’s attempt at serious writing because there are very few laughs in it.

sweet-sour - Karen Salkin - It's Not About Me - ...read full review


Avatar

Coen has a knack for characters and dialogue. Under Neil Pepe’s direction here, the staging is lean, the acting is crisp, and four of the five pieces end before they tax our patience.

sweet - Dany Margolies - Daily News - ...read full review


Avatar

The gathering of so much terrific acting talent for so little dramatic payoff struck me as some kind of casting savings plan — actors banking goodwill for a more significant Coen opportunity down the road. That’s a cynical take, but the lavishness wasted on “A Play Is a Poem” (when there are so many playwrights more deserving of a Taper production) is demoralizing.

sour - Charles McNulty - LA Times - ...read full review


Avatar

The Center Theatre Group presents a particularly cinematic treat with the World premiere of Ethan Coen’s A Play Is a Poem at Mark Taper Forum. Directed by Neil Pepe and presented in association with Atlantic Theater Company, the piece is a collection of five one-acts set in five very different locations featuring characters some audience members might find familiar if they are a fan of Coen brothers films. Scenic design by Riccardo Hernández features a large brick wall that can be transformed via doors, windows and via a bit of scenic magic into different locales and a lovely wood floor that feels overtly theatrical as if we were watching this play in an old Broadway house with its exposed back wall and little else to shape it. It is a raw space that lends itself easily to the sudden shifts of mood each section, or ‘Act’ as musical performer Nellie McKay calls them while maintaining a visual thread that holds it all together.

sweet - Christine Deitner - The Theatre Times - ...read full review


Avatar

For the most part the five short playlets come across as sketches — and not in a good way. Coen attempts to project the audiences into startlingly different situations and time periods, but each scene emerges as pastiche rather than something with a fresh point of view.

The actors are first-rate.

sweet-sour - Samuel Garza Bernstein - Stage and Cinema - ...read full review


Jordan Young

Neil Pepe capably directs a well-chosen ensemble of actors, drawing notably fine performances from Joey Slotnick (in three of the five plays), Saul Rubinek and Michaela Diamond among others. Singer Nellie McKay, who wanders about vocalizing between acts, is largely incomprehensible but offers up a delectable cabaret entertainer a la Marlene Dietrich.

sweet - Jordan Young - JordanRYoung - ...read full review


Avatar

One cannot tout A Play Is a Poem as any more than what it is—a kind of throwback to the years before television, when such small skits were still considered worthy theatrical fare. We’ve had sturdier stuff on our not-so-small TV screens since, let alone on our theatre stages. Because yes, times have changed.

As usual, the actors give it their best, and the simplicity of the settings by Riccardo Hernández, plus the focused lighting by Tyler Micoleau, counteract in their sobriety the overarching expectations of this inflated event.

sour - Sylvie Drake - Cultural Weekly - ...read full review


Rob Stevens

Except for the opener these non-poetic plays take too long in getting to their endings. Add in the non-essential scene change musical numbers...you have 100 minutes without an intermission that feels at last twice that length

sour - Rob Stevens - Haines His Way - ...read full review


Travis Michael Holder - Ticket Holders LA

Although the evening is impressively acted, smartly designed, and lovingly directed by frequent Ethan Coen collaborator Neil Pepe, there isn’t much point to any of Cohn's five unrelated short pieces, leaving me at the end with the feeling it was all playtime—albeit well-meaning and beautifully presented playtime—between film projects. I’m reminded of that old adage about Chinese food. No matter how tasty the dish, no matter how unique or well prepared it may be, an hour later you’re hungry again. In the case of this rare CTG misstep, after the performance I was ready to partake in some good solid food by the time I got to Level 6 of the parking lot.

sour - Travis Michael Holder - Ticket Holders LA - ...read full review


Avatar

By the end of the evening, this theatrical celebration of storytelling tropes is magnificent to behold. As the theatrical event of the autumn season, “A Play Is A Poem” by Ethan Coen at the Mark Taper Forum should not be missed.

sweet - Judy Shields - The Hollywood Times - ...read full review


Avatar

Clever dialogue and offbeat humor woven into thin plotting and scant thematic undertones make A Play Is a Poem a pleasant diversion, if little more.

sweet-sour - Jordan Riefe - Hollywood Reporter - ...read full review


Avatar

All in all, A PLAY IS A POEM is intriguing as a tribute to a famed cinematic artist who is currently dipping his toe into live theater. With a keen ear to the voice of his characters, Coen has created some occasionally stimulating folks to populate his five shorts. Results were variable, and Coen seemed more comfortable with the seamy side of the last 50 years than his foray into the Deep South. At the same time, differences inherent in the various media (film, television, live theater) may have had an unexpected effect on the production, which might play better on television or even film than on the stage, where the multiple scenes appeared to be choppy and disconnected.

sweet-sour - Elaine Mura - Splash Magazines - ...read full review


Avatar

Director Neil Pepe goes for a quick-blackout style to give the show pace and pizzazz, and the eleven actors in the ensemble prove be gifted at the kind of edgy comedy Coen specializes in.

sweet - Willard Manus - Total Theater - ...read full review


Avatar

Featuring a wonderful ensemble cast, clever Coen-esque dialogue, and a scene-stealing musician, some of the moments find true theatrical footing, while others meander, and stall- enraptured, but static in eloquent language that sometimes overwhelms the dramatic action, even so much as to leave us bereft of conflict or any trackable character arc.

sweet-sour - Patrick Hurley - That Awesome Theatre Blog - ...read full review


Avatar

There’s some funny writing, good actors and the wonderful presence of Nellie McKay. But having that dead spot in the middle of the show makes it difficult to sit through.

sweet-sour - Terry Morgan - Stage Raw - ...read full review


Avatar

This is where I have to acknowledge that A Play is a Poem starts out so promisingly, but doesn’t stay so, with the nadir being the third act. It does have the prettiest set, though, featuring a charming gazebo; I just wanted to rush down to the stage and bask in its beauty. But the old man next to me slept through that entire episode, as did a young guy in the row in front of me. Then I started noticing that about every six people were dozing! Brad Pitt’s bodyguard even left his post during this one. I don’t know if it was actually uber-long or just felt that way. Perhaps this scene is Ethan Coen’s attempt at serious writing because there are very few laughs in it.

sweet-sour - Karen Salkin - It's Not About Me - ...read full review


Avatar

Coen has a knack for characters and dialogue. Under Neil Pepe’s direction here, the staging is lean, the acting is crisp, and four of the five pieces end before they tax our patience.

sweet - Dany Margolies - Daily News - ...read full review


Avatar

The gathering of so much terrific acting talent for so little dramatic payoff struck me as some kind of casting savings plan — actors banking goodwill for a more significant Coen opportunity down the road. That’s a cynical take, but the lavishness wasted on “A Play Is a Poem” (when there are so many playwrights more deserving of a Taper production) is demoralizing.

sour - Charles McNulty - LA Times - ...read full review