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May 23, 2024

Critics Praise “Moving, Powerful” Prayer for the French Republic on Broadway

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Jan 10, 2024

Joshua Harmon’s latest play, Prayer for the French Republic, opened on Broadway this week to widespread critical acclaim, with reviewers hailing the drama as “deeply moving,” “powerful,” and “a triumph.” Centered around a Jewish family in present-day France struggling with anti-Semitism and questions of identity, the play tackles weighty themes while remaining grounded in intimate character relationships.

Glowing Reviews for Playwright Joshua Harmon

Playwright Joshua Harmon is best known for his previous Broadway productions Significant Other and Admissions, but critics agreed that Prayer for the French Republic represents his most mature and accomplished work to date.

  • “Harmon’s most affecting and meaningful play,” raved Jesse Green in his New York Times review.
  • “Establishes Harmon as one of theater’s most insightful contemporary playwrights,” declared Adam Feldman in his Time Out New York review.
  • “With Prayer, Harmon makes a leap to a whole other level,” acclaimed Helen Shaw in Vulture.
Production Information
Playwright: Joshua Harmon
Director: Daniel Sullivan
Theater: Barrymore Theatre
Opening: January 9, 2024
Cast: Betsy Aidem, Richard Topol, Daniel Oreskes

Examining Anti-Semitism and Questions of Identity

Prayer for the French Republic follows a Jewish family residing in present-day France as they grapple with rising anti-Semitism and reconsider their relationship to Judaism and Israel. Over 50,000 Jews have emigrated from France to Israel in the past 15 years due to anti-Semitism, a backdrop that underscores the play’s narrative.

Critics applauded Harmon’s ability to examine weighty political and social issues through an intimate family drama. As David Rooney wrote in his Hollywood Reporter review:

“Harmon personalizes a contemporary dilemma—the resurgence of a virulent anti-Semitism in Europe that has many French Jews contemplating emigration—through the generational divisions in one Jewish family.”

Universal Themes Despite Specific Setting

While Prayer for the French Republic is firmly grounded in the context of modern France, reviewers found the play’s themes to be universally resonant. As Melissa Rose Bernardo wrote in her Entertainment Weekly review:

“Though set in France, Prayer could take place in any country where Jews feel increasingly unsafe and unwelcome.”

Critics found the family’s struggles with reconciling multiple cultural identities deeply relatable, despite the specificity of being Jewish in modern France. As David Cote wrote in Observer:

“Harmon makes the Pfeffermans a prism through which we see our own manifold identities and the ever-shifting calibrations required to sustain them.”

Triumphant Broadway Debut for Daniel Sullivan

While playwright Joshua Harmon and cast members like Betsy Aidem are theater veterans, Prayer for the French Republic marks an acclaimed Broadway debut for director Daniel Sullivan. One of the most lauded directors in the American theater, Sullivan has won Tony Awards for his productions of Proof, The Heidi Chronicles, and Condola.

Critics roundly praised Sullivan’s work elevating Harmon’s text:

  • “Daniel Sullivan’s magnificent staging matches the script,” raved Marilyn Stasio in Variety.
  • “Sullivan navigates Harmon’s fast-moving text with elegance,” acclaimed David Finkle in TheaterMania.

Sullivan brings his acclaimed subtlety and emotional intimacy to Harmon’s sprawling narrative, grounding the politically charged story in small character moments. As David Rooney wrote:

“Sullivan keeps the intergenerational family exchanges lively and combative but also deeply felt, never letting the arguments slide into screechy polemics.”

What Comes Next: A Broadway Hit in the Making?

With opening night reviews labeling it a new contemporary classic, Prayer for the French Republic seems poised to be a Broadway hit. Many critics even predicted that come award season, the play will be a major contender for Best Play and Best Director Tony Awards.

Beyond critical acclaim, the play is also connecting with audiences. As Leslie Felperin wrote in Hollywood Reporter:

“The frequent laughter and sounds of sobbing heard during the show speak to Harmon and Sullivan’s success in striking nerves.”

If excellent reviews and strong audience response are any indicator, Prayer for the French Republic has all the makings of a long, acclaimed Broadway run. The Barrymore Theatre, which has housed previous hits like The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? and Copenhagen, may have found its next tenant for years to come.

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By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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